Right from the start, Caught in a Summer Swell smacks you in the face with a youthful defiance that borders on nostalgia. The jangle guitar of “Dandelion Wine” and the boy/girl vocals of Ates Ilsidak and Lauren Dwyer combine to create little nuggets of summer gold that feel as new as they do lived in, despite that nagging sensation that you’ve heard all this before. That this music deftly avoids the game of “this song sounds like” is a testament to the band’s ability to reference their heroes without overtly copying them.
The sunshine and puppy-love aesthetic leads to a cohesive feel on the record as it bounces between songs like “Does It Show” and “Summer Swell”. The similar tempo could lead to a feeling of redundancy, but somehow, the band manages to use it to their advantage, showing off their natural pop abilities while taming some of their more abrasive tendencies. There’s not a single element here that sounds out of place, it’s all neat, tidy, and positively chipper in its demeanor. But, the band in Heaven works that to their advantage, using the sequencing of the album to build the energy and underlying tension. That tension leads to some moments of pure bliss, such as “Fairweather Friends” with its propulsive beat that matches Ilsidak’s excellent vocals. Its follow-up, “Tunnel Into Your Dreams” is even better, slowing the tempo and adding a violin to create a maudlin tale of yearning that rightfully stands out as one of the best tracks on the record.
If “Tunnel Into Your Dreams” is the apex of the season, the rest of Caught in a Summer Swell is the descent into autumn, continuing back to those up-tempo indie pop beats while giving nods to MTV (back when it played videos) on “Music Television”, reminding adults of a certain era when summer days were often spent watching TV for music. “Young and Dumb” with its chorus of “you were the sun when I was young” comes the closest to the group’s old sound, with a fuzz guitar droning in the background over a tale of lost love.
That Caught in a Summer Swell ends on the delightful “Farewell Summer” is further proof the band knows what they’re doing when it comes to closing out a record. The song itself is a goodbye to those hallowed days of youth – When freedom is taken for granted and responsibility seems miles away. It’s a beautiful, soaring closer, ending the band in Heaven’s first record on a high note. Caught in a Summer Swell may be an out-of-nowhere left turn, but it’s got the heart and chops to more than pull off the move.
On first listen it is apparent they've made a distinct departure from their previous releases, no longer hiding behind curtains of reverb and feedback. Casting aside their guttural shoegaze foundation, they instead meet us with an overall dreamy sound. Sometimes spacey, sometimes catchy, other times noisy, the band in Heaven now holds our attention with a tighter, stronger rhythm section which is then glazed over with a sheen of dreamy, delayed guitars. Male / female vocals trade off throughout the album.The lyrics aren't hidden, but nothing is on the surface.
The themes within the record have reveal a sense of maturation as well. With topics that touch on growing pains, family debt, loss of innocence, wistfulness, giving up and letting go, the listener is left with a more deep-seeded sense of both hope and loss. On the opening track, the band in Heaven references Ray Bradbury in their perfect summer tune "Dandelion Wine" with the line: "Kiss your wrist and ask no one the time / stay up late getting drunk off that Dandelion Wine," making strong declarations on the timeslessness of youth contrasted with the inevitability of aging.