Album Review: Kristian Bush – “52 – In The Key Of Summer”

With Kristian Bush releasing the latest batch of songs under this year’s 52 project, Cait Watters liberally applies the SPF30 to give her thoughts after exposure to this unfiltered slice of summer…

‘It’s a whole summer!’ Kristian Bush proclaimed to me when teasing 52 | In The Key of Summer.

It’s his second of four releases within a year, part of a mammoth project to celebrate his 52nd year on this planet by putting out a corresponding amount of songs. After hearing it for myself, I’d be more inclined to call it a scorcher.

Scorcher in quality terms, of course, for the record itself is wonderfully chill, rather than blisteringly uncomfortable. Pop this on in the car for a summer drive or blast it on some speakers in the back garden while enjoying some sun, it feels right for both…and will likely feel just as right in a few months, when that longing for warmer weather hits.

Summer is, obviously, the main theme of the album but, as there always seems to be with Bush, there’s more to it than just that. With his 52 project serving as a celebration of his life, a memoir of sorts, In The Key of Summer teaches us a valuable lesson from a man with years of experience of this whole life thing – take things easy, let life happen. It’s felt from the laid back porch chillin’ guitar pickin’ vibes of ‘Hail Mary’; the going with the flow ‘Everybody Needs A Somebody’, and on the more obvious ‘House Band’, on which Bush proclaims that the ‘best things happen when we don’t have a plan’.

Tangled Up’ also explores this, while touching on a sexier side of things – as does ‘Tequila’ and ‘Waking Up Lazy’. It’s part of what I love about this record, how it covers a multitude of sides of summer – the good times, the sexy times, and the memories. This album is a summer album in the sense that a Christmas album is a Christmas album. It’s acutely aware of that fact – lines like ‘roll the windows down’ on ‘Put A Smile On It’, feels more like an acknowledgement than cliche. This album works because it’s multifaceted. Summer is more than just the parties and the drinking, a trap that I feel a lot of this summer ‘genre’ (if you will) usually falls into. There’s variety and depth here.

Take ‘Headphones’. This is certainly not about the good times and, on another record, this could be a more somber tune, as Bush sings about strife in life as a relationship isn’t working out and comfort is instead found in music. Here, however, a somewhat whimsical melody is chosen and it works, it really works. ‘In my headphones, I can let go…In my headphones, I can be strong’. Life isn’t great but music can still bring that sense of joy, that sense of happiness and this is underpinned by the happy musical arrangement chosen, the deeper meaning of this track still feeling at home on this summer album.

Bush’s career has been a very collaborative one. There’s no duets on this record (though, he teased to me that there may well be on the second half of the project) but, writing wise, there’s a wealth of talent joining him. Brett Eldredge, Connie Harrington, Coy Bowles, Lindsay Ell… just a few of the names found within the credits. Unsurprisingly, this sort of top tier talent produces some great songs – shocking, I know.

When This Shirt Was New’ is my favorite track on the record. It’s written by Bush and Harrington, and tells a story through two things we’re very familiar with – the fabled band shirt and summer memories – and combines them in a wonderful number about reminiscing. ‘Time does some beautiful things to your memory and your shirt,’ Bush said about the song, and he explores it here, telling a tale about a summer love and a well loved tee. ‘Time may fade the blue to grey, what we had don’t wash away’. Much like the shirt, the memories of that romance lives on, the feelings not as strong but the memory will always linger no matter how many summers may pass.

Also shoutout to ‘The MMM Song’. That one is just fun, and for all those who adore Sugarland as much as I do, it is very much in a Sugarland vein. Catchy, that little bit out there with a hook that will get stuck in your head, it’s very Sugarland-y. The whole record is in a way, I feel, yet it also feels so Kristian Bush too, even if it’s less personal than ATLxBNA – though, even though we aren’t getting life stories, we are being treated to Bush’s love for summer, and this love is as evident as it is strong.

Clocking in at sixteen tracks, on paper this is a hefty one. When it’s blasting through your speakers, however? Much like the season, it flies by, a testament to Bush whose pacing is on point, and continues to leave you wanting more and more. Two albums in three months and, yet, he’s not polluting the airwaves with this constant stream of music. Instead, the skies are clear and I’m ready for the next one.

Until then, I’m more than content to chill with In The Key of Summer and hope our British weather can come close to the heat of this record.

Kristian Bush – 52 – In The Key Of Summer – Track Listing

1. Hail Mary*
2. Tangled Up
3. Everybody Needs A Somebody
4. When This Shirt Was New
5. The MMM Song*
6. Faded
7. House Band
8. Put A Smile On It
9. Headphones
10. Tequila
11. What Goes Up
12. Soft Place To Fall
13. Waking Up Lazy**
14. Working My Way Down
15. Don’t Let This Life Just Kill You
16. You Can’t Stop The Sun From Going Down

Produced By Kristian Bush
* Produced By Kristian Bush and Andrew DeRoberts
** Produced By Kristian Bush and Mickey Jack Cones

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