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Synth Album Review: "American Summer" by Lavallette

Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.


Initial Impressions

Lavallette’s American Summer takes the best aspects of classic retrowave music and adds more complexity to the mix. There’s sonic richness from Daniel Schuster’s synth and guitar work along with Sophia Sorrentino's strong vocal performance. Guest performances from Patrick Russell and Knight Wolf 1981add even more talent and musical chops to the mix.

There’s an emotional tenor to American Summer that I find pleasing and touching. It has a deep mixture of hope, melancholy and a sort of achingly beautiful nostalgia. This feeling is created by the emotive quality of Sophia Sorrentino’s voice, the sensations and feelings expressed in the lyrics and in the hopeful, positive melodies In many of the songs which are tempered by a yearning for days fallen into memory.

I want to add a little more about Sophia Sorrentino’s vocal performance on the album. Her voice can embody everything from youthful hope to a pained ache to go back to the lost past. It can soar up with dynamic energy or croon words of love that are full of dreamy passion. I think that her vocals add just the right touch to the music.

Daniel Schuster’s melody creation skills are on full display with American Summer. He has the knack for crafting melodic content that is both positive and full of more complicated feelings mixing hope and sadness. He waves beds of synth sound that add both sparkle and mist to the music while also playing electric guitar solos that arc and dance through the songs.

Lavallette’s musical guests on the album also elevate the end result. Knight Wolf 1981’s guitar skills add an intricate, energizing touch as he solos on “Summer Keys” while Patrick Russel’s voice matches well with Sophia Sorrentino’s on “American Summer.”

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Thunder In Paradise” comes into being with massive drums bursting behind a densely woven, metallic synth bed along with an old school TV announcer voice over, The pulse of synth winds in a shining line along with oscillating bass and drums that break through. Flashing, glowing flow in the background and a full-sounding piano plays slightly aching chords over the interlocking synth pulse.

I enjoy how the big drums hit again, shaping the music as that hopeful, nostalgic and caressing melody fills the track. Rough-edged bass moves along with the drums as the jangling, continual flow of sunlit synth shifts. The singing, melancholy melody rises again and gritty, growling bass wriggles as we fade away.

A full, delicate flow of warm synth is joined by huge clashing drums and a solid bass throb to open “Waking Up On The Beach.” Sophia Sorrentino’s gentle, expressive voice leaps in, carrying an energetic, dreaming melody. I am drawn to the way the sax’s reedy voice doubles her vocals, full of strong emotion.

The drums drive the song forward as the youthful, soaring vocal melody fills the music with wonder, dreaming and hope. The sax cries out, full of earnest heart, as a distant, fragile sparkle of xylophone intertwines with Sophia Sorrentino’s vocals and we fade into ocean sounds.

The lyrics of this song brim over with the feelings of youth and the desire to hold on to its fleeting moments. The narrator starts by wanting to “stay here forever, watch the waves roll in” as she and her companion are “barefoot and golden.”

The narrator goes on to say that she’s young and free with “the ocean in front of me, let’s just stay here and watch the world go round.” There’s boundless optimism in the lines, “we’ll run this town, break all the rules.”

The idealism of youth inspires the narrator to say she and her companion will shine brightly as they “fly up, touch the sun and shine all night.” The narrator knows that it’s their time because “now will be old news soon.” She goes on to say that they should stay there “until forever is old news too.”

There’s an acknowledgement that even if they want to stay forever, it might end up being “just today” so the two of them will stay young and free “like we did yesterday.” The song concludes as the narrator says that “along the way” with the ocean in front of them, they’ll “keep watching the world go round.”

“Summer Keys” comes to life with a flow of sound into vast space that bursts into a charging beat while Sophia Sorrentino’s expressive, open vocals move over the throbbing bass pulse. I enjoy the shining feeling of the positive vocals and the distinctively ‘80s percussion sound in this song. A misty background swirls around the musical elements while the drums and bass shape the music.

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An angular, glimmering synth supports the energizing, positive vocal melody that leaps out over the beat’s motion. Popping synth sounds flow in a steady line while Knight Wolf 1981’s guitar sings out in a cascading solo that moves in lambent lines over the soaring, emoting vocals that rise high over the retro beat’s drive.

