I have not heard The Rocket Summer until playing their new single “M4U” for the first time. Consider me a believer from now on. Rocket Summer’s creative heart, Bryce Avary, successfully blends a cavalcade of musical strands into a heated rainbow of sound. His artistic fluency is astonishing; merging several stylistic languages into a single and identifiable voice may be his greatest gift. Keen-eared listeners will pluck out elements of acoustic-drive singer/songwriter material, hip-hop, pop, a smattering of industrial, and even rock leanings. Merging this all into a single song while avoiding clutter or overwhelming listeners is an impressive achievement.
It’s a song containing something for everyone. Even the lyrics have a broad-based appeal. There are few, particularly the young or young at heart, who haven’t experienced the devouring passion for someone that practically throbs in the heart of this song. “M4U” is, at its core, a song of desire, the life and death variety where you feel possessed by your affection for another. It veers close to obsession. Avary doesn’t communicate that message with flowery pseudo-poetic flights of fancy but, instead, delivers it with clipped economical language. It’s as if the singer can barely articulate the full extent of their love.
The music does, however. It’s an intense voyage from its acoustic guitar-centered opening and the gradual development of its percussion. The bass notes supply a hard-hitting heartbeat for the song as well. Avary develops the song fast, but it never rushes. His musical timing introduces each new elaboration on the arrangement at the right places. In less talented hands, “M4U” is a jarring and convoluted mess. In Avary’s hands, however, it grows in a systematic yet natural fashion.
He’s smart to not let it go on too long. It erupts in stages and never taxes the listener’s patience. The accompanying music video for the song is perhaps my favorite part. He shapes the clip to compliment the video without ever diverting our attention from the song. It’s a wildly imaginative visual companion for the number with its mesmerizing use of color providing endless entertainment for the eyes. It’s evocative without ever edging toward pretentiousness.
It isn’t often that I find songwriters/performers who integrate their musical and visual senses so well. Avary identifies “M4U” as the centerpiece track of Shadowkasters and it’s not hard to comprehend where he’s coming from. It sounds and feels like a statement of purpose that serves notice to anyone interested that his art deserves our attention. It doesn’t coast or coddle. Instead, it feels ripped from the marrow of his being.
I’m eager to hear if the whole album lives up to the lofty standard set by this song. I expect it will. Bryce Avary’s The Rocket Summer challenges any naysayers who claim that modern musicians and songwriters are content regurgitating the past glories of their predecessors. He’s a songwriter, visual artist, and clear conceptualist who attacks his work with an eye towards lasting value rather than as disposable entertainment. It’s an added bonus, however, that “M4U” is so fun. Cherish songs such as this because they are evidence that inspired music is as alive as ever.