It seems anonymity is all the rage this year. Already in 2010 we’ve had wild speculation over the identities of jj, Silver Columns and Monarchy, while iamwhoami appears to have built an entire career on simply being a mysterious enigma who may be Lady Gaga. Or… Christina Aguilera. Or, more likely, neither.
When Summer Camp first appeared earlier this year, a bizarre rumour swept the blogosphere that this was a seven-piece Swedish twee-pop collective. The mystery was maintained by their stylish pop videos, and poignantly retro photoshoots of youngsters in pre-punk days in the ’70s.
However, support slots with the likes of Slow Club and The Drums meant they couldn’t hide their identity much longer, and it turned out that Summer Camp was Jeremy Warmsley‘s new band. The singer/songwriter, with two excellent albums already under his belt, had tired of the ‘troubadour’ label he’d been saddled with and linked up with real-life other half Elizabeth Sankey to create summery synth-pop with a twist.
So, they’ve got the image perfectly sorted – but does Summer Camp’s music live up to the hype? Well, going by this six-track mini-album, if anything it surpasses it. Young is a glorious debut, full of timeless hooks, affectingly melancholic vocals and packed with enough substance to assure that they’re more than just a hipster flash in the pan.
Lead track Round The Moon is unusual in that Warmsley takes lead vocals, heavily buried under some kind of processed effects. It’s remarkably addictive, with the refrain of “we danced all night and held each other tight till the morning light” coming off as both sweet and sad. Those who only know Warmsley from tracks like Dirty Blue Jeans will struggle to recognise him.
Elizabeth Sankey takes lead vocals on all the other tracks here, including early limited edition singles Ghost Train and Was It Worth It. The former, in particular, is contender for one of the singles of the year with its sample from ’80s film classic Say Anything and its perfect pop chorus which lives long in the memory hours after playing the track.
Elsewhere, Veronica Sawyer – named after Winona Ryder’s character in Heathers – is almost impossibly melancholic, with Sankey mournfully describing being abandoned at the party from hell (“this boy dressed as Teen Wolf is pouring beer down a girl’s back”) before concluding that “there’s nothing here for me, I’ll never be young again, I’ve got so much more than this”. It’s a beautifully written little vignette, with the synth effects through the song tugging at the heartstrings.
Closing track Jake Ryan (you may have surmised, correctly, that Summer Camp are pretty much obsessed with ’80s cinema) rounds off the EP as perfectly as a song about a character from Sixteen Candles can do. More soaring synths feature, with yet another singalong chorus of “never meant to break your heart” burying its way into your head. Yet again, that trick of making the listener feel uplifted, happy and also unaccountably melancholy is masterfully pulled off.
It’s a tantalisingly brief introduction to the world of Summer Camp, but works rather beautifully, and leaves you aching to discover more. Hopefully, a full length album will follow next year, and then there should be nobody in doubt about the identity of this particular duo.