Although Summer in Abaddon
is in keeping with the lush, bittersweet tenor of Pinback
's previous work, the band's Touch & Go debut is much quieter and more reserved than the busy electronic indie pop of 2003's Offcell
EP. Instead, the band opts for a more organic, introspective sound that tends to put interesting productions and arrangements ahead of driving tempos or instantly catchy songwriting. Fortunately, this emphasis on delicate, cerebral pop pays off, albeit eventually: although tracks like the darkly lovely "Sender" and "3X0" initially seem too atmospheric, they gradually reveal tightly structured melodic interplay that makes them more intriguing than they might be if they were more immediately engaging. Indeed, Summer in Abaddon
might work best as background music that occasionally creeps up and surprises you with its musical and lyrical details. The album's pristine production and emphasis on acoustic and electric pianos adds to its subtle, sophisticated feel, particularly on the vaguely jazzy "Bloods on Fire" and the softly poppy "This Red Book." Even the more immediate tracks, such as "Non Photo Blue," "The Yellow Ones," and "Syracuse," have a more polished, mysterious vibe than any of Pinback's previous work. The band does rock out, relatively, on the gently driven "Fortress" and "AFK