Cover: Sophia Chapman
Portland-based alternative outfit Summer Houses recently dropped their debut long player, Frantic Hearts, an amalgamation of grunge, nerd punk, and Dadaist/lounge lizard funk.
Talking about the album, the band says, “As best friends, we forged ‘Frantic Hearts’ through years of daily challenges, working-class grind, and traumatic events to create a vivid, high contrast sonic experience crafted as a jagged, rock n’ rollin’ rollercoaster.”
Summer Houses is made up of Hazel Sterling Clemente (guitar, vocals), Dylan Barstow (keyboards, backing vocals), Mitchell Raymond (bass, backing vocals), and Max Minde (drums). Kyle Cregan handled engineering and mixing, while Brad Boatright mastered the album. Cover art was provided by Sophia Chapman.
Encompassing seven tracks, the album begins with “Television,” opening on low-slung emerging guitar riding a trembling rhythm. Discordant tones enter as the harmonics ramp up with jarring, exotic resonance. Dark vocals imbue the lyrics with eerie urgency and latent, portentous mania.
Entry points include “One More Mile,” a country-flavored/alt-punk-tinted tune that descends to soft, tinkling coloration, as gentle, angst-laced vocals give the lyrics a kind of subdued delirium.
For some reason, the intro to “Winners Circle” conjures up memories of Lou Reed, featuring dirty, growling guitars under exquisite control as Hazel’s edgy vocals infuse the lyrics with timbres at once vibrant and uncomfortable.
Blending grunge and punk with tendrils of prog-rock at certain points, “Wartime” seethes with mysterious sonic symbolism, especially during the protracted solo/outro section, which ripples with layers of hazy guitars accented by luminous flecks of sound – roiling and churning with grimy frigidity.
The final track, “By Nightfall,” stripped down to visceral harmonics, is vaguely reminiscent of Jack White crossed with The Clash, King Crimson, and The Kinks – thick with grungy guitars yet weird and wonderful.
Not quite grunge, not quite punk, with Frantic Hearts, Summer Houses delivers an album at once intimate, darkly brooding, and raw. Summer Houses pumps out uniquely weird rock spilling over the brink into the realm of genius.