The early 21st century post-punk revival, spearheaded by the sinewy jams of bands like The Strokes and The Libertines, is showing more age than its 10 years would suggest. For a movement that was so focused on rock’s most primal and threadbare essentials, it’s sort of confounding to hear so many 2010 acts employing not only the basic guitar/bass/drum configuration, but also string, wind, and mallet percussion sections. Yet whenever excessive ambition and lavish instrumentation become the norm, there’s always someone there, ready to subvert the momentum. The White Stripes are probably one of histories most notably recent examples, but even Jack White couldn’t help but work some marimba parts into his tunes. No Age is still sticking to its lo-fi, rough and tumble M.O., but listeners have to arrive equipped with a certain amount of patience to dig through the mess in hopes of locating the hook.
Enter Eternal Summers and their debut album, Silver. This Roanoke, Virginia duo (Nicole Yun on guitar/vocals and Daniel Cundiff on drums) takes minimalist rock out of the Blue Ridge Mountains and heads west in search of pristine beaches and swaying palm trees. In the vein of recent notable surf-rock acts like Best Coast and Wavves, the music of Eternal Summers has a breezy and occasional saccharine bent that, despite its lo-fi aesthetic, seems tailor made for the sun and sand crowd. Whatever it lacks in emotional wallop, Silver more than makes up for with guitar jangle and vocal hooks that recall the Beach Boys without the richly textured harmonies. The group’s M.O. is implicit in their name, and the songs on the record seek to prolong the sort of mid-year reveries that come with fantastic weather and unstructured time away from the office.
Most of the LP’s songs keep brevity as a paramount concern, only a handful of them clocking in over the three-minute mark. Opening salutation “Disciplinarian” is one such example, in which Yun works two chords back and forth with strummy elation while Cundiff lays down a wonderfully sloppy drumbeat. Yun’s unornamented and gossamer vocals belie lyrics like, “I think it’s high time / I had a disciplinarian / the kind that tells me why / I should follow the rules again.” “I Know Now” imbues the band’s otherwise carefree sound with a touch of the jitters, Yun’s intricate guitar riffs and Cundiff’s propulsive drumming lending the tune a foreboding chug. From here, the proceedings quickly return to peppier fare with “Pogo,” the album’s first proper single which is every bit as jaunty and lighthearted as you’d think (“It’s a pogo life / saying everything’s alright / and we’re wasting time / thinking everything is fine”). Cundiff jumps in on backup vocals for this one, his baritone mumble providing an unusual contrast to Yun’s feathery soprano.
The remainder of Silver plays out with equal aplomb, but the phosphorescent luster of these little ditties begins to wane in the homestretch. Comfort gradually gives way to complacency, and you might find yourself wishing that somewhat would come along and harsh the mellow just a bit. “Salty” exudes a little bit of a Mazzy Star vibe, gauzy in presentation with shimmering guitar chords and the sort of star crossed musings that teenage girls often pen: “I want you to know right now / how it’s gonna be / I’m your forever girl / you’re a part of me.” “Worlds Away” suffuses a standard I-IV-V progression with Cocteau Twins vocals and a coda that feels premature.
Those who are desperately clutching onto the past few months’ sunny days and starry nights – or planning for Summer 2011 already – are likely to dig the unpretentious, casual atmosphere of Eternal Summers. For everyone else, there’s bound to be something else out there better suited to pumpkins spice lattes and fall harvests.