erasing clouds

Pale Sunday, Summertime?

reviewed by dave heaton

Summertime? Seems like an appropriate question; weather can be so back-and-forth these days that it's hard to tell what season we're in. Or maybe the title of Pale Sunday's album is a different sort of question, like "Anyone up for summertime? Summertime, anyone?" Of course, summer is the perfect season for great breezy pop songs of this variety: songs that are catchy, pretty, light-as-air, and fun, yet with a hint of melancholy strong enough to account for summer heartbreak, lonely days, and disappointment. An enigmatic letter on the album's back cover describes summer like this: "Summer days make things better, summer days make things worse, summer days make me think about you a lot and want to stay with you all day long." Yes, if you can't tell, the members of Pale Sunday are romantics.

Indeed, pretty much every song on the album is directed to a girl, an object of affection but also mystery. "Who's that girl playing the white tambourine," the singer asks at the start of the album, shyly yet with awe. Listening to her play the tambourine, he feels like he could fly. Is she real, is she a dream? He doesn't know, but she makes him feel happy. At the same time, he's worried she'll soon be gone. That mix of feelings that combination of awe and fear, fascination and confusion, joy and unsteadiness is at the heart of Pale Sunday's music. Not just the lyrics, it's in their sound. The Brazilian trio, in love with rock and pop sounds galore, has a wonderfully acute ear for melody, and also the ability to generate a mood that's compassionate, mysterious, and bittersweet at the same time. That complicated feeling is in the expressive singing, in the deceptively simple song writing, and in the way they play their beloved guitars.

Summertime? is filled with infatuation for a "punk rock girl", for a girl singing songs about Twiggy but behind it lies both a childlike celebration of the world around us and a deep longing for some reassurance that the brilliant joy of summer isn't going to disappear. The ideal world in Pale Sunday's universe is one where the good times play out in slow motion, where the ideal summer never ends. There's a real sense of idealism in these songs, and along with it the ever-present specter of disappointment. The second half of the album is marked by that real-life sadness, from the passionate goodbye song "She'll Never Be Mine" through to the gorgeous "Strangeways." That album-ending narrative is in turns both hopeful and not, as it follows the meeting of two hearts ("a perfect moment"), and their parting ("dreams seem so far away"). Stylistically the scene set is fantastical yet also charged with real emotion, like everything on Summertime?. Pale Sunday have a way to make magic out of tears, and vice versa. Their music at times is as joyous as music can possibly be, but inside sadness is always lurking. The possibility of endless happiness is always there, but the reality of disappointment is too. It's a lot like summer.


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