By Nick Tario
Legend has it that The Smiths took their name to evade any preconceived notions about their sound. Eternal Summers, on the other hand, have no use for this philosophy. Their name announces their sound and style: listless singing and slowly strummed, slightly distorted guitars somewhere between sunny pop and ethereal shoegaze.
The first minute and a half of the album’s opener, “Unassigned,” is a good example of the band’s distorted dream pop sound. Lazily strummed guitars with the appropriate amount of reverb, morose female vocals, and plaintive lyrics combine for a pleasant opener, but it’s really the last half-minute of the song that contains the bulk of the fun. The volume of the instrumentation rises, and the song starts to swell before dissolving into cacophony, resembling a tape machine spinning out of control. The second song, "Together or Alone," has its own moment of catharsis when, again at the minute-and-a-half mark, the lead singer’s voice turns into an impassioned yell that perfectly complements her otherwise sweet-as-treacle singing. I wish I could say that the moments of chaos present on the opening two songs are sustained throughout the rest of the album, but unfortunately, they aren’t.
And therein lies the major problem facing Gold and Stone. The album presents smoothly enough, but its pop polish doesn't give the listener anything to hold on to. Its most memorable moments are ultimately swallowed by the large gaps in energy, and throughout the majority of the album there's nothing here that really grabs your shirt collar and forces you to pay attention. And even when the band does find a way to grab your shirt collar, the effect is either momentary (such as what happens on the aforementioned songs), or is somehow undermined. The eighth song on Gold and Stone, "Play Dead," is easily the most energetic song here, a song imbued with a punk rock intensity that galvanizes the album’s second half. But immediately afterward the album gives us “Stars You Named,” a song that is easily the least energetic one here, killing all of the momentum that the excellent “Play Dead” gave the album.
I don’t want to give the impression that Gold and Stone is a bad album. If you’re a fan of indie pop and you’re looking for a way into shoegaze, but you’re constantly put off by the abrasiveness that is de rigueur with shoegaze staples like My Bloody Valentine or Yo La Tengo, then Gold and Stone has the perfect aesthetic to help bridge that gap for you. But if you’re already a fan of that abrasive style, then there probably isn’t a whole lot here that will really excite you. If this was the first album by Eternal Summers it would be easy to chalk up some of the album’s faults to the fact that it’s by a band who are just “finding their sound.” But this is the fourth album by Eternal Summers, which means that the sound they’ve found is that of some rather conservative indie pop, with minimal shoegaze/dream-pop overtones, that, yes, do sound pleasant, and, yes, seem to be applied with care. But shouldn’t bands aim for a little more than that?
Listen to more from Eternal Summers on their Bandcamp.