21st Century Music: Eternal Summers
21st Century Music are playlists and profiles that focus on artists that have released their music since 2000. These highlight new(er) acts that continue the sound and spirit of the older acts that are the focus of Ceremony. Click on the streaming service of your choice below to listen to the playlist as you read along.
As someone getting a little long in the tooth, and while I’m probably better than others my age, I’m as prone as any other geezer in not getting into the new music as much as the old (ok yeah, Ceremony is a little evident of that predilection). Most new music passes through me with nary an impression, though I do find many a good song during my weekly listening and writing activities that, more often than not, just sounds like a variation of the older music I like. Rare then, is a new album or band that locks me in. One of the few over the past ten years to do so is Eternal Summers. Somewhere along the way I heard “Millions” which led to listening to the album Correct Behavior, and then they had me. They’re just fun, full of hooks, and great for driving in the car or getting your ass off the couch when Netflix is winning the battle.
Eternal Summers was formed in Roanoke, Virginia in 2009 as a duo of Nicole Yun (guitar/vocals) and Daniel Cundiff (drums). They started recording as part of a music collective known as the Magic Twig Community which recorded out of a studio, Mystic Fortress. Jonathan Woods was added on bass after their first album and they’ve remained a trio ever since, releasing five albums in total with the most recent coming out last year.
The band is an example of the difficult plight of college (Yun attended James Madison University) and indie, guitar-driven rock in the 2010s. They’ve never charted (which means little these days) and several videos selected for this YouTube playlist had no views (so go and listen/watch and give ‘em a little love!). Despite Eternal Summers being an incredibly catchy and consistent band, they haven’t made inroads to a larger audience.
They started on Chimney Sweep Records, a supporter of Magic Twig, issuing their first single, “Secret Language,” on a promo 7” (along with songs by Reading Rainbow) for the label in 2009. It was followed by a self-titled EP in 2010 before moving to Kanine Records and releasing their first full-length, Silver, later that year. Their early music was raw and unformed as they worked to find their legs. The catchiness of their writing was there, but not quite locked in. It was a collection of mostly short, punky, jangle- and dream-pop songs. They were grouped with other acts as part of a ‘Beach Rock’ wave, playing with other bands such as my other fave of recent years, Best Coast which hailed from the opposite coast as Eternal Summers.
2011 saw the release of the Prisoner EP and another couple of songs included on a promo 7” from Funny/Not Funny Records, The Mystic Fortress Sessions Vol 1. You could immediately hear the difference the added bass made with Woods now in the line-up. Kanine then combined their early songs, including those on Chimney Sweep Records, onto a compilation in early 2012, The Dawn of Eternal Summers. It set things up for the band’s second LP, Correct Behaviour, issued that summer and mixed by The Ravonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner and Alonzo Vargas (who together produce/mix The Raveonettes and Dum Dum Girls) which gave it a fuller sound than their low-fi predecessors. The album was a masterpiece of power pop mixed with dream pop. It’s one of my favourite albums over the past several years and there isn’t a weak song on the album. The unevenness and lack of polish of their early songs disappeared, and while there was less experimentation and variety with the rhythms, the short, punchy, catchy, melody-driven songs were a joy to blast through. Even the tempo breaks on songs like, “It’s Easy,” made for a wonderful diversion, entering a shoegaze-a-la-Mazzy Star vibe to their sound. The album has been referred to as a breakthrough for the band, but given their muted success to date, the extent to which that was true is hard to determine.
The third LP, 2014’s The Drop Beneath, was funded via PledgeMusic, indicative of the struggles of the modern indie band. It moved to longer, more polished songs that lost some of the raw energy and fun of the first two albums, presenting a slightly more serious sound for Eternal Summers. It was produced by Doug Gillard (Nada Surf, Guided By Voices). The new sound did start to sound a bit too much like other indie rock acts and lose their distinction at that point. The ‘90s retro vibe was also stronger, with their sound reminding me of acts like The Breeders and Belly, and even Canada’s Rose Chronicles sound of shoegaze carried with higher-pitched vocals.
2015’s Gold and Stone continued the band’s maturation, saving the band from more repetition. The album was full of solid songs and a great sound, and tunes like the title track showed growth with more complexity in the rhythm. There were less songs at a frenetic pace, with more mid-tempo offerings. Yun’s voice can be weak when pushed to the front but does carrying a certain charm. Occasionally the drummer Daniel Cundiff provides vocals, and the male contribution often provides a nice counter to the rest of the work and results in an appealing sound. Eternal Summers tends to sound better when the vocals are deeper in the mix, working with their fuller sound. Interestingly, they’ve moved away from that approach over the years.
Their fifth LP saw a move from Kanine to Nevado Records. Every Day It Feels Like I’m Dying… was lighter, more subdued, with longer songs, and more acoustic. It was reminiscent of some of Stereolab’s strummers from the ‘90s or French band, Phoenix, for a modern equivalent (especially the song, “Forever Mine”). There wasn’t a single quick, punky tune on the album, showing their complete evolution away from their early incarnation. It’s too bad since I consider that sound as their bread and butter but understand it’s hard to stick with that over a career – even by the third album they were at risk of overdoing that approach. However, it would have been good if they‘d mixed it into the new sound, as they did to an extent on “Oblivious,” to give the album some of their infectious energy and hooky melodies.
Yun is currently working on solo material, so where Eternal Summers goes from here remains to be seen. They’re one of the best and most consistent bands around and deserve so much more attention than they’ve received. It’s a shame they’re likely having to fight their way forward, album by album, seeking support from fans and labels to stay afloat. They are playing but it appears mostly in one-off gigs around their Virginia home base. Years from now they risk ending up in an ‘Overlooked’ profile, so I hope they manage to score a soundtrack, TV show, or commercial spot and find exposure to their songs in a bigger way. For now, dive into Eternal Summers’ fun and evolving discography.
The Playlist - song \ album (year)
Secret Language \ Summer Reading - promo 7” (2009)
In the Beginning \ Eternal Summers EP (2010)
Disciplinarian \ Silver (2010)
Running High \ Silver (2010)
I’ll Die for Rock ‘n’ Roll \ Silver (2010)
Cog \ Prisoner EP (2011)
Prisoner \ Prisoner EP (2011)
On My Honor \ The Mystic Fortress Sessions, Vol 1 - promo 7” (2011)
Millions \ Correct Behavior (2012)
You Kill \ Correct Behavior (2012)
I Love You \ Correct Behavior (2012)
It’s Easy \ Correct Behavior (2012)
Girls in the City \ Correct Behavior (2012)
Heaven and Hell \ Correct Behavior (2012)
A Burial \ The Drop Beneath (2014)
Gouge \ The Drop Beneath (2014)
Capture \ The Drop Beneath (2014)
Together or Alone \ Gold and Stone (2015)
Gold and Stone \ Gold and Stone (2015)
Ebb Tide \ Gold and Stone (2015)
Stars You Named \ Gold and Stone (2015)
Famous Last Words \ Every Day It Feels Like I’m Dying (2018)
Forever Mine \ Every Day It Feels Like I’m Dying (2018)
Oblivious \ Every Day It Feels Like I’m Dying (2018)