Brent Heywood, Heather Bray and D. Rossiter hail from the Inland Empire in sunny California. Although most people would equate The Beach Boys and happy sorts of pop music with this scene, Heywood and Bray seem to bend that stereotype and dig a little deeper. Heywood’s lyrics are a major force on this disc. They are conflicted, beautiful, poignant, and troubling. His choice to express openness, both in respect to sadness and religion, is beautiful. On top of this, Frank Lenz lends a hand by mixing, recording and playing on the album. If that is not enough, Richard Swift makes an appearance playing keys on “Queen of Pasadena.”
“You Always Sleep with Your First Love” opens I Know You ~ I Never Knew You with an alt-country feel and some sprinkles of Rhodes organ. It is a quiet and romantic piece with a touch of Frank Lenz style to it. The lyrics are open and subtly melancholy. Ben Heywood and Heather Bray play off of each other throughout the song. They croon:
Drink yourself to death
It’s the only way to test
I have this theory
That no one goes quietly into the night
Hold me here whilst I sleep
The blood on my hands runs so deep
I have this theory
That people give up without much fight
You are my special one
You always sleep with your first love
It is clear from the very start of the album that Heywood is able to write fantastic lyrics. He paints imagery that is sorrowful and open. “The Painter” is a slow tempo rock song with shimmering guitar and a conversation between Heywood and Bray. It tells a story of lovers dealing with their past baggage and not wanting to let go of one another. The piano in this song is perfect and poignant. “Dressed Up for Funerals” is a beautifully stirring song. It is slow paced with sprinkles of piano and complimentary guitar. It is apparent from the very beginning of this album that Heywood is a profound lyricist who can take cliché topics and turn them into something beautiful and moving. Heywood croons “its not a sin if no one has to know / If you’ve got the thirst, then drink from me / If your heart is sick, then let it bleed / Hallelujah.” “Year of Guilt” is a straightforward rock song with Heywood’s innocent sounding vocals. This song shows the deeply conflicted religious dimensions of this album. Honestly, I don’t want to impose any interpretation on the content of the song, but I think the listener does get a real sense of confusion and frustration from it. “Guilt” is certainly a brutally open song.
“Queen of Pasadena” begins with light synth and accompanying bass. It is a beautifully catchy song with strings sprinkled in with piano and shakers. Also, a treat for listeners on this song is that Richard Swift plays keys. “Gloria” begins with strong percussion and some sprinkles of guitar. It is another religiously conflicted song. What is really cool about this song is that there are Frank Lenz style BGV’s. Again, I feel the need to type out the lyrics. They are beautiful.
Jesus on Hollywood
I lost my faith to make him stay put
In temples built on saints ashes
And praises sung by drunks
Wedding bells above my head
I married rich to keep my stomach fed
Lets buy it now
Soon we might be dead
To the praises sung by drunks
The church is filled with paupers
While the streets are lined with kings
Did I really give all that I could?
While holding back all my precious things
Praise his birth
This is Summer Darling’s longest track on the disc and it is worth every second it is played. It is powerful, both lyrically and musically. The end of the song extends into an instrumental type piece that has beautiful piano, synth, strings, sprinkles of guitar, percussion, and many, many touches that feel like Frank Lenz’s doing.
“Set Yourself Aflame” begins with a groovy, slightly distorted beat. This song really reminds me of some songs from Death Cab for Cutie or The Postal Service. The guitar work is similar and Heywood’s vocals definitely have that boyish feel to them. I don’t mean to make that sound like a direct copy of style. I really dig this song. It is well placed on the disc following the extended “Gloria.” The strong, driving guitar really brings this song out, especially with the controlled feedback here and there. “Summer Scars” definitely has a classic rock feel to it. It is a strait forward rock song with just the right attitude in the music. There are fuzzy guitars and tambourine in the mix.
“Little Armenia” is a slow ballad with acoustic guitar, sprinkles of piano, fuzz, Lenz BVG’s, and fantastic percussion. Again, this song is about love but also has that religious conflict that seems to be a theme throughout the album. “Math is Everywhere” begins with Heywood singing “you came out screaming bloody murder / nothing was so beautiful / Living never seemed so desperate / Growing old so impossible.” It is a sad song about things just not adding up in life and dealing with difficulties as they come along. I suppose there could be more than one meaning to the song, but suicide seems to be a central theme. The tune is mid-tempo and the percussion build really accents the desperate nature of the lyrics. Heywood ends the song screaming in desperation “so are you!” It is a perfectly poignant ending to a melancholy album.
Summer Darling’s I Know You ~ I Never Knew You is a strong first album with great musicianship and fantastic lyrics. It’s an album that will move you.