Fans of country and pop music alike would be wise to check out the opulent sounds found on He Was Summer, the first official EP from thrill-seeking singer/songwriter Casey Ahern. He Was Summer piles on the melodies thick and dispatches a litany of colorful tones in four moving songs that touch on everything from lovesickness to strength in self, all while paying tribute to the eternal California spirit. There’s something for most everyone in this release, but it isn’t the sort of pop record that demands a lot from listeners in exchange for a treasure chest of unforgettable harmonies.
“Take Me by the Hand” is one of the more stoic songs on He Was Summer, but it isn’t a dirge by any stretch of your imagination. Ahern’s vocal is the undisputed star of the show, but it’s punctuated by a rustic set of guitar strings that speak to an ancient time in Americana’s rich history. The melody is slow and plodding, but the tonality of the instrumentation brings it to life and gives it a vitality that tethers it to our hearts and steals our attention away from anything else that might be transpiring in the background.
Ahern isn’t afraid to get a little wet and wild in this extended play, and shows off her rock n’ roll stripes in the rumbling “Indio.” “Indio,” unlike “Take Me by the Hand” or the equally pendulous “Like I Do,” puts a lot of stock in it slick arrangement, grabbing us by the hand and taking us on a rollicking adventure through pastoral fields of grass. The barefoot folkie energy is spiked in the chorus, which features one of the best vocal harmonies on the whole record but doesn’t over-exaggerate its hook. I can see this song being a real showstopper live for sure.
“Like I Do” is the other ballad on He Was Summer, employing an understated rhythm that is built on the foundation of the lyrics exclusively (somewhat like “Take Me by the Hand” is). The instrumental part of this track stands in the shadows of the glassy serenade that Ahern lets go of with each aching word she sings, and though the mix creates an artificial bassline to contain her emotion, nothing could hold up against the passion that she expels in this track. She’s a young songwriter with a lot of ground left to cover, but Ahern unquestionably has a skill that most composers of her experience level would only dream of possessing.
He Was Summer’s title track is perhaps its most anthemic, coming out of the darkness with a roaring overdrive that is as rooted in bar band grit as it is pop-savvy realism. This song kicks off the record and sets the mood for everything that follows it, and I must say, I found myself humming the chorus to this track long after giving it an initial once-over. Ahern’s music is peppered with hooks that ascend high into the heavens, but that isn’t the only reason to give her new record a spin. This is a bold look into the world of one of country’s most intriguing new figures, and for my money, debuts don’t get much better than He Was Summer.