A Vintage Pop Dip
Imagine being suddenly flooded with the contemporary rock and roll canon in your late teens, two decades into being limited to consuming only Christian-based music. Discovering seminal and influential artists like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, The Stooges, David Bowie, Arcade Fire – all with a limited knowledge of the context or sequence of their rise to prominence. This is the experience that Avid Dancer frontman, Jacob Summers, encountered when he finally began to break from his strict Christian upbringing. The sudden bombardment of influence shows throughout the diverse palate that makes up his debut full length, 1st Bath.
For the most part, Avid Dancer specializes in highly-detailed, meticulously layered takes on vintage pop music with a heavy helping of psychadelia. While it is easy to give an overarching characterization to 1st Bath, each of the songs does well to break away with its own unique traits. The bongo-backed calypso heard throughout “I Told You So;” the rolling Buddy Holly rock and roll of “All the Things You Keep;” the light acoustic finger picking during “Whatever’s On Your Mind;” each song has a unique style and sonic dynamic, with no two tracks sounding identical.
“Medication” is well crafted psych-rock with crunchy distorted guitars and a pitch-perfect organ line ringing in the chorus. Summer’s deep, melancholy vocal work is a perfect complement to the instrumental track on the song, which recalls classic Nuggets-era garage rock while still clearly being an obviously contemporary composition. Avid Dancer’s songs blend disparate elements from across the timeline of the rock universe, often pairing vintage sounds with more modern-day techniques – perhaps this quality can be owed to Summers’ unique experience discovering secular rock and roll music.
While appropriately titled, “I Want to See You Dance” is the weakest track on 1st Bath. Serving as one of the first two singles from the album, it appears this song is a case of Summers taking his influences a bit too literally. The song kicks off with a more-straightforward version of the guitar-riff from Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” before proceeding into a chorus that sounds like Twin Shadow covering David Bowie. While it is by no means a bad song, the dance-y atmosphere of “I Want to See You Dance” feels a tad bit forced among the easy-breezy pop of the other album tracks.
All in all, 1st Bath is a promising debut from Avid Dancer, showcasing a songwriter who clearly has an ear for a catchy melody and the attention to detail needed to create great songs. This songwriting ability is made even more impressive when one considers that Summers has only been aware of popular secular music for a small portion of his life. The potential for Avid Dancer seems immense.