If you’re one who loves an artist like Feist (as I do), but think she’s maybe a little too up-tempo for your liking and prefer something a little more subdued (as I don’t) then The Summer that Changed is your album. I recommend you run, don’t walk, to the record store. There aren’t a whole lot of bands that so gently lull listeners to such quiet places. I also recommend to those who feel this way to not read much further; you and I differ greatly in what it is that makes us tick as a music listener. There is likely no reconciling this difference and it is possible that I will dissuade you from digging into a band that you would otherwise enjoy. I couldn’t live with myself if I did that.
The creation of two English folks (Edward Rogers and Amanda Thorpe) living in New York, Bedsit Poets began as a side project that has grown into something more. Their debut CD, The Summer that Changed, is chock-full of intricate vocal harmonies, quirky lyrics, and intimate songwriting. It’s the type of album that should be absolutely perfect for lazy Sunday afternoons or long, late-night sessions with a great book. The problem is that the album is too monotonous to inspire the listener to stay awake long enough to enjoy it (or whatever “it” may be). It isn’t that I don’t like music that doubles as a sedative. I do. But I have my limits.
Though the album’s opener, “February Kisses”, offers some potential of the dreamy beautiful melodies that may be contained within, it is the following song, “Refusing to Play”, that reveals the album’s greatest fault. Though it teeters on the precipice of beauty and complexity, it never blossoms into much more than what I imagine Air Supply b-sides to sound like. Bedsit Poets never strike a balance between interesting melodies and sentimental lyrics. It is one or the other, thus preventing the album from fully realizing its beauty. “February Kisses” begins with the potential to be a heart-wrenchingly beautiful song, but the melodies fail to inspire; while the lyrics on “Refusing to Play” are so sentimental, it is difficult (and little painful) to listen to, despite the wonderful melody.
There is one other thing. Bedsit Poets sound almost exactly like Belle & Sebastian. Sometimes they sound like they are covering Belle & Sebastian. Sometimes they sound like Belle & Sebastian covering the Velvet Underground. Sometimes they sound like themselves covering Belle & Sebastian covering the Velvet Underground. In any scenario, they sound like they’re performing covers or covers of covers, when those songs are performed on sedatives. While this too should be a positive (I love both Belle & Sebastian and the Velvet Underground) the result is an album that is too derivative to forgive its tranquilizing effects.
The Bedsit Poets aren’t a bad band by any stretch of the imagination. Their lyrics are heartfelt, their melodies and harmonies terrific. If there is an album of lullabies for adults, The Summer that Changed may be it. Though for me, it was more like a culling song than a lullaby.