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Summerooms: A distinctive indie-pop voice

Josh Jackson has become one of my favorite indie-pop songwriters. His deep catalog of songwriting over several different monikers has given him the experience and maturity to create confident, warm, expertly developed songs and albums. Summerooms 2: When the Summer is Over is an excellent example of his work.

The best place to start thinking about this record is with the iconic indie-pop of Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie. From that base, throw in a dash of Relient K’s witty-yet-sad lyrics and melodic pop sensibilities, then season with some twinkling guitars and a brilliant melancholy from the emo revival. All of that comes together into a distinctive songwriting voice in an indie-pop milieu. That’s a rare achievement.

None of the songs overstay their welcome—they all feel like beautiful shards of the larger whole that is the album. The delicate, remorseful “When the Summer is Over” is the perfect example here; it’s a song that could have gone on much longer but confidently sits at 1:43. “Joey’s Theme” is a pensive acoustic guitar solo that fits perfectly in the flow of the record, between the somewhat-perky “Play G” and the laconic, hazy “Moving Day.” Even though “Moving Day” is fuzzy, it’s a lot more discernible than some of his earlier haze-folk experiments. (It should be noted that I liked those haze-folk experiments too, but this is just more mature, higher-quality work.)

“Flyover” is a confident yet peaceful instrumental that signals a turning point in the record. From there, Jackson’s attention turns to more solid pop tunes like “Hard to Sing” and my favorite track “Perfect Lander Halfpipe”. The latter features the joy of low-key twee indie-pop like It’s a King Thing without being precious. It’s got gravitas but also levity. “You’re Around Me” is the sort of pop song that just sounds effortless.

“Shy Brushfire” shows off the easy simplicity of Jackson’s fingerpicking—the tune is somewhere between a singer/songwriter tune and an indie-pop tune; it has the humble arrangement of a singer/songwriter work and the sort of wide-frame melody line that would call up indie-pop conclusions. But the whole thing is so calm!

Summerooms 2: When the Summer is Over is a fantastic record that should not be missed. I want to spend my time listening to this record, not describing it. Josh Jackson is not just one of my favorite songwriters–he’s quickly becoming one of the best young songwriters in the country.