Sometimes, appearances aren’t deceiving. While indie rock duos like the White Stripes and No Age have garnered attention for transcending their seeming limitations in personnel and equipment, Eternal Summers are nothing more than they seem to be: A girl and a boy with a guitar and a drum kit, with mostly her singing. So although guitarist Nicole Yun and drummer Daniel Cundiff don’t blaze any new trails or reimagine what’s possible from the two-man game on their debut, Silver, there’s something to be said for the way they find a comfort zone by not trying to be something they aren’t. Bigger might be better in some cases, but Silver proves that what they say about small packages definitely applies to Eternal Summers.
Simply put, Silver is no more or less than what you’d expect from a homespun first effort by two relative newcomers going at their own pace and not getting ahead of themselves. Full of short, punchy ditties and short-and-sweet vignettes, Silver is all about the trials and tribulations of growing up after you’re supposed to have grown up. On the leadoff track “Disciplinarian”, Yun’s lyrics might tell you she’s tired of goofing off and effing up, but the tone of her faux-British accent is more than a little playful and mischievous as she delivers lines like, “I think it’s high time / I need a disciplinarian / The kind who tells me why / I should follow the rules again”. Splitting the difference between innocence and knowing, the frenetic drums and jittery riffs on “Disciplinarian” give away an endearing sense of nervous energy in spite of the nonchalant too-cool-for-school poses.
If nothing else, Eternal Summers have a way with would-be theme songs for underdogs and underachievers, the best of ‘em being the band’s blogged-about single “Pogo”, which is as much a statement of purpose as it is an apt description of the band’s music. Even as it bounces with reckless abandon, “Pogo”, at its heart, is a realization that you can’t go on like this forever and ever, as if Yun is singing about her last youthful hurrahs: “It’s a pogo life / Saying everything’s alright / When you’re wasting time / You’re thinking everything is fine”. With its tongue-in-cheek title, “I’ll Die Young for Rock ‘n’ Roll” couldn’t help but be anthemic in its own low-key lo-fi way, with Cundiff crooning like a tuneful Calvin Johnson, “If you’ve got direction / I could show you some / But if you’re just like me / It probably points to just having fun”.
Milking the most that they can out of their straight-up duo lineup, Yun and Cundiff show the limits of what they’re working with, for better and worse. Since the format only allows for so much variety, many of the tracks on Silver tend to run together: So while pretty much everything on the album would be catchy in its own right as a seven-inch single or as a digital one-off, poppy nuggets like “Eternal” and the title track seem a little redundant and lack novelty, even though they’re energetic and hummable enough. And if it’s possible, “World’s Away” and “Dye” almost seem to meander, despite clocking in at just over two minutes.
Still, there are enough signs on Silver that Eternal Summers can grow into their own. Coming off both innocently sweet and emotionally mature, “Safe at Home” is more sympathetic and resonant than anything else on the album, a prime example that it takes one to know one as Yun reaches out to the shy and insecure. Even more promising is the closing number “Bully in Disguise”, on which Eternal Summers branch out and try a few new tricks by pushing what comes natural to them without completely changing the blueprint. Slowing things down and stretching things out, Eternal Summers are like a scaled-down version of Galaxie 500 on the song, as they carve out space for some gentle crescendos and even a bit of drama. All in all, “Bully in Disguise” is a fitting end of the beginning for Eternal Summers, suggesting there’s something more on the horizon from the pair. Maybe a little bigger could be better after all.
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// Notes from the Road
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