P:ano When It’s Dark and It’s Summer

[Zum Media/Hive-Fi; 2002]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: chamber pop, indie rock
Others: Yo La Tengo, Low, Ida, Microphones, Wilco, Bedhead, Elephant Six

Okay, so the notion of a summer album is hardly new. Handfuls of so-called "summer albums" have been unleashed to the world, each with its own unique quality that somehow makes it that perfect summer album. More often than not, these albums are associated with an event, such as driving to an unknown destination down I-90 or deflowering your significant other. Thus, an album like The Soft Bulletin is associated with something like driving, and an album like OK Computer is associated with something like intercourse. But when it comes to P:ano, an event is subservient to the music; the music itself procures that euphoric, almost nostalgic feeling that is usually only conjured by summer.

Inspired by "walking, weather, apartment buildings," P:ano's strength derives from lush sonic strokes of pianos and guitars, warm organs and feather-like drumming. Strings, accordions, clarinets, saws, and a double bass only adds to the pastoral ambience. The music is like a flashing display of primary colors, like an apple pie cooling off on a window sill, like riding a bike down the tallest hill in a suburban neighborhood, like buying lemonade from children on the sidewalk. Although these images come more from a pseudo-nostalgia than a true representation of your neighborhood, these images spew out from the music like a cat riding on a motorcycle through 23 degrees weather on its way to a camp site.

Flexing their vocal muscles, Nick Krgovich and Larissa Loyva create thick harmonies a la Low and Yo La Tengo. Nick's vocals recall a beefier Phil Elverum (The Microphones), a gentle voice that steps up to the plate when required. However, P:ano is, perhaps, a little too emphatic about their melodies; there's only so much you can take of the constantly reinforced melodies. It wouldn't have hurt to have more intimate moments such as the lonely strumming and singing of "All of November, Most of October," or the intimacy of standout track "Lazy, Light, and Ugly," but for the most part, every other instrument is used tastefully and affectively. Notable songs include "Billions and Billions," featuring sparse guitars and turtle-paced drumming weaving throughout eight minutes of sonic bliss; and "Worry," with its warm organs and drum machine. The former would have fit nicely on Bedhead's Transaction De Novo, while the latter echoes a more streamlined rendition of a Microphones dithyramb.

Ultimately, the appropriately titled When It's Dark and It's Summer is the soundtrack of consonance and peace -- the soundtrack of a summer that never was. While albums like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Murray Street, and Yoshimi are more likely candidates of albums that will define the pseudo-independent populous' summer of 2002, P:ano has created an album that will be one of those fresh reminders that not everything you care about has to make a big splash. And as we near the end of summer and head toward the end of the year, the weather will indefinitely become colder, and only When It's Dark and It's Summer will be able to keep us adequately warm.

1. All of November, Most of October
2. Tut Tut
3. C'est Hi
4. Be Flat
5. Worry
6. Dinosaurs
7. Country Scene
8. Billions and Billions
9. Lazy, Light, and Ugly