The Rocket Summer

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The Rocket Summer is Bryce Avary, a phenomenally gifted 20-year-old whose self-produced, self-recorded debut album finds him playing all the instruments and singing (almost) all the parts to songs that, naturally, he wrote himself, and that sound like the product of someone who's had 20 years to hone his craft. Since Avary presumably spent at least part of his childhood engaged in activities other than studying the art of songwriting, this album is a phenomenal achievement. It proceeds in something like sonata form, beginning with a few headlong blasts of pure power pop cheer, then slowing down in the middle for a handful of ballads, then picking up the tempo again moderately toward the end. If there's a complaint to be made about these songs, it's that sometimes they seem just a bit too crammed full of hooks and ideas, but that ebullient energy is a significant part of Avary's charm. "Cross My Heart" and "Saturday" are two of the most infectiously joyful songs released in recent memory, while the gently preachy "What We Hate We Make" actually incorporates a chorus of sixth-graders without inducing the gag reflex at all. Avary's voice is sweet and clear, and his playing -- on all instruments -- is absolutely solid and assured. This is, quite simply, an astounding album, and it's a little bit scary to contemplate what the next one will sound like.

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