The words ‘side project’ are equally celebrated and feared by many fans of musicians today. While the chance to hear new, different music from a member of a band you love is exciting, there’s always the fear that it will be too different, too out-there, and perhaps even distract said artist’s attention away from their original band. In the duo of People On Vacation, this effect was doubled, as not one but two frontmen combine to create a new artist. Many will be familiar with Jaret Reddick’s vocal and songwriting styles as the man on the mic for pop-punk legends Bowling For Soup, while there is somewhat less familiarity around Ryan Hamilton, frontman of Smile Smile. (Note – since originally writing this review, Smile Smile have sadly parted ways, with Ryan now splitting his time between POV and a new solo career.) The project formed almost as an experiment by the two involved – their contrasting songwriting styles, Hamilton’s melancholy, adult-oriented indie clashing with Reddick’s bouncy, upbeat pop-punk, led them to wonder if they could combine and each have an effect on the other, creating something that sat somewhere between the two and perhaps leave a lasting effect on both men’s talents along the way.
From the moment one starts this album with stellar opening track “Because Of The Sun”, one thing is obvious: This goal has not only been achieved, they’ve passed it with flying colours. Said opener is one of the strongest tracks on the entire record and sets the path perfectly for what to expect ahead, with laid-back acoustics giving way to melodic soft rock underneath lyrics mourning the end of perfect nights together with people one loves. The pursuit of the fairer sex is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a key theme throughout the album, and although not all songs centre on the quest for love, those that do provide arguably the highlights of the record. And when fans discuss the highlights of The Summer And The Fall in the future, I really can only see one thing opening any conversation – the incredible “Prettiest Girl In The World”. Yes, it’s as hopelessly slushy, cloying and sickeningly filled with puppy-dog love as the title would lead you to expect, but it’s done absolutely perfectly. A true ode to a girl who takes normality and makes it feel like perfection, the song is well-balanced by some lyrics (which one feels were contributed by Reddick) which raise an unexpected laugh, and one of the most addictive choruses on the record. Make no mistake, this is an album full of fantastic songs, but if you want to choose one song to sum up what this project is all about, take this one; it’s simply perfect.
While “Prettiest Girl In The World” may be the stand-out track, by no means do the other songs on the record pale in comparison. Indeed, one can easily tell just how long has been spent working on this album when listening through, as each song brings it’s own thing to the table and you simply cannot pinpoint a single track you’d want to skip when listening through the album. Sure, some songs might stick in your head for longer or make you sing a little louder, but every album has highlights. The difference here is that there are no low points – every song is enjoyable, every track puts a bounce in your step and keeps you hooked until the album’s end. “Lonely Fish” is a great take on the old cliché of there being ‘more fish in the sea’, and features without a doubt the album’s best chorus, one you’ll be singing for weeks after hearing the song for the first time, while “I Get You” is a nice little follow-on from “Prettiest Girl…” discussing finding someone who you click with perfectly, and again puts a smile on the face whenever one listens.
Some songs on the album are brought forward from the band’s only previous release, “The Carry_On EP”, which was released as a split along with a solo EP from Bowling For Soup bassist Erik Chandler. While these songs have been around a little longer, they fit seamlessly into the album and unless one already owns the previous EP, you don’t even notice that they weren’t written specifically for this release. “Rainy Day” is an inspiringly positive song about, well, positivity, while “Where Do We Go”, which closes both the EP and “The Summer And The Fall”, provides a downcast but incredibly well-written ending, centring on the biggest question of all in life, as the chorus is simply a repeat of the line “Where do we go when we die?”.
Overall, fans of both artists will love this album. While the musical style is certainly closer to that of Hamilton’s previous efforts, Reddick’s unmistakeable positive attitude shines throughout and provides highlights across the album. However, the simple reason that this record will please all is simply this – it’s a masterpiece. Not one song feels badly written, rushed or an afterthought, and the result is possibly the best album released thus far this year. If this is Reddick and Hamilton simply taking a vacation, then I for one cannot wait for when they next fancy a little time off.
5 out of 5 high fives!