Pop-rock band The Summer Set has been performing, writing music and crossing genre and stereotype lines since 2007.
The band walks a fine line between rock, pop and punk music and features a female drummer (which is rare in the rock music industry). Its latest studio release “Stories for Monday” hit stores and streaming services at the beginning of this month, and currently stands at No. 8 on the Billboard Alternative Rock chart.
The album is characterized largely by upbeat and catchy music, but also features a few somber tunes about love lost, mortality and capitalizing on youth. Some of these songs, such as the opening track “Figure Me Out,” tackle some serious themes facing young people on a daily basis.
On this track, the band uses a piano and vocal heavy mix as an outlet for some post-teenage angst sentiment about figuring out where one fits in and what exactly to do with one’s life, something that is easy to relate to.
Toward the end of the song, lead singer Brian Dale captures the meaning with the heartfelt lines, “I believe there’s more to life than all my problems/ I just wanna fall in love before I’m dead/ So I can make my parents proud, hope my feet don’t fail me now/ Cuz it’s time for me to figure me out.”
The second and third tracks on the album, “The Night Is Out” and “Missin’ You,” produce chill vibes as Dale sings about one of the other major themes of the album: having a good night and drinking to forget people he loved who are no longer in his life. Neither of these songs present anything particularly great, but they contribute to the major themes of the record in a positive way.
“Jean Jacket” comes next on the album, and this song is noticeably different from the first three. It starts off slowly and eventually builds into a smooth, danceable beat where Dale sings about putting on his jean jacket, and the way it reminds him of times spent with a former lover. This feeds into the common theme of reflection on a lost love. The song reaches one of several emotional highs on the album.
This is followed up by what is certainly one of the best songs on the album titled “All My Friends.” The song begins with an incredibly groovy, undeniably 80s sounding guitar progression combined with a clapping part that has a smooth pop, summer smash hit vibe encompassing it.
Dale’s infectious vocals come in after two measures with the best opening lyric on the album: “We were drinking on a Tuesday, we were shutting down the bar/ You were screaming to Nirvana like the Kurt Cobain you are.”
Cobain references in a pop song are a welcome surprise, but that is not all that makes the song great. The vocals are reminiscent of Matt Healy of The 1975 on this song more than any other on the record, and there is even a tinge of Taylor Swift in the way the song is crafted.
The hook ties in some emotional leverage when Dale sings, “All my friends don’t want me to be with you,” followed directly by the bridge where he repeats, “Promise that this is the last time,” reflecting on the love that you just cannot let go. These vocal and lyrical aspects combine with the carefree summer vibe and tasteful instrumental parts to create a pop song that will be a feel good jam this summer.
“All Downhill From Here” is a song in the back half of the album that starts with a distorted guitar and features cool guitar effects in background riffs throughout the track that separate it from the rest of the album.
The lyrics and vocal melody in the song are well constructed as well, and Dale sings about a mildly cynical theme. This is evident in the first verse when he sings, “We got American dreams/ yeah, I’ll be made overseas.”
“All In” follows this track, and it adds another upbeat, if not forgettable pop-rock song about having a good night to forget about the pains of love. The most noteworthy part of this song is the bridge, which features another tasteful reference to a rock band many of us grew up listening to: “At 4 a.m. in the parking lot/ We’ll be singing Blink songs ‘til the sun comes up.”
The final three songs are much more somber sounding than the majority of the record. “Wonder Years” tackles the concept of mortality and aging with hints of curiosity. Dale consistently talks about what happens after the party, which could be taken literally as a party, or in a much deeper sense, where one’s whole existence and time on earth is a party.
This theme of “what happens when the party’s over?” carries into the next song, called simply enough, “When The Party Ends.” This tune is a high energy take on what happens after all the glory moments of the party, and the band is wondering aloud what comes next.
The album ends with the song “Wasted,” which is a catchy song about making the most of the moments we find ourselves in and taking advantage of our youth: “If we die and find out it was all for nothing/ ‘Least we know that youth wasn’t wasted on us.”
The song ends the album by emphasizing the theme of mortality and making the best of these moments of our life again, as Dale sings, “Turn the lights on, party’s over/ Maybe someday we’ll never get older.”
This album has many indications of coming from a real place, such as heartfelt lyrics, emotional vocal delivery and certain recurring themes on deep subject matter throughout the album.
In an interview with Dale, he provides substance to this theory. He said, “I almost gave up on music last year. Then I wrote this song (‘Figure Me Out’). It’s funny how the most important ones come to you when you least expect it.”