Much like how Cults crafted glitzy indie pop songs infused with New Wave elements and quirky introductory audio clips, Summer Camp’s debut LP Welcome To Condale is built from the same ideas. The main difference being Cults couldn’t really seem to sustain the formula for an entire record, cramming their best ideas in the front and steadily losing momentum towards the end; whereas Summer Camp have made something far more consistent and enjoyable.
Despite this, Summer Camp’s particular brand of indie pop does take a bit of acclimation. Multiple listens are all but mandatory, as their songs have a tendency to mix delightfully catchy tunes with multiple genre style shifts and can be a little overwhelming at first. It’s easy to miss what makes them so good upon first impressions. The album’s opener “Better Off Without You” is a perfect example. It’s one of the most fun songs on the record, but manages to go from an old brass sample, to Beach Boys surf rock, to a thumping New Wave verse and soaring chorus in less than a minute. The way it progresses through its heightening chord changes, the way its lead singer can be so simultaneously brazen and tender; strip away the distracting elements and it’s a world-beater of a song that feels like a kiss-off to everything holding us as a listener back.
Welcome To Condale hints less at the chillwave seeds planted on Summer Camp’s EP, but the band’s songwriting is still as strong as ever. “I Want You” and “Nobody Knows You” create nice, melancholy dream pop-scapes while “Losing My Mind” and “Down” are a bit more peppy, musicially speaking, demonstrating Summer Camp’s knack for 80’s glam-rock. You can hear echoes of The Cure in the synth keyboards of the title track, and “1988” closes things off with another strong anthem about youth and times gone by.
This is really what a debut album should be: plenty of youthful enthusiasm, a strong showing of well-written songs, and plenty of room for growth. Which is not to take away from Welcome To Condale, rather it implies that what we’ve got here is not the best Summer Camp has to offer. For the most part, the British duo has been coated in mystery and that layer of intrigue serves their throwback music perfectly. It’s a quintessential getting-to-know-you record for the music blogs to latch on to, chalk full of enough great music to keep fans’ interest piqued until the band’s next musical offering.