Laced with catchy melodies, emotive stories, and intricate instrumental layering, New York-based act Summer Underground return with their newest EP, The Bee Sides, and are stronger than ever. Seven months since the release of their previous effort, Honeycomb, we discover a refreshed sound from the duo, consisting of Chrissy Sandman and Grant Carey, departing from their conventional piano-driven indie pop style.
Perhaps the most intriguing fact about the duo’s latest EP is that, while the six-track collection consists of songs penned during the Honeycomb sessions, the end products we hear couldn’t be more distinct. Adding a new dynamism to their sound while both continue contributing to vocal duties, the band utilizes experimental sonic textures across the songs to great effect, avoiding the pitfall of simply being an extension of their previous release. Instead, what they find themselves now is a bold and remarkable step in a new direction.
The EP opens up with a sole electric guitar brimming with distortion, almost as a statement of intent, before Sandman’s soothing vocals kick in to perfectly complement it. The duo’s trademark transitions are then brought to the forefront as the mellow opening seamlessly grows into an infectious swing rhythm, coloured with tasty beach-style guitar riffs. The change in tone is beautifully paired with their lyrical sentiments as well, evoking reflections about a love that is both young and simple (“’Cause I have a feeling, that you got me reeling / And I have a feeling, you feel it too”).
The same spirit of light-heartedness is carried across to tracks such as “Wild One”, the perfect soundtrack for a summer spent walking down the beach reminiscing with friends. A light beat and happy disposition is heard throughout the track, with different instruments intricately layered at various points of the song to bring listeners on their journey. “In The Night” is another that does the same, as the duo shows their true musical prowess through pairing their lyrical style of storytelling with sound design. Using sounds such as waves hitting the shore, seagulls squawking, and children on a roller coaster to evoke the vibes of a seaside carnival, you could close your eyes and be transported to that same place with them.
While “Young Like You” is the one track that epitomizes the band’s effort in experimentation through thick electronic waves and wah-infused guitar licks, we are still treated to songs that serve to remind us of their roots. “Barrier” is one that achieves this, with its piano pulses and mid-tempo drumbeat raising comparisons to “Beacon” from Honeycomb. Emotions such as heartbreak and frustration are still conveyed in true Summer Underground fashion with their unique brand of storytelling (“I checked my phone three hundred separate times / In the same hour, on the same day / I thought perhaps you’d tell me ‘Grant, I’m really looking forward to the future’”). “Grand Theft Auto” carries a similar line of musings, as its light-heartedness and melodic tendencies are delicately accompanied by the exploration of possibilities that come with past regret (“What if we stayed together for longer than we thought? / What if we destroyed the message that told us who we are?”).
Despite the obvious shift in musical approach, Summer Underground still maintain the stylistic essence of who they are. The production may differ from anything they have done previously, especially with their multi-instrument flexibility and knack for experimentation here, but The Bee Sides remains a testament to their genuine outlook towards music. And that’s what will keep listeners coming back for more.