A little under a year ago, Jacob Summers uploaded a song called “Stop Playing With My Heart” to his Soundcloud under the moniker Avid Dancer. Catchy, smoky, and riddled with Shangri-Las’ sentiment, his lo-fi vocals smoothly glide over the backing melodies in a way that’s both seductive and mysterious. When I first heard the track, it reminded me of two things: Link Wray’s “Rumble” (remember the uncomfortable silences scene at Jack Rabbit Slims in Pulp Fiction?) and the theme song to Twin Peaks. Similar to those songs, Avid Dancer’s ballad hits the right electric guitar chords to create a mood that straddles the line between alluring and slightly dangerous and unsettling. “I just want to be where you are,” he begs. “So, help me… Stop playing with my heart.”
Almost a year after “Stop Playing With My Heart,” Avid Dancer released his debut EP I Want To See You Dance via Grand Jury Music. It’s four tracks long—and one of those tracks is “Stop Playing With My Heart”—but it’s quite an eclectic collection. The EP’s title and opening track, for example, is a pretty, synth-heavy disco-pop song that paints a cosmic world begging you to boogie. It’s not exactly dissimilar from that first single, but it’s certainly got a different vibe, a light-hearted and upbeat song with a tinge of groove. Think Starfucker and Hot Chip–only Avid Dancer is a one-man show. It’s not surprising that the music video for “I Want To See You Dance” takes place in a roller rink decked out with warm neon colored lights.
The EP ends with “Medication,” three and a half minutes of crooning and guitar strumming. The song showcases a few varying guitar chords with Summer’s voice digging into the acoustics of his instrument. It’s a demo; it’s dusty. It’s much more, for lack of a better word, raw. This in part has to do with the sheer simplicity of the song. Although there’s nothing really novel about the alternative-indie 90s vibe of “Medication,” the choice to wrap up his debut EP with a song that’s less glossy adds a new layer of complexity to his sound. In addition to making fun electropop songs, he can play the guitar and brood too! “Medication” is unexpected and surprisingly well-executed, and therefore pretty freakin’ enjoyable.
Like his music, there’s a fact about Summers that’s a little weird but also intriguing: he grew up in a strict Fundamentalist Christian household where he couldn’t watch MTV or listen to music that wasn’t associated with God. When he sent some songs to a friend, who told him the songs reminded him of The Kinks, Summers thought The Kinks were a new band! It’s kind of cute actually, and as it turns out, his lack of pop culture knowledge is irrelevant, considering how catchy I Want To See You Dance turned out to be. You can listen to the EP in its entirety below.
Avid Dancer just played CMJ and is currently touring with Cold War Kids.
11.07.14 – Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA w/ Warpaint
11.18.14 – The Observatory – Santa Ana, CA
11.19.14 – Belly Up – San Diego, CA
11.20.14 – The Regent – Los Angeles, CA
11.21.14 – Fox Theater – Oakland, CA
11.22.14 – The Catalyst – Santa Cruz, CA