Blame it on a move to Jersey perhaps, but The Natvral sees songwriter Kip Berman, known primarily for his work with The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, wrapped tightly in the tones of The E Street Band. There are also looming nods to the kind power pop knotted in Americana that stretches from Tom Petty to Dwight Twilley, but there’s something distinctly indebted to the unbuttoned grandeur of Springsteen on Summer of No Light. As Berman approached his second album, the world shifted, having been crafted largely during the darkness of 2020. The larger world receded and that feeling found a parallel in the album’s title, a reference to the summer of 1816, which was largely erased due to a plume of volcanic ash cooling worldwide temperatures, creating widespread drought. The title waxes pessimistic, but the album itself feels nothing short of celebratory. While the album could easily have served as a vehicle for escape or anger, at heart it’s more of an embrace of hearth and home.
Aesthetically, aurally, it’s an album that feels like it should solely celebrate small town bar crowds, heartbreak, and hubris. Instead, between the outsized strums and organ swells there lie examinations of grief, the small kindnesses of couples, barely masking anxiety with composure, and the comforts of kin. There are also a few skids through heartbreak and humor as well, but like Petty exploring divorce through a solidified power pop classic, The Natvral turns turbulence into timelessness. With The Pains, Berman was capable with a hook, but without a doubt he sounds his most assured here, launching into sizable swells and sing-along Americana choruses with the kind of sure-footedness of a songwriter decades deep into the genre. I can honestly say these are some of Berman’s best, which doesn’t come lightly among a catalog that’s still often in rotation. Summer of No Light is an album packed with peaks and built to haunt the FM static for years to come.
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