Artist: The Summer Set
Label: Fearless Records
Legendary has been timed perfectly. Arriving just on the cusp of summer, this is a bright and shining example of infectious pop. It’s clear, it’s hearty, it’s upbeat, and it’s utterly shameless in its pursuit of feelgood anthems. There’s more colour packed into this record than some bands manage in their entire careers. It feels like disposable fluff but in the most delicious way, evoking images of warm summer nights and fond friendships as it powers along. I do confess that my years as a music reviewer have made me somewhat jaded and cynical; one too many idealistic screamo types and derivative pop punk bands tend to be wearing on the soul. It can be difficult to warm to even the most likeable of artists, which is why Legendary is all the more refreshing and enjoyable. It’s possessed of a deliriously uninhibited spirit and delivers all its tracks with enthusiasm and gusto.
The Summer Set, on their fourth full-length, have taken their reputation for soaring pop tracks and pushed it to the limits. Every song on here comes laced with wide-eyed glee and spirit and there’s barely anything to dislike. “Maybe Tonight” sets the template early and the others follow suit. A bracing blast of a song, it’s uplifting and catchy and tinged with a hopeful sheen. The chorus is big and vibrant and the reckless abandon of Brian Dales’ vocals is infectious. “Jukebox (Life Goes On)” serenades the healing power of rock ‘n’ roll in a cheerful, optimistic song about staying strong and carrying on. “Boomerang” is pristine and wholesome, alive and electric and exuberant in its appeal.
Barely any of the songs stray from this mould – every song is as brash and bright as the next. There’s a pleasing sense of frivolity to it all, as even when the lyrics ostensibly talk back to or profane someone, it’s flippant and light-hearted. “Fuck U Over” is a fine example, a bracing number that’s about as far removed from the self-indulgent squalling of most scene bands as you can get. It has a curious air of fondness and warmth despite its subject matter, with the twinkling hint of piano keys somewhere in the background evoking tenderness or innocence. Dia Frampton’s dulcet tones bring added sparkle to “Heart on the Floor” while “Happy For You” brings things down a notch; the noticeably tempered pace fitting its heartfelt tone.
The band take a more thoughtful approach on a number of the later tracks, distinguishing the album’s second half from its breathless opening. It feels more organic and dressed-down as the songs turn inward, reflecting and idealising with the doe-eyed optimism of youth. “7 Days” is a particular delight in this respect. It has the lilting rhythm of a conventional pop song, but there’s something alluring about its soft beats and dreamy vocalising. “Someday” marries the driven feeling of the album’s first half with the more romanticised aspects of the later songs. It’s an arresting and momentous song, the determined lyrics building to a big sweeping chorus that wraps the listener in an infectious allure of fearless longing. The title track brings the record to an apt conclusion. It has as light a touch as the other songs, but comes from a more subdued, pensive place. The percussion is lively and heartening and keeps the song rolling comfortably onward before it fades out on an open, dreamy note.
Wrapped in the warm glow of an almost poignant nostalgia, the sweetness and light of Legendary cannot be overstated. It’s a terrific blend of the sentimental and the exuberant with all the wide-ranging appeal of a mainstream pop album. Writing heartwarming tracks such as these isn’t necessarily difficult but making them sound this sincere and affectionate takes skill, and The Summer Set’s ability to enrapture through sheer earnestness of feeling is rare indeed.
Review written by Grace Duffy