The Rocket Summer

Plays well with others

For every hundred bedroom guitar heroes, there's a Bryce Avary, the kind of driven kid who doesn't just dream it. Avary recorded an EP at 18, setting the stage for his terrific self-recorded and -produced debut, Calendar Days, which generated enormous buzz for the then-20-year-old. Channeling the pop impulses of Weezer and Saves the Day, Avary plays all the instruments on his albums, and invests them with an irrepressibly hopeful attitude. The arrangements have a prominent power-pop component, while Avary's vocals have a strong emo quality. Working with a producer, Tim O'Heir (Hot Rod Circuit, The All-American Rejects), for the first time on his latest, Hello, Good Friend, Avary may have ceded too much power. The album's airtight sound saps songs of some of their energy, and the over-earnest, youthful singing feels more cloying absent the homey charm of its earlier, less overblown production. But like a badly fitting suit, it only disguises Avary's very real appeal, derived from his showmanship (he plays with a backing band on tour) and well-written songs -- something more readily apparent live.

 
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