RIYL: Daniel Caesar; Prince’s “The Cross”; Slash laying out a guitar solo in front of a white church in the desert
For anyone reading this in 2020 it’s abundantly clear why this album is called Dark Summer: Even as restrictions eased and cases of COVID-19 fell (albeit briefly) it was hard to not feel as though I was watching summer pass me by from my apartment window. Untradition’s latest begins in that headspace, with shimmering piano lines and moody guitar establishing a heady interiority. The Toronto artist’s own vocals run like an inner monologue, urgent and determined.
“40” doubles down on that front with a repetitive groove and lyrics that fixate on Untradition’s own struggles: uncertainty, nerves, insomnia, among others. Then with the bombast of a gospel chorus, he sings the lines “pain, peace, love, loss, right, wrong, move, on,” like a reassuring mantra, with guitars chugging along in approval. Whatever air of self-doubt remained gets annihilated by swelling strings, impassioned organ and a kickass guitar solo to end all solos.
Dark Summer is as much about breaking through moments of foggy uncertainty as it is a meditation on faith and a reverence for the creative process. This is a sharp, maximal record that cuts through the darkness in thoughtful and rewarding ways.
– Michael Rancic