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Cool Set’s “Summer Retro”

Quality melodicism tends to transcend the genre and, for that matter, the instrumentation through which it’s being produced, and never is this proven quite as true as it is when listening to an electronic pop tune like Cool Set’s “Summer Retro.” As its name implies, there’s definitely a throwback alternative pop/rock aesthetic to the construction of “Summer Retro,” but at its core, this track is a descendent of the urgent electronica that gave birth to industrial music so many years ago. Despite its physicality and mechanics, Cool Set’s debut single is one of the more beautifully melodic I’ve heard lately, if not one of the best indie cuts I’ve caught up with in the last few months. 

The lead vocal here is sporting a lot of angst, but I think this is necessary to facilitate a sense of retrospection in the lyrics. To be frank, I can’t say whether or not the emotional weight of the verses would be nearly as impressive as it is were there a different singer managing the microphone, but this only adds to the signature tone Cool Set is putting up in this performance. They aren’t looking to recycle a theme like a lot of other hybrid acts; they’ve got their own story to tell in “Summer Retro.” 

This beat grates against the bassline, but in a manner that produces positive friction perfect for our singer to catalyze into an anti-harmony. Rather than resting their fate on the melodic ribbonry at the top of the mix, Cool Set want to incorporate even the black and white textures of the bottom-end into the warmth of this single, which takes a lot more effort than a lot of their contemporaries on either coastline have been willing to lend in the last couple of pandemic-ridden years. 

I love the ascent towards the chorus in “Summer Retro,” and not only for the fact that it showcases the vocal skills in play here. There’s a lot of momentum that Cool Set generates when they’re swinging into the fever pitch of this track, and in a single moment, it comes undone just as they’re about to hit the chorus and release all of the catharsis bubbling up beneath the lyrical surface. It’s a powerful climax that pulls everything together when it feels like it’s all about to explode into a million pieces, not unlike those risky moves one makes to secure a forever-remembered summer love. 

Cool Set is still coming up in the game, but I can see a lot of indie pop/rock fans getting into their sound on the strength of how it is presented in “Summer Retro” this October. While the summer sunshine might be in the rearview mirror, this is a freewheeling number that feels good no matter what time of year it happens to be. There’s a lot of development on the horizon for Cool Set, but judging from the attitude they’re celebrating in this performance, I expect that we’ll be hearing a lot more of their spunky (and surprisingly thoughtful) songcraft in the near future. 

Mindy McCall

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