Eternal Summers seems to fill a lot of niches: the fuzzed-over girl group niche of one-time tourmates Dum Dum Girls, the two-piece band niche, the dream-pop niche of Beach House and Wild Nothing, the latter hailing from an hour down route 81 from the band’s home port of Roanoke. What distinguished them was the exuberance with which they would flit from one to the next.
Part of that, I’d venture, could be attributed to the band coming into its own in a scene small enough not to demand a unique, recognizable aesthetic personality — a brand, if you prefer — as a corollary to notoriety or success. Singer Nicole Yun remarked to Rolling Stone that, in the process of writing Correct Behavior, she found herself playing chunky-ass anthemic riffs. They went with it, where a more bien-pensant crew might have sheepishly burned the demos or hid them from their friends who listen to Dirty Projectors.
So here they are, “not feeling apologetic about songs we enjoyed making.” But Christ, for a songwriter that name-drops Tom Petty and the Stone Temple Pilots, they’ve assembled a pretty hip collection of referents. “It’s Easy” and album closer “Summerset” find Yun doing her best Rachel Goswell. “Girls in the City,” on the other hand, features noir-ish half-singing along the lines of James Murphy, Lou Reed, or even The Dismemberment Plan.
Still others, like “Heaven and Hell” or the major seventh-heavy “Good as You” are heavier on the fuzz pedal. The former is a slice of post-punk bliss, all sawing distortion and beguilingly directionless melodies until the floating, reliably cathartic chorus whose melody again recalls British shoegaze. But it’s “You Kill,” the single making the rounds on these here internets, that really showcases Eternal Summers’ punkier side.
It sounds bewildering I’m sure, and you haven’t even listened to the album yet. The truth is it’s tough to describe an album like Correct Behavior without devolving into a taxonomic exercise. And I have a sneaking suspicion that Yun’s determination to go with her intuition may have made this problem more difficult. Silver was full of odd wordplay like “Disciplinarian,” and a certain quirky chord ran through all the band’s various stylistic dalliances. With Correct Behavior, the songwriting is tighter, a certain personality is in Yun’s voice where it used to be in the words, but they manage not to cross over into the realm of canon parodists like Fang Island.
If there’s a single unifying quality to the album, it’s a vague darkness that stands out above their previous work; there’s a line in the opening track that goes “Happy is the man who knows he’s gonna burn.” Total aesthetic integrity or not, I’d go see Eternal Summers over Beach House any day; a rough-edged dream pop group that digs The Smashing Pumpkins is preferable to one that’s meticulous to the point of being clinical. And as charming an agile two-piece as Eternal Summers were, they’re still better off having taken on a bass player for their latest effort. I guess they’ve given up the quest for “best lo-fi drum-guitar team in all of Virginia,” to which one reviewer alluded, but the extra hand was nonetheless a matter of textural necessity after Yun’s low-end-heavy guitar was stolen and she had to resort to a Telecaster.
For the reinforcements, they have Jonathan Woods to thank and, more broadly, the Magic Twig community, a collective of Roanoke musicians responsible for incubating much of the region’s interesting music. Which brings me to my final point, that the practical reshaping of the band’s identity, the unashamed use of late 80s and early 90s raw materials, and the somewhat communal musical culture from which the band arose are all of a piece. There are many bands working in this space, but they only give you what you want. Eternal Summers remembers who you are.