Album Review: Adam Melchor – Summer Camp

From the opening of Adam Melchor’s new album Summer Camp the listener is faced with a fundamental juxtaposition between the track going backwards and forwards. That probably sounds a bit crazy, but it works incredibly well. Adam Melchor is an insanely talented songwriter and it’s high time for us to feature him here.

The opening track is “Jewel,” a curious and unconventional track that on the surface sounds like a perfectly normal love song. But beneath that layer is a much quieter experimental track that shows the complexity of a relationship. I feel the tension and convoluted sense that the track is conveying and it hits perfectly.

The following track “I choose you” has a nice hand-clappy main melody with some flourishes in the background. I don’t typically go for stuff with so much in the backing track, but the vocal mix is so much like a modern Brian Wilson I can’t help liking it. The chord choices and avant garde structure here is really what makes Melchor’s work stand out so brilliantly right now.

“Help Yourself” features fellow songwriter Ethan Gruska (Belle Brigade). The harmonies on this one are really good. The interplay between the two voices, recorded in separate channels, feels like something from a vintage Beatles record. The phrasing, vocal harmonies, and overall production are all rewarding on this one. It might be the class of the album, honestly.

“30 Minutes” is the song that put Melchor back on my radar a while back. I had seen his name mixed in the indie pop circles that I explore regularly, but after hearing this masterful piece I couldn’t help but interested in the rest of the record. Melchor’s lyrical work on this one is some of the best of the album. The phrasing lines up perfectly with a song that is both pop and almost theatrical in its style. I’m reminded of musicals with those feel-good, emotionally moving feature pieces.

The penultimate track “Stick it out” returns to more of an experimental style like the first two on the album. The writing is still really good, but the electronic work in the background gives it a different texture. I find myself drawn to the lead vocal, but the whole mix works well like eating a delicious dish that is balanced with each bit. Yum.

The final track “Buzzer Beater” has, of course, a sports metaphor, the go to tool of teachers and songwriters for generations. It’s actually quite the effective theme throughout the song. The song is about heartache overall, but the clever wordplay and sincere vocal work are fantastic. If someone asked me to play one Melchor song to give a snapshot of what his music is about, I’d play this one.

Clever, witty, and melodically unconventional. I wonder if anyone has played this record for Brian Wilson. I’d love to hear his take on it. Adam Melchor is a gem of a songwriter and I’ll be watching his career closely.

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