Summer Girlfriends — Shockwaves

Band: Summer Girlfriends
Album: Shockwaves
Release Date: June 5, 2012

So a few weeks ago the refurbished 5th gen iPod I secured summer 2008 decided it a proper time to die. It survived longer than most, I guess. Nevertheless dead iPods are hardly convenient.

After dragging my feet some, I waltzed into the Apple store at North and Clybourn to see what it offered these days. I’d no idea. Turns out the 5th gen, the first iPod with video capability, possibly color capability, was now coined “iPod vintage” by Apple techies. Cutesy, but completely unavailable.

I decided to stick with what I knew and bought a refurbished 5th gen — what I had, exactly — from some small provider on the internet. It arrived bundled with clunky black earbuds, which I promptly tossed into a drawer because I already had earbuds.

A few weeks after that — today, in fact — earbuds I’d long considered trusty konked out about a half-mile from my apartment. I ran back, switched out the bum earbuds for the clunky black ones, and headed out again.

Therein, then, lies the setting for this piece: the Lake Shore path, my clunky black earbuds and refurbished 5th gen, and Summer Girlfriends‘ Shockwaves, an album I’d been sitting on for two weeks? Three weeks? I’d been listening consistently through that time, yes, but was having a hard time finding my lede. You know, the thing to get the Shockwaves write-up post going.

I got it today. Summer Girlfriends’ Shockwaves sounds absolutely awesome — awesome — through those clunky black earbuds.

What do I mean by clunky earbuds? Well, they’re a lot like the white ones we’ve seen and used, but these guys had hefty caps on their tops that I suspected were leftover packaging or something. I tried, right away, to remove them. Doing so, as it were, exposed the wiring and what-not underneath. So the hefty caps, I learned, stay on.

The effect of the buds, I think, reduced the treble considerably. Summer Girlfriends seemed muddier. Matured. Caitlin’s voice, too, carried weight finally. And echoed some. All blissfully wonderful.

In the time I’ve listened to Summer Girlfriends’ new one, I’ve liked. But the effect of the buds lifted their work on Shockwaves to a higher plain. As if they’d been going for an ’80s skater aesthetic all along, and I was just now privy to it because I’d bought a tape deck.

Haven’t listened to a cassette in a dozen or so years, but I’d bet what I listened to today was a makeshift copy of Shockwaves on tape. I’d love one if it exists, by the way.

So what changed? For awhile there I championed Summer Girlfriends as a unit, but was caught in a weird place when the band’s big drums and guitars got boxed out by Caitlin’s vocals. Her voice just flies in, totally piercing at times, actually. But treble decreased, bass increased a touch? Caitlin sounds like a super champ. Her voice bounces off the uniformity. Just plays with it, really.

The pair of songs I’m about to share sit in Shockwaves’ second half. There’s a consistency to the album’s final five tracks that I think outweighs the ones that come before. The priors come at you like quick hits; the latters slow burns (save for “Shake and Bake”).

“Balloon Rooms”

“Lost Boys”


    • The Chicago-based Summer Girlfriends is Kristin Marks (guitar), Nicole Freeland (drums), Caitlin Kerr (vocals/kazoo/tambourine), Nikita Flaiz (guitar) and Sara Bassick (bass/vocals). | Facebook
    • Shockwaves is available in a variety of formats ($8.99 – $12). | Addenda Records
    • After playing Summer Sessions on the Square (July 28, Logan Square), Summer Girlfriends play Double Door on August 15. Seven bucks. | Tickets

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About Eric

Hello there. Email your things to chicagotunes[at]gmail[dot]com.
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