Somerset Meadows – Sounds of Sunshine

Somerset Meadows
Sounds of Sunshine

On its debut album, Sounds of Sunshine, Somerset Meadows opens with a superb power-pop song that begins, “I’ll travel round the world for you” and ends, “When I find the end of the world.” Rarely do albums begin with as much immediate energy as Sounds of Sunshine. The track encapsulating both lines is called “Big Game Souvenir Hunter,” and you really don’t know what to expect until you hear the first second of the song. Ian Meadows’ rhythm guitar and lead vocals combine with Richard Somerset’s lead guitar, bass, and background vocals to conjure up memories of classic 70s power pop.
Subsequent tracks like “All Summers Now” and “Jenny 8” feature creative lo-fi approaches and addicting riffs. And then we get “A Boy Named Xavier.” Wow, what a refreshing song! Meadows’ voice recalls Elvis Costello in his earlier efforts, and the guitar work is stunning. It’s as if Costello and Pat DiNizio agreed to switch bands for one perfect single. The precise and dynamic guitars give the song a romantic, rocking touch, and the harmonies remind of The Smithereens’ best moments. Mellower, reflective tracks like “Every Tuesday Morning” and “Starlifter” bring Meadows’ vocals to the forefront, diversifying Sounds of Sunshine. On “Starlifter,” Meadows even precedes the chorus with the counts that seemed to introduce every song by The Ramones.
“Dream Maiden Megan” features louder, rougher guitars by Somerset that intensify Meadows’ lyrical impact. The guitar noise gives the song greater urgency, and you swear you’re hearing distant fireworks going off in the closing instrumental. For “Angel on Her Back,” Meadows and Somerset harmonize on lyrics like, “It’s here to stay / It will never go away / The angel you’ve got on your back / No matter how to try / To rip and tear and pull away / You’ll always have that halo / Shining shining shining.” They extend their guitar instrumental ending longer than on most songs, and “Angel on Her Back” is all the better for it. On the more percussive and rocking “Everafters,” the two guys even drop their own band name throughout the song by offering “Somerset [Summerset] meadows for everyone.” The 12th track, “I’m So Tall,” is a stripped-down affair that brings this joyous album to a fitting conclusion at under 36 minutes in total length.
“Power pop” is a term that includes so many bands, from the originators of the 60s and 70s to the revivalists of the 80s and the current crop of 90s alterna-poppers and 21st century ventures. With Sounds of Sunshine, Somerset Meadows has made a grand entry and graced listeners with a superb album that oozes the best power-pop riffs, lyrics, and hooks heard in a long time. The guitars on every song are top-notch, and the entire project sounds very professional, as if these guys have been playing for a long time. In truth, they’ve only been together for a few years, and four different drummers play on the album. Sounds of Sunshine is a joyous, energetic, exciting album of two- to three-minute pop songs. The only question is whether Somerset Meadows will satisfy our appetite for more excellent music with another album soon. I hope so.