Summer Cold

Mason Summit

Winter Heat Records, 2018

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


There’s an album sitting on my desk right now called Altered Sweet: A Tribute To Matthew Sweet. I haven’t listened to it yet, but my gut tells me somewhere along the way I’m going to hear something on it that reminds me of Mason Summit’s new album Summer Cold, i.e. loose-limbed, playful, heart-on-my-sleeve DIY indie-rock-with-Beatles-influences-and-a-dash-of-alt-country in the Matthew Sweet / Ben Kweller / Wilco mold.

The elements that Summit, Sweet and Kweller share is the juxtaposition of happy and sad extremes, coupled with the sheer exuberance they bring to the act of music-making. Even when penning the mope-iest of tunes, Summit makes his enthusiasm apparent time and time again with an artful turn of phrase or clever musical choice.

Summer Cold kicks off with a bounding rocker about being a sucker: “It’s so obvious now / It pains me to admit / That I almost fell for it.” He runs through several entertaining examples of his own gullibility, until at the bridge “I grew up / I got wise / I opened my eyes.” “Take What I Can Get” takes a similarly subversive and snarky approach to a one-sided relationship (“I expect nothing from you / And you haven’t failed me yet / I’ll take what I can get…”) before chronicling the inevitable break-up in the dirge-like “Voodoo Doll.” “I don’t want to get better / I think I’ll spend forever in this broken-hearted hell,” he sings to melancholy strummed acoustic chords. Sadness distills into purer form—bitterness—on the subsequent “Like Hell.’ “I miss you like hell / I hope I never see you again” goes the sleepy-eyed chorus, as Summit casually sums up the contradictions of a broken heart.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The broad midsection of Summer Cold has a distinct bedroom-album feel, mostly acoustic guitar and voice with little keyboard accents. Notable moments include the sunny-yet-melancholy vibe of “Catch & Release” (“I guess I should have learned by now to tell a lure from love,” says the fish); the anxious “Biting My Nails,” whose simple voice-and-guitar arrangement Summit invests with real tension; and the woozy, lounge-y instrumental interlude “Casu Marzu.”

The final quarter finds Summit leaving the bedroom for two more tracks that, like the opener, feature a full rhythm section. The title track—a lyrically slight tune about an inconsiderate friend sharing a summer cold around—sticks with acoustic guitar but offers a little more dimension with live bass and drums and what sounds like Mellotron filling out the arrangement. Subsequent solo number “One More Thing” is one of the finer moments here, a dreamy number featuring a philosophical bent to the lyrics and arcing electric guitar notes decorating an otherwise slumbering arrangement. Closer “Stick It Out” dials the backbeat up to “energetic power-pop” once again for a tune celebrating perseverance, adding hooky lead guitar and an especially cheeky synth tone that feels like it’s mocking/subverting the rest of the song even as it’s adding dimension and texture.

As an album, Summer Cold feels like a captured moment in time, a mostly insular album that nonetheless feels more low-key and casual than fussed-over. It occupies a specific mood and moment—the bruised, passive-aggressive aftermath of a bad break-up feels about right—with Summit inviting you in to help him sift through the wreckage. There’s a lot to enjoy in his often beguilingly unpretentious presentation of these tunes and it will be interesting to see what direction Mason Summit’s considerable talent might take him next.

Rating: B+

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