‘Of Men and Angels’ slips up

Artist- The Rocket Summer

Album- Of Men and Angels

Record Label- Island Records

2 out of 5 Pitchforks As we grow up and into ourselves, those around us who understand and relate to our changes tend to stick around, and those who don’t understand the ground we’re now walking on tend to fall by the wayside. It’s a fact of life, much like the sun rising in the east every morning.

As Bryce Avary — better known as The Rocket Summer — has grown from a fresh-faced pop music wunderkind into a grown man who is equal parts musician and philanthropist, we’ve been able to track his journey as though he is equipped with OnStar. From the youthful exuberance of “Calendar Days” to the lovesick “Hello, Good Friend,” and then to the mature “Do You Feel,” Avary has shown a notable and impressive progression from one album to the next.

The problem is that eventually we all carve out our own niche in the world and settle into the person we want to be — this is the problem that plagues The Rocket Summer’s latest album, “Of Men and Angels.” Avary has dug himself into a rut that held him close to the same formula he used on his last record, “Do You Feel.”

“Of Men and Angels” tackles some topics that are now all too familiar to Rocket Summer fans — activism, philanthropy, trials and tribulations, and love. The explosive “You Gotta Believe” has an edgy tone to it but feels rehashed and doesn’t make the intended impact. The same can be said for tracks like “Of Men and Angels” or “Nothing Matters” — the message is present, but there isn’t much impact as the songs feel like rehashed versions of The Rocket Summer’s past work.

Using a consistent songwriting recipe is a staple of Avary’s work. His songs often begin with a soft verse driven by an electric guitar or piano before ripping into an explosive chorus. While this has cooked up memorable songs in the past, on “Of Men and Angels,” it feels tired and gives the songs an assembly line sort of feel.

“Pull Myself Together (Don’t Hate Me)” and “I Need A Break…But I’d Rather Have a Breakthrough” have that standard Rocket Summer feel, but even though they’re catchy, they get lost in the shuffle of the album.

Even the piano ballads, something Avary usually excels at, fall short this time around. The first single, the emotionally charged but overtly-trite piano ballad “Walls” tries hard but it just doesn’t hit a home run.

“Of Men and Angels,” isn’t a complete and total loss, though. The opening track “Roses,” is so good-naturedly exuberant that it is all but irresistible, as is “Hills and Valleys,” a quintessential Rocket Summer love song equipped with a chorus more infectious than swine flu. “Tara, I’m Terrible” is a sweet little acoustic tune Avary wrote for his wife that’s another standout track.

There is no shortage of talent for Avary — he played every single instrument on the album and produced the record — but it seems as though he got in too deep and failed to realize he was making a record full of songs that were soundalikes of his past work.

On “Of Men and Angels,” the leaps and bounds that Avary had been progressing at seem to have been pared down to hops and skips. Perhaps this is the path he wants his music to travel down, or perhaps this record was an unexpected yet forgivable slip-up.

Either way, this doesn’t feel like the best record Avary was capable of, and “Of Men and Angels” is sure to throw more than a few Rocket Summer fans to the wayside.

Reach the reporter at jdfourni@asu.edu


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