album review: jon lindsay — summer wildnerness program

jon lindsay @ slim's

Jon Lindsay — Summer Wildnerness Program. Out tomorrow.

Jon Lindsay’s Summer Wilderness Program opens with a track called “Oceans More”, a track that on any other album of this title with this release day, would be a sunny, hand-clappy summer anthem — but Lindsay is best at subverting paradigms with his songwriting, and “Oceans More” is a catchy summer anthem, alright, it’s just one in a minor key, full of synthesizers and skittering drumming to move the song and your body along with it. It’s a keystone to Summer Wilderness Program, which is a record that defies expectations at every corner.

Recorded almost entirely by Lindsay himself, it’s an epic and anthemic piece of work, all about how to have a broken heart in the summertime. It’s a dark album full of sparkles — in “Tiny Violins”, Lindsay sings I don’t want to make new friends over a shimmering keyboard line that belies the desperation of the song, segueing perfectly into another crashed drumming, altered vocals verse.

Lindsay is a master at using what seems like a full orchestra to get the shimmering indie pop results of his songwriting: “Margot” shines with organ and horns and simple guitar lines, and “Marcoda” opens with a wordless doowop chorus before rumbling into spaced out synthesizers underneath Lindsay’s un-altered voice. Like the two opening tracks, most of the album is a broken heart and an open wound. “King of the Offseason” is a plea to an unnamed woman to give the singer just one try — I’ve been waiting for this picture all my life — rife with clear horn lines and fuzzed out guitars, dixieland piano.

“Where Love Goes To Die”, “Princess Street” and “Little Fool” are bluesy and almost like the Black Keys had shoved a synthesizer into Brothers, the crashing drums and Lindsay’s voice in a plaint, almost false and full of a sneer. While the front half of the album seems like a plea, a mourning for lost love, “Where Love Goes To Die” turns on a dime and flips the album into something fiercer and more bitter, sneering at hope and telling the sad stories even when the music — “Princess Street” in particular — give you a soaring sort of hope. “Vapor” wraps up the record with a track that feels familiar, the single piece of pure sunshine-sounding beach music on the album, and segues into the final hopeful buzz and rattle of “Gray Camaro” and the wrenching piano ballad “Biography”, which makes me cry every time I hear it.

Summer Wilderness Program is an indie pop gem; Lindsay’s songwriting isn’t like anyone else’s, and he doesn’t mind sliding between styles internally in songs, much less from song to song. It’s a little dark and a little minor key, a little off-kilter and a little unusual, but that’s what I want from my music: something that keeps me coming back for more, as Lindsay sings on “After Dark”, but something new, something different.

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