Saturday Looks Good to Me: All Our Summer Songs

Ryan Potts

Saturday Looks Good to Me

All Our Summer Songs

Label: Polyvinyl
US Release Date: 2003-03-18
UK Release Date: 2003-03-24

I've been waiting far too long for a record like this. The kind of album that streams sunshine in from a stereo, the kind of record that ignites the summer's humid air with a shimmering melody, the kind of band that makes warm sound melt into your soul. Essentially, a beautiful pop record.

Somewhere inside Michigan's garage-rock-loving, Motor City-adoring presence exists Motown's heart -- a heart that beats to the love-swathed rhythms of All Our Summer Songs. Saturday Looks Good to Me, the pop collective of 28 musicians/friends that carved All Our Summer Songs from sweet melodies and sugary harmonies, are bound together by the glue of Fred Thomas as the primary songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist.

But as these 28 members alternate between vocal duties and trade guitars and pianos for strings and horns, the pop perfection satiates and surfaces on each of the album's 13 tracks, with melodies tucked into its every corner. Summer's songs overflow with arrangements that would seem too compact or crowded if they didn't flood your ears with enough lush strings and crisp guitar chords to resurrect a smile on even the most jaded, worry-ridden face.

Saturday Looks Good To Me conjures such classicism as Phil Spector, the Beach Boys, and Motown pop, as well as contemporaries such as the New Pornographers and Belle & Sebastian, with a sound that skitters into your soul in its catchy and upbeat guise. "Meet Me By the Water" introduces Summer with brittle drum beats and a keyboard line that hops and skips into the track's lush lyrics, sung by a sweet, feminine voice who sprays enough sonic smiles to make you swoon before its melody is quickly picked up by a squawking horn and feedback-induced guitar figure.

"Meet Me by the Water" is indicative of the album to come: lacquered with fits of reverb and exploding with shards of sunshine laid atop the record's sound, All Our Summer Songs gleefully jaunts from heavenly strings to buzzing guitar chords to frolicking pianos to bleating horns, while constantly retaining a sound that's at once lo-fi, and dense and grandiose. All Our Summer Songs is simply destined to become a classic: it feels as if it should be a hidden gem sputtering from an AM radio from the '60s; but it's also the kind of album that would make Brian Wilson smile, not with nostalgia, but with its keen sense of timeless pop goodness.

However, amidst the album's dance- and diner-friendly sound, there are a few ballads that vary Saturday Looks Good to Me's approach just enough to keep things genuinely interesting. The heartbreakingly sad semblance first enters on the fantastic Ted Leo-fronted tune "Ambulance", but is fully envisioned as Summer slides into "The Sun Doesn't Want to Shine". The song quickly slinks into an ode to a lovelorn past as the tempo slows and fragile percussion builds and falls, while slow strings and a co-ed vocal counterpart enters.

The majesty of All Our Summer Songs is its ability to rapture between moody opposites with its vision and precision never becoming impaired. However, it's the album's upbeat and joyful tunes that solidify Summer as a profound pop masterpiece, equal parts classic and contemporary.

Saturday Looks Good to Me's bliss is best heard in "Underwater Heartbeat", my favorite cut on the album, which explodes with pure pop goodness: horns shout alongside fits of buzzing guitar, brisk bells, and energetic strings while the sweetest, liveliest melody etches a smile across your face. The song climaxes atop a fulcrum of bouncy brass as the words, "And you know you're moving too slow / It feels like dancing on wedding rings", are perpetually tattooed inside your skull. Its electrifying soul and warm Motown mood wrap around you like the arms of a lover sweeping you off your feet into ecstasy.

All Our Summer Songs is the kind of thing that radio should be broadcasting in droves; instead, you can't even pick up a copy at your local Best Buy. It's an artful felony, sure, but when you're in All Our Summer Song's grips, somehow everything seems absolutely perfect.

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