If you ask any music critic or hardcore audiophile, they’ll likely tell you that 2019 is slated to be a very big year for independent artists like Casey Ahern, who set the bar high with promising releases like He Was Summer in 2018 and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. They couldn’t be more right, and anyone who gives He Was Summer a spin will have evidence supporting their bold claim. Ahern’s debut EP takes the best elements of pop and country music and stylizes them for a discriminating generation of fans who require a little more than catchy hooks to really connect with an artist.
Kaleidoscopic tonality is a staple element of He Was Summer, and you don’t have to get very deep into the record to recognize its presence. The title track, which opens up the EP, engrains its rich guitar parts into Ahern’s vocals for a heavenly harmony, the likes of which country has been hoping and praying for these last few years. Her intimate relationship with music isn’t limited to the six-string alone; in “Like I Do” she makes merry with a sad piano, turning its elegy into an all-out celebratory event through the simplest of means possible.
Plain, homespun vocals in “Indio” and “Take Me by the Hand” remind us of that sunny California weather that helped to foster the warmhearted spirit of Casey Ahern. While they’re not presented to us in these tracks at the cost of minimizing their adjoining instrumentation, there’s never any question as to what the shiniest diamond in the box is. Ahern is a selfless composer in the sense that she puts her own contribution to the finished product on the same burner as she does her golden arrangements, which stoke a vitality that is wholesome and thoroughly contagious in every song. Anyone who ever said that all the great country composers were stationed in Nashville clearly didn’t see this singer/songwriter coming.
Nothing about He Was Summer is packaged with any sort of aggression or violence that has become so commonplace in modern pop music, and by that I mean that the music is allowed to flow and reach us melodically without the assistance of studio frills or rushed fever-pitches. The choruses don’t last any longer than they should; in fact, they’re rather minute in the grander scheme of things here. The exuberant energy is spread out across the whole record, instead of just being tucked into one specific flashpoint on a star single.
Perfectly produced and amazingly fluid from one song to the next, He Was Summer is a juggernaut of a country EP that flirts with pop’s immaculacy but never once becomes contained within its own aesthetical ambitions. Casey Ahern strikes me as an artist who isn’t done evolving yet, and in her process of ascension I can easily see her style growing to incorporate even more influences outside of what she has shown us in these four songs. She’s definitely got the vocal timbre and artistic palate to support whatever she does next, and personally, I’ll be eagerly awaiting her forthcoming output.