Album Review :
The Rocket Summer - Do You Feel

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Artist: The Rocket Summer
Album: Do You Feel
Label: Island Records/ The Militia Group
Release Date: July 17, 2007
Review by: Eric Pettersson

Tracklist:
1. Break It Out
2. So Much Love
3. Do You Feel
4. Save
5. All I Have
6. High Life Scenery
7. A Song Is Not a Business Plan
8. Taken Aback
9. Colors
10. Run to You
11. Hold It Up
12. Waiting
13. So, In This Hour…

These days it seems the early artists on The Militia Group are all growing up… sort of. Their oldest band that is still together is Copeland, who recently moved up to Columbia, only to get dropped. Maybe bands that start on indie labels should learn to stay there. The major label thing just doesn’t work out, right? Well, this is still to be seen, but so far it’s been working out for The Rocket Summer. Bryce Avery, the singer, guitarist, bassist, drummer, and keyboardist that makes up this one man band (at least in the writing and recording process), started out in 2003 with Calendar Days. Bryce’s high voice and piano leads, along with his passionately joyful pop feel, became his signatures, and in 2005 he showed that his writing abilities were increased tenfold with the release of Hello, Good Friend which also saw a dual label agreement with SRE Records to get it in the Christian stores. His lyrics matured, and maintained an openly personal side clearly coming from a hopeful romantic, excited about his current relationship with lines and smiles that made girls melt at every show. The energy also kicked up, making the songs more consistently danceable. It was one of the greatest sing-along albums of the year, and after signing to Island Records, fans have all been excitedly anticipating what would come next. Finally, after a studio visit spanning across three months, Do You Feel was created.

This time around, Bryce rocked it out again on most tracks, leaving listeners with little choice but to dance and try to learn some of these quickly sung lyrics in hopes of one day being able to sing along. Despite my fears of being attacked by the genre-police, I’ll say that on Hello, Good Friend, the energy was an emo-pop energy. But on Do You Feel, maybe it’s the major label production, maybe it’s Bryce growing as a musician, but now these high-energy tunes, while they’re obviously pop-rock with nods towards his past, introduce another deeper soulful groove. There’s a little less noticeable variety musically, but when all the songs are incredibly good, that’s not entirely a bad thing. “Do You Feel” is a little darker with a  piano and tambourine that still have me dancing along as I sit at my laptop typing this review, and guitars and vocal melodies that cut down to somehow make a heart-felt connection with the music alone. “Run to You” is a slowed-down piano-based track, and “So, In This Hour…” provides a climatic ending with constant rising action and a mellowed-ending on just the piano and strings. Most songs take the upbeat route, which Bryce does excellently, aside from the embarrassing saxophone on the end of “So Much Love” (not embarrassing because it’s a sax, but because it sounds like it might have fit a little better on a record coming from the next winner of American Idol).

A major difference, however, between Do You Feel and his previous efforts is the lyrics. While before most of the songs talked about love, this time Bryce seems to have set his sights on changing the world. It’s subtle, and you could easily miss it from dancing and focusing on the music, but a read through the lyrics showed a man who has apparently been learning a lot lately. The chorus of the title track sings out “Do you feel the weight of the world singing sorrow? Or to you is it just not real, cause you got your own things, yeah we all have our own things, I guess.” The song speaks against the attitude that looks at injustice and says “It’s not my problem because it doesn’t affect me.” Mixed with the incredible music, this is my favorite song on this album. Other tracks discuss how Bryce has a greater purpose behind his music and will not sell out (“Break It Out,” “A Song Is Not a Business Plan”). “High Life Scenery” makes fun of/complains about the “scene” and wishes people would learn to feel, even saying he’s considering giving all his clothes back to the thrift store to get away from his association with the scene. But don’t worry, a few love songs remain (“Colors,” “So Much Love,” “Hold It Up”), which is always a good thing, and a careful look at the lyrics give a glimpse at a later point in a relationship and a more mature outlook, still full of hope and wonder.

Strict indie kids will no doubt favor The Rocket Summer’s older material and call this “over-produced” or whatever it is they like to say, but for those willing to grow with an artist, this was a great next step. It may be a little more radio-accessible, but Do You Feel is clearly still The Rocket Summer and contains almost everything that made us fall in love with him in the first place. It ends on a prayer, “So please take my life and use it, I’m ready,” which sums up the overall theme of this record, and I’m certain God has already answered that prayer with a yes.

9/10

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