If you have been following the lead-up to Summer Camp’s debut LP, then you undoubtedly know that they are heavily influenced by the ’80s; Welcome to Condale shows these influences through happy synths and strong, bold dual male and female vocals. Summer Camp’s music does not, however, sound old or overdone. They have taken their influences and quoted them, but the end result is not plagiarism, it’s merely a well-written history paper.
The opening track and single, “Better Off Without You,” is ’80s synthpop and girl power at its best. This song could easily accompany an on-screen puffy-sleeved prom-goer when she realizes that she doesn’t need her date around to have fun. “Brian Krakow” is similarly sparkling with 1980s summer fun. Most of the tracks fit into this category but a few stand out because of hteir differences.
For example, “I Want You” and “Nobody Knows You” are darker and more up-to-date. They still incorporate synthesizers as the main element, but these synths are dreary and slower. At moments on “I Want You” there is a disco feel. For some fans of Summer Camp’s solid, sunny ’80s sound, these tracks may not hold with the rest. However, they prove that Summer Camp can evolve, can write an entire album filled with material that is cohesive but not redundant and keep things interesting.
The strong points of Welcome to Condale are the vocals of Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley. The bold and unaltered (very nice to see these days) vocals of Sankey are well complimented by Warmsley — the way their voices play off of each other is similar to the way that Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion of Cults’ voices play off of each other. The strong female vocals give the music a retro vibe and the male vocals break things up and surprise listeners at certain moments, ensuring that the album is diverse.
Lyrically, Welcome to Condale is mostly filled with adolescent love songs of all types — there is even a creepy stalker vibe going on in “I Want You.” One exception is the track “Welcome to Condale,” which describes the fictitious town of Condale where the album and its love stories belong. Summer Camp has given us a soundtrack to a 1980s romantic comedy and has made it fun to listen to. The ‘80s influences are everpresent but never take over the music entirely. Somehow, in a contemporary music world that is heavily reliant on synths, Summer Camp have used the instrument in the most classic ’80s way imaginable and have come out of their first full-length sounding incredibly original. With all the distortion and effects placed on music today, it’s refreshing to get to dance to pure and simple synth-heavy songs about relationship problems. We all need this sometimes.
Stream: “Welcome to Condale”
Stream: “Better Off Without You”
Stream: “Ghost Train”