The Summer of Seasons is the new EP release by the Highland Park orchestra, and yes, they are an orchestra that expands and contracts with each live show. This means that the songs I have have grown to love, over the many times I have seen them live, have no rigid, formal shape. Whether there's an accordion or not, three guitars of two, one tambourine player or a tambourine section of five (I saw that once), the songs are molded to the evening's ensemble makeup.
That's why hearing the recorded versions is a little jarring to someone who isn't used to getting to know songs live before knowing the final formal versions. Like someone sat them down and said, "just concentrate on the damned song". The result is slightly tamer, more structured takes on the compositions, with the benefit of a clearer understanding of what the songs are and the knowledge that this band knows exactly what it's doing.
It begins with a simmering sound, like when you're laying on the summer beach and watching the waves that ripple up from the hot sand, and the beat begins, pulling you into "The Weight", which is one of Seasons' best songs. Beginning quietly, Nic lures you in before cutting loose with his trademark roars that proves he means what he's saying, "get off my back!" Highlighted by astute guitar work and John's twinkling piano, it's a real, typical Seasons grabber.
Then the album goes heavy into summer mode with three relaxed, laid back ballads that make no demands except you sit back and enjoy. I haven't seen them do this live so the direction is unexpected. When they performed this at the EP release party I presented in August it was given their characteristic swirl of psychedelia. On disc, you hear the songs beneath the swirl.
They finish with a new take on "The Sea" that becomes a battle to the death between Godzilla and Ghidrah as the monsters roar and the relentless beat pounds and then breaks into a dance beat that always makes a live audience crazy with movement.
I kind of miss the ramshackle quality of their first CD, but as a companion piece to their previous EP, Spring, this is a natural progression. I've been listening to it for a month now and wanted to wait till it sank in to comment, and it's an interesting step for this remakably talented band.
above photo: CGT