Summer Hymns


At long last, an Elephant 6-related band has released an album that doesn’t make me want to hurt the Beatles. Summer Hymns may hail from Athens, Ga., and boast members of Elf Power, Of Montreal, and Masters of the Hemisphere, but this isn’t just another self-indulgent side project from the music world’s most overhyped town. On A Celebratory Arm Gesture, Summer Hymns leader Zachary Gresham makes it clear that he’s shooting for the same arty heights scaled by Grandaddy’s The Sophtware Slump and Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs, mixing gorgeous ballads (“Everything at Best,” “Closure Eyes”) with loopy instrumentals (the robojazzy “Softigon” and the Camper Van Beethoven-esque “After Hours”). Garage meets loft in the organ-driven “Fuzzy Side of Life”; the beautiful “I Could Give the World Away” features Lambchoplike horn stylings and vocals so hushed you’ll swear that they were recorded beneath a snowbank; and the strange country-prog number “One More Teardrop” includes the inspirational lyric “Don’t spill your whole last load/On the hooker.” The Grandaddy-indebted “Trolling on the Lake” and the Flaming Lips-damaged second half of “Something’s Going On” show that Summer Hymns occasionally wear their influences on their sleeves, but at their best, these folks are crafting dreamscapes that’ll stand up against anybody’s. And, even better, they’re doing it with their sense of humor intact (“I called in sick/I was sick of myself,” Gresham sings on “Everything at Best”)—which is more than can be said for some bands making a similar racket. Hey, I’d be the first to agree that the human condition is hopeless—but there’s a world of difference between hopeless and Radiohead. —Michael Little