Smile Politely

Review: Coed Pageant’s Sundry Summer

Slow, lazy, and head in the clouds; the third installment of Coed Pageant’s seasons EPs, titled Sundry Summer, opens itself up to the ebb and flow of the warmer months, to the times when life forgets where to go and you have all the time to revel in the misdirection. This is a reminder that it is in summer that we remember the true contradiction of our waning youth. We have a need to move forward but the time to remain in the moment, however brief it may be.

When I first heard about Coed Pageant’s (Gretchen and Bradley Bergstrand of The Palace Flophouse) desire to release an EP for each of the seasons I was, admittedly, a bit skeptical. It just seemed too limiting. Much like Liz, who reviewed Coed’s first two EPs, I was afraid this project would devolve into an oversimplification of the typical feelings we associate with the shifts in weather. On one level, those typical emotional associations are there within the instrumental arrangements that play a prominent role in the project. While Vol. 1: Winter Blitz was sparse and contemplative, Vol. 2: Rumspringa was swirling and hopeful. The musical arrangement in each of those EPs was an honest reflection of the moment and that has not changed.

But the reason the trap to reduce this venture failed to ensnare this particular duo is the fact that this series seems to be about much more than the yearly cycle of our day-to-day lives. Each volume of the series has felt like an ode to an important stage of adulthood. And it is the marriage of life story and inspired instrumentation that really makes this whole thing work so well. For a great example of this, listen to the contrast between the first and second half of the song “All The Kids On Black Street” off of Rumspringa.

Winter Blitz is a reflection on settling down in a town with which you are all too familiar. It seems to be an understanding of winter as emblematic of permanence despite the fact that so much of what you remember has changed. It literally begins the series at the “end” of the story. Rumspringa takes us back to the beginning with misguided hopefulness remembered as the spring of youth. In this third installment, Bradley sings about the post-college musings and the slow, lazy happiness of mid-twenties living.

While the first two EPs really allow the feeling of the seasons to shine throughout beautiful instrumental asides, this work focuses much more on the story slowly unfolding. All but one of the tracks feature Bradley’s consistent lyrical cadence as he works through the joy and pain of not knowing where life is going to go. The opening track “The Summer I” really captures this well, and even sports some front-porch inducing banjo throughout a driving chorus.

After an upbeat, driving, and expectedly summery opening track, “Fritz’s Restaurant” is another side of the season. It’s in this second track that the narrative of this work really starts to take hold. Gretchen’s howls and harmonies haunt throughout and slow us down to a more appropriate pace. This is memory at work — stories on the lawn or a drive through the countryside.

Track four, “Broke Forever,” gives us a final burst of summer passion as it opens with a catchy trumpet and never lets go. This track is the anthem a summer album had to have. The verses feature fast tempos and the choruses beg you to sing along with the choir. If there was a single amongst all three of the EPs, this just may be it.

Overall, this EP is more of the same and that is not a bad thing. We are in the middle of a story here. Bradley and Gretchen invite us into the arch of continuing tale and we aren’t done yet. This story continues to be beautifully entwined around strong musicianship that never strays too far from their seasonal muses. If I had one complaint it would be the expected cadence of Bradley’s storytelling. His delivery is constant, both gaining consistency and losing a bit of intrigue. But, coming in at just over 12 minutes, you are more likely to get lost in the story than to worry about the delivery of the reader.

Be sure to catch Coed Pageant this Saturday at Mike ‘N Molly’s as they release Sundry Summer. Joining Coed Pageant will be Young Readers, the acoustic project of Jordan Herrera, as well as pretty strong and up-and-coming folk duo, Finer Feelings. The show starts at 10 p.m. and is $5.

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