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  All Summer Long  
  Ashley Stove  
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The last time I saw Ashley Stove in concert, I was so impressed I bought their most recent album, All Summer Long. Actually I would have bought the CD anyway; in general, whenever a band I like tours, I make sure to get some merchandise, if only to show my support. So no matter what, I was going to buy All Summer Long. And based on their previous releases, I wasn't expecting too much. For instance, although many of the songs had hooks and sounded good, the production would sound off: a song might go on too long, or perhaps an instrumental interlude would come off as discordant.

Luckily, this new album doesn't suffer from the flaws mentioned above. Rather, this release would appear to be the most accurate reflection of Ashley Stove's live sound that I've heard yet. The songs all have an ever-pleasant jangle in the guitarwork which is soothing in its tone and rhythm. The rest of the music stays in the background, but each part seems essential in its simplicity. And Ben Barwick's vocals glide smoothly atop this mixture, singing songs that are quirky, and yet exceedingly catchy.

The best songs on All Summer Long (such as Devo Freak and A Secret Secret) have an easy familiarity about them. There's something in the melody and mix which recalls the R.E.M.-influenced alternative rock of the late 1980s blended with the North Carolina indie rock sounds of the 1990s. In some ways, this is the vocal equivalent of the Japancakes' The Sleepy Strange. Both albums have a mellowness about them that puts the listener at ease, evoking warmth in their tone. And neither album startles the listener with anything loud or provoking. Instead, the music all flows end to end like a river, never becoming dangerous, but never becoming mundane either.

Honestly, All Summer Long has stayed in my heavy rotation since I first got it, almost 3 months ago. Most new purchases don't last half that long. As I've continued to listen to it, the songs grow on me. I've begun to think that this is a perfect soundtrack to a slightly damp, slight cool summer - a season where you need something warm (but not hot) and familiar (and not too challenging) to keep you comfortable.

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Ashley Stove in concert for this album.


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