It’s hard to stand out from the crowd these days. With the talent pool becoming saturated with diverse, genre-bending experimentalism, the foundation of pop-rock has become a shaky ground of shifting origins and influences. As a result, it’s rare nowadays to experience an album on steady footing. That’s not necessarily good or bad; it just is.
That being said, there’s something worthwhile about getting back to basics. Case in point: The Drop Beneath, the latest effort from Virginia-based trio Eternal Summers. Coming off the success of 2012’s breakthrough effort Correct Behavior, Nicole Yun, Daniel Cundiff and Jonathan Woods’ latest album is a step back from the ambiguous direction of modern rock and a step forward for the band, artistically. Already known for straightforward and sparse instrumentation, Eternal Summers take the trend to new depths with The Drop Beneath. Their brand of loose-hanging, guitar-driven, hook-filled pop has tightened into a fist.
The true achievement of the album is perhaps its ability to interweave sun-soaked pop gems (“A Burial” and “Gouge”) and dimmer shoegaze (“Make It New” and “Deep End”) together without ever feeling like two separate threads. The sounds, while varied, ultimately tie into each other until you don’t know where one string ends and the other begins. The Drop Beneath, at times defiant, always feels consistent. Even when the down-tempo “Until the Day I Have Won” plays after a slather of otherwise upbeat tracks, it feels natural. Like the rest of The Drop Beneath, it feels ingrained into the fabric of the album’s tightly woven strands.
?Some of that cohesion is a credit to producer Doug Gillard (Guided By Voices, Nada Surf) and sound engineer Louie Lino (Nada Surf). Rather than hammer the round peg of Eternal Summers’ sound into a square hole, Gillard has carved out a slot where the music can fit seamlessly. While the band has cited 1990s acts such as Teenage Fanclub and Lush as influences for the album, the production is fashioned around the songs’ strengths and structure, their brevity and abrasiveness. More often than not, guitars are at the forefront, propelling forward feedback and distortion, as pulsating drums and bass backline Yun’s cascading vocals.
?While the album sometimes suffers from hookless meanderings and sonic redundancies, its terse production and strong performances are an achievement indeed. The record feels familiar, lived in, homier. It often feels like an homage to the aforementioned ’90s influences or to a Pablo Honey-era Radiohead or a Leisure-era Blur—but also matching the fuzz-rock mentality of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart or the pop sensibilities of Hospitality. With The Drop Beneath, Eternal Summers aren’t pushing the envelope in the same sense that some of their peers are, but that’s not a bad thing. They don’t need to.