It’s the first day of your freshman year of high school and you’re pretty damn nervous. You’re not entirely sure what you’re doing, so you follow the crowd and hope it works out for you. Come sophomore year, you start to find yourself. There’s no college pressure just yet and you start to experiment. You make mistakes, but hopefully, with help from your friends, you learn, grow, and make a name for yourself. For Arizona sweethearts The Summer Set, their music career parallels high school, and they just finished their sophomore year.
The Summer Set’s first full-length release, Love Like This, was a great pop record, but it doesn’t stand out against the hundreds of other bands doing the same thing. In all fairness, they were babies to the music scene when they entered the studio in the spring of 2009, and their newcomer energy is what made Love Like This thrive. But Love Like This was lacking one very important thing: experience. After roughly two years of touring the country, meeting thousands of people and expanding their musical libraries, The Summer Set have created something new, fresh and most importantly- memorable. With their sophomore debut, Everything’s Fine, frontman Brian Dales got his heart broken and he’s letting everyone know.
Everything’s Fine is not your average pop record, despite its rather generic theme of women and love. The first track, “About A Girl,” is the perfect lead song and clearly sets the mood for the record. It is obvious from the start that Dales’ vocals have improved tremendously and he is no longer a little boy with a microphone. But it wasn’t just his voice that grew up, Dales also stepped it up lyrically, especially in the catchy tune, “When We Were Young.”
In Everything’s Fine no two songs sound alike, but each song holds the characteristics of a Summer Set song. The first single, “Someone Like You” and the fan favorite, “Thick as Thieves” could easily find themselves on The Lion King soundtrack, whereas the beyond catchy “Love To You” will sneak its way into a million teen movies. If you’re looking for the old Summer Set you fell in love with, “Begin Again” will most definitely be your favorite track. Though it is the most similar to Love Like This, it too shows a vast amount of maturity that the first record lacked.
It’s hard to call The Summer Set a pure pop band after hearing “Mannequin,” which is easily the heaviest track on the record. It’s angsty, passionate and above all, it’s rock ‘n’ roll. Jess Bowen’s drumming pairs perfectly with Stephen Gomez’s bass shredding and it is sure to start a few riots in their live performances. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re looking for a song for your sleep playlist, “Mona Lisa” is exactly what you need. The acoustic guitars sound gorgeous under Dales’ soft vocals.
The album closer, “Don’t Let Me Go,” may be the best song on the record. After spending ten songs being nostalgic, it almost seems like Dales is begging for his girl back in the least pathetic way possible. It closes with gang vocals repeating the phrase, “Is it gone/Gone/Will it ever come back?” for a solid minute and leaving the listener eager to bring it back and start the record over.
Overall, Everything’s Fine has every quality of a great record. It’s catchy, relatable, and is exactly the type of record newly licensed teens will be blasting on their drive to the beach. The growth of each individual member is obvious. The combination of electric and acoustic guitars, courtesy of John Gomez and Josh Montgomery, sound clean and confident, whereas Bowen’s percussion skills have expanded past just keeping a beat. And of course, Dales’ vocals are deeper and his range has increased dramatically – guess he went through puberty! If you enjoyed their first record, you’ll grow to love the new, mature Summer Set that is here to stay. If you hated their first record, don’t let that stop you from giving Everything’s Fine a chance.
Though still young and learning, it is clear that The Summer Set found themselves while creating Everything’s Fine. Like sophomore year of high school, they spent their time in the studio experimenting and figuring out what made sense for them, despite what other bands were doing. The Summer Set may be looking forward to their junior year, but for now, everything’s fine.