This song aches with the need to escape and return to a world that the narrator has had to leave. She talks about going alone to a “place that I could never call home” and asks the person she’s addressing to help her “find a way to be free…feel at ease…” adding “play me that song tonight with your summer keys.”

When she walks through her old town “faded memories of days gone by” come up and she says it all seemed pointless in the past. She talks about the perfect dream and the way that “the magic air we all once shared” has been deserted now. There’s a bittersweet sensation in the final line, “Searching, still searching nothing left at all we left it all in search of something more.”

Shining sparkles of hazy, sunlit sound glide into “Lost At The Arcade Pier” as lower, more metallic sounds shift underneath it. The gently enfolding notes climb and fall in a melodic line that floats out over the drums as they add a shaping beat to the music. I enjoy the airy feeling in the music as full, medium high synth plays a melancholy melody.

The shimmer of round, echoing and warming synth rises over the snare drum tremble before we move to the full drum kit, adding more propulsion. A repeating, glittering sonic line slides over the beat and the dense, almost soothing synth carries the lovely, pained melody. There’s a soft focus orange glow to the melody as it begins to waver and slow, fading out.

“American Summer” starts with slowly shifting, ear-catching piano chords and a throbbing flow of deep bass and massive, slow drums. The drum beat gains energy as the swirling synths sweep and surge before Sophia Sorrentino and Patrick Russell trade singing parts. A quick, bubbling arpeggio moves through as the vocals intertwine.

The huge weight of the drums surges as the glowing synth wraps around the listener's ears. I really enjoy the way the vocals wind through and around each other. Daniel Schuster’s guitar adds more dynamic, leaping energy to the music and the vocals form a hopeful thread of light. A rough-edged synth moves in a sweeping line over the drive of the beat and into silence.

There’s light and positive energy pouring from the lyrics of this song. The first narrator starts out saying “There ain’t nothing like this night” as he talks of how they’ll laugh, sing and dance. He adds that it’s his paradise.

The second narrator says that it’s the sound of summer as she evokes “crashing waves and paper kites.” She wants to be in a city by the sea where there are “magnetic hearts chasing neon nights.”

The first narrator says he’d wait his whole life for her and he “never thought that I would feel the way I do.” In reply, the second narrator says that she feels “a fire burning deep inside” and adds that it should be let out.

Both narrators talk about burning the whole town to the ground because it’s a “town from nowhere” and they need to escape it. The first narrator says he’ll be waiting in his car outside her front door and they’ll “outrun the sun.”

They both say that the sun “never rises when you’re riding by my side.” The first narrator adds that “the night stands still when I feel your magnetic heart.” He adds, “I don’t know what we got and I don’t know how you feel but I know this”

Their dialogue shifts as each talks about the intensity of their connection and how it causes them sleepless nights. The second narrator adds, “Blame it on me when I’m all you see.” Together they say, “I blame you tonight, there's no me without you, I know my heart would fail without you.”

A fragile, trembling synth glitters over the smooth flow of sound shifting behind delicate, emotive vocals as “I Remember When” begins. An arpeggio turns softly while the bouncing synth pulse moves with a rougher static filled sound. I am drawn to the way that the caressing vocal melody is joined by a starry twinkle and a creamy smooth synth flow.

The slowly revolving arpeggio becomes a faster twirl as the vocals are full of melancholy nostalgia. The bouncing synth sound is joined by the gigantic weight of the drums and a growl of electric guitar over the beat. The song ends on a guitar-like synth with a sharp edge that slices into the track under the gentler voices above it.

A snapshot of memory is at the centre of this song. The narrator says that when she first met the song’s subject they were wearing old black shoes and smoking a cigarette. They were only kids and she adds, “I said to you are you the one? And you said forever young, I'll stay with you forever young.”

Her memories flood in and she recalls when “we took that old black truck down the county line so many times.” Now she says there are “stupid games all around me” so the memories take her to “a time we didn't know we didn't know.”


American Summer is an album drenched in the complicated emotions that fill us when our minds turn towards memory, nostalgia and a desire to recapture the feelings of our youth. It’s also full of catchy melodic moments, strong vocal performances and a high quality take on classic synthwave sounds.

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