The Rocket Summer - Calendar Days (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Rocket Summer

Calendar Days (2003)

The Militia Group

Even though Bryce Avary is only 20 years old, he has been working on his solo project, The Rocket Summer, since he was 14 years old. On his Militia Group debut album, "Calendar Days", Avary produced and performed everything on the entire album almost entirely by himself. He plays and sings everything on all 10 tracks: drums, bass, guitar, keyboard, piano, percussion, and vocals (except for a few back-up vocals). The fact that he wrote, played, and produced all of this music is impressive; what is even more impressive, though, is the fact that he actually puts it all together pretty well.

I found The Rocket Summer to be a refreshing pop-solo project. I was worried I was going to hear another Dashboard rip-off, but I was instead pleasantly surprised to hear a lot more than whining. He incorporates good rocking beats (like in track #1, "Cross My Heart"), Ben Folds-style piano (like in track #3, "This Is Me"–although his piano composition is not as complex as Ben Folds' and is not incorporated into as many songs), and up-beat pop hooks. He even gets some tambourine and hand clapping in on a couple of tracks, which is pretty cool. Not enough bands take advantage of the many percussion instruments at their disposal. A 6th grade girls choir also backs him up on track #9, "What We Hate, We Make", which actually sounds pretty cool and adds to the variety of the record.

One of the main problems I had with this record was the lyrics. Some of them were fine, but others just came off as too cheesy and annoying. Track #5, "She's My Baby", for example, I just find really annoying. It is probably one of my least favorite tracks on the album. There is just a little too much cheese when he sings "She's my baby. / She's so good to me, she's my baby / Woah, yeah you mean everything to me." Track #6 is also pretty annoying, as he croons (along to acoustic guitar) with lines like "I'm so proud of you. / What you do, when you do the things you do, they're so you. / I'm so proud of you." It's not that his singing is bad on these tracks–it's just that the lyrics are too annoying and cliché, (just a note: unless you have a small newborn, please refrain from calling someone "your baby") and a lot of the lyrics just seem very naïve.

Luckily, Avery takes the music up a notch (after losing face with tracks 5 and 6, my least favorite tracks on the album) with some more up-beat, full-band sound for the next 2 songs (tracks 7 and 8). Tracks 9 and 10 finish off the album fairly well. "What We Hate, We Make" (track #9) mixes up the pace a little bit, with the girls choir in the background, which really is a nice highlight and actually fits in well. Track 10 finishes off the album with lyrics about going to heaven and talking about God. Even though I found the lyrics for this song a bit cheesy and oversimplified, he carries the whole track off fairly well. For sure, he is not stuffing his religious beliefs down your throat. Probably my favorite track on the whole album is track 3, "This Is Me." It has pretty decent lyrics, good piano parts, lots of hand-clapping and, in general, is just a good listen.

Overall, this album is a pretty good listen. In no time, you might find yourself singing along to some of the better tracks–although you have to get past some of the more annoying lyrics on a few songs. I think that Avary has some really great talent. If you're into solo acts like Ben Kweller or peppier Ben Folds, give this guy a chance. I have no doubt that the lyrics could definitely improve with time; after all, he is only 20 years old. Look for even better things to come from The Rocket Summer and Bryce Avary as the years progress and his lyric-writing capabilities develop more fully.