up until now, one would be forgiven for assuming that summer camp only deals with nostalgia in the most conventional of senses. the london duo had carved out a niche seemingly derived from john hughes movies and the music that soundtracked them over the span of their first two albums; both 2011’s welcome to condale and 2013’s self-titled effort had overarching sunny, warm dispositions that helped to cushion the delivery of lyrical material sometimes wrought with heartbreak and despair. on summer camp’s third full-length, bad love, many of these tenets still reign supreme, but each and every facet of the duo’s ethos is painstakingly examined – and sometimes subverted.
acknowledgement of the situation is key: the album is titled bad love, the first track is titled “bad love,” and its first line is “bad love.” elizabeth sankey explicitly defines her new thesis in under three minutes, circumventing traditional laments and examinations of perceived shortcomings in favor of a snarky, tongue-in-cheek delivery dripping with sarcasm. her’s may be the bad love referenced in the title, but it’s clear that sankey doesn’t really find herself to be at fault; sometimes scenarios just inevitably go to shit. that’s not to say that bad love is completely devoid of vulnerability: “beautiful” is smattered with longing and sentiments of unrequited love and the chorus of “sleepwalking” finds sankey leaning on an unnamed subject for emotional support, but the overall tone of the album suggests an awareness that feelings like these are strictly temporary, not the precursors to catastrophic unraveling.
in between releasing their self-titled album and writing bad love, summer camp soundtracked beyond clueless, a documentary that zeroes in on the very type of film that has dictated the band’s ethos. working in a new medium undoubtedly was beneficial, and perhaps such acute exposure to a bevy of these films influenced the nuanced, multi-dimensional writing found throughout bad love. sankey and her partner jeremy warmsley sync up recurring timbres to recurring moods, from the gritty distortion that accompanies no-bullshit tracks like “bad love” to the spacey soundscapes that permeate through more introspective cuts like “drive past my house.”
bad love unfolds organically like a good film’s plot, with warmsley’s lead vocal turns on “you’re gone” and “horizon” establishing him as an effective deuteragonist, while the sage wisdom from advice-column tracks “run away” and “if you hate me” counters the more raw emotions expressed from young love’s fallouts. each summer camp release has retained certain nostalgic cinematic qualities, but the sheer wealth and depth of perspectives across bad love make it the duo’s most cohesive and immersive effort yet. seek it out.