Beauty School as an EP is a short collection of songs that feel perfectly fit to accompany a longer visual project like a film. The opening and title track reminded me of the cycling scenes in Donny Darko, there’s a dreamlike balance achieved between the dark and the possible, and this works in the band’s favour pretty consistently throughout their sound. This opening song even deals openly with the fear and rejection of a place that wants everybody to be the same. Uniqueness is encouraged, celebrated, and these songs in full encapsulate that very quality.
The verses to the title track are by far the darker, most intriguing moments within the song, the chorus resolves in a fairly unexpected way, there’s a touch of joy to the melody but it seems disjointed, which, considering the lyrics at this point and the underlying concept of the song, works artistically well in representing what it’s all about.
Nude Scene follows the opener and immediately satisfies with that now familiar instrumental set-up and those vocal lines. The two voices fill opposite sides of the spectrum, the low and the high, and this drives through the energy and melody among the soundscape in a brilliant and vibrant way. This is something like Depeche Mode working closely with M83, the voice is characterful, as are the topics, but the music is bright and explosive and energizing. Nude Scene grows to be a stunning piece of music and writing, inspiring again and still holding close to that inherent value of being who you really are.
Party Bus changes the mood slightly but those opening chords come soaked in a certain level of anticipation, the pace and stylish presentation that follow offer a fresh direction and something a little more MGMT-like. The melody and the lyrics again intrigue and entrance in a wonderful way. Structurally as well, this song keeps you involved and interested. Where there are many big beats and thick, retro bass-lines and riffs, there’s also so much that is not purely for the party – songwriting is an art form and Totally Awesome Summer have treated it as such. Another brilliant song, easy to play at volume and featuring a superb build-up and subsequent drop.
Sometimes I write more about the first half of an EP on the perhaps pessimistic assumption that things will get less interesting later on. In the case of this, I was genuinely blown away by how enjoyable it is, right the way through. Stephanie is a song that takes an 80’s-like electronic-rock vibe and a smooth, almost funky progression. The story-telling and the mood are lighter, the song is fun and offers some instrumental, distorted quirks, but it’s far more of the mellow moment within the project for its aura of subtle joy. And, as always, things evolve in a mighty way, never letting you get complacent within the pace – always adding further layers of colour and, in this case, passion.
Daydreamin brings the project to an end in a wonderfully fascinating, captivating way. The opening chord progression and the lyrics draw you right in – it’s melancholy, haunting maybe, and the performance feels extremely honest and quite vulnerable. You connect with the singer here for this meandering, soulful delivery, and the lyrics as well bring through something very personal and open. The melody is fantastic during those verses, the song has a simplistic musical set-up but it’s reverb soaked and dramatic nonetheless. The band utilise space to further highlight the emotions of the moment, and it works perfectly. As stated, this EP in full offers so much in the way of appealing, original, refreshing escapism. Totally Awesome Summer have something special right now. Well worth a listen.