With this eponymous release, Summer Camp sidesteps one pitfall of the second album by swapping fiction for something more real and closer to home. The debut LP from the UK duo of Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley, Welcome To Condale told the tale of an imaginary American small town. While Condale was all about fictional characters coming of age, the followup is about growing and maturing in the first person. Sankey’s journalistic background shows in the openness of her lyrics, divulging more personal emotions. While retro musical references remain a key part of the Summer Camp mix, there is a contemporary sense to this album that shows emotional, artistic growth.
The album begins with “The End”; a perverse choice, you may think, but three minutes in, blissful elevation ignites through a tempo change, flurries of melody, carpe diem sentiments (“pick yourself up from the gravel”), and even an echo of the Twin Peaks theme to close. Summer Camp has swapped Pulp for Blur this time around, with Stephen Street (Blur, The Smiths, Morrissey) taking the production reins from Pulp’s Steve Mackey. Street has rounded some of the rough edges and created a warmer sound, so much so that you wonder why the album wasn’t scheduled for an early summer release, most notably for the killer dance anthem “Fresh”.
Sampled rhythmic loops abound on the record, lending an immediacy and providing a platform for Sankey to launch her sweet-toned soarings and Warmsley to harmonize while lacing some slick guitar licks. Conversely, live drums drive and solidify the pulsating “Two Chords”, the overdriven arpeggios shimmery icing as Sankey questions what the future holds in her intimate, life-affirming way. Closer “Pink Summer” similarly rounds off this Summer Camp philosophy (“It’s not how much you love/ it’s how much you are loved”). Summer Camp is a tribute to their talents, the duo having ducked the “second album syndrome” so adroitly with this release.
Essential tracks: “The End”, “Two Chords”, and “Fresh”