Instrumentally influenced by the heavy, hard edge of classic rock, Boston-born Somerset conversely breathes a sigh of relief and fulfillment in their self-titled debut album, Somerset.
Listening to Somerset once isn’t enough. Honing in on a rich and reminiscent sound, the band showcases sweeping anthems, beautiful ballads, and groove-worthy jams, giving listeners exactly what they’re looking for and what they didn’t know they needed. The six-piece Boston-based alt rock group—with Nick Aikens on lead vocals, David Apostolides on keyboards, Bobby Borenstein and Sean Silva on guitar, Jake Damphousse on drums, and Connor Milligan on bass—started as a cover band in 2018, but grew beyond with the release of their debut LP of original material, Somerset. While not explicitly presented as a concept album, Somerset provides a psychological analysis of life’s misfortunate situations and how one chooses to perceive and grow from them. The album runs rampant with compelling hooks, flashy solos, complex vocal harmonies, and rich power chords that leak vulnerability in the most badass, beautiful, and rebellious of ways.
Opening track “The Carnival” is the perfect introduction to the album and all that is Somerset. Lyrically, it welcomes the chaos of a literal carnival, with a hastened tempo, quick keys, driving guitar melody and lingering vocals creating a compelling and complex energy. Ultimately, this reflects the album’s theme of moving on from mayhem.
Meanwhile, songs like “Revere Street,” “Cardinal Sin,” and “These Lights” lead with an inspiring undertone, each exploring the concepts of positivity and closure. In “Revere Street,” a sweeping guitar melody and bold bass ostinato parallel bright keys to create a space of triumph and comfort. The warm chorus overtakes the track’s soundscape: “This is the last time / Everything will be fine / So let it go / I will make it mine.” “Cardinal Sin” tackles this common idea of moving on with an entirely different approach of sound. The song starts with a gently plucked bass, heavy tom pattern, and off-beat guitar strokes. Yet again, the lyrics are ready to fight back: “That’s just not what I’m about / I am not your patient.” The song stands up for what one deserves, with the electric guitar driving the energy of its point.
“These Lights,” in contrast, is one of the most sweet-sounding cuts on the album, starting with a subtle, slow, solo piano melody. It eventually builds over a catchy bass line and full, epic chorus: “these lights / shining down above me / so right / I’m finally, finally becoming me.” With Nick belting out deeply-resonating lyrics, the song breaks and builds with a moody and earthy guitar solo overlapping every other ingredient, sonically pushing and pulling at all emotions.
The theme of moving on carries with “Dreamer” and “Space I’m Wasting,” which outline various dilemmas about moving on and personal growth, only to expand on the means of getting out of them. Musically powered by warm vocal harmonies and an involved, poetic bass line, “Dreamer” describes what it feels like to be trapped, pleading: “take me far away from here / wait until we’re in the clear / calm me down and hold on tight.” The harmonies tie together with a drum pattern that emotionally escalates with the end of each refrain.
Starting with layered guitar melodies, “Space I’m Wasting” does exactly what it intends to do, a slow consistent jam that fully captures its message, drawing a parallel between the empty space in an attic and the clout of anxieties filling one’s head: “can’t I empty out this space I’m wasting.”The album is also sprinkled with songs to break up the introspection, like the opener, “The Carnival,” or songs like “The Few,” “Pinch,” and “Phoenix,” which all vary in topic from World War II to an inescapable nightmare and finally, to our generation’s technology-focused identity. Experimenting with a more authentic rock sound, “Phoenix” starts with encompassing electric guitars, hastened drums, and chromatically repetitive keys, building into the chorus, “Open your eyes/turn off the lights”—emphasizing the importance of our generation’s problems and its tethers to technology—only to end with clean, striking solos from dueling guitars. The band and this album grow in fervor with each individual listen, simply because of what Somerset writes about: it’s real, and is written in an incredibly refreshing and relatable way.