For all its samples and layers, Summer Friends takes a relatively stripped down approach. These schizo-electro-pop songs rest, as many do, on a beat and keyboards, and sometimes the mix works. The sunburst of the title track is unassuming and sweetly hazy, but it’s singer Deepak Mantena’s raspy, rangy vocals that steal the show. The cooler tones of “Weird Teenage Vibes” show that he can tone his vocal dramatics down for sweet melodies. All in all, Mantena’s voice is the big draw on this EP, particularly because the music—though cleverly patched together—never quite asserts itself. Perhaps it’s too of the moment, sounding like other current bands (i.e., Animal Collective) who don’t really have their foot in musical history. The results are sometimes exciting and catchy—try not dancing to EP closer “Blissed Out”—but rarely resonant. Mantera’s approach is compelling, and Junk Culture could very well yield some great music down the road. His sound just might need to lay down some roots and tap into a more distant past to get there.
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// Notes from the Road
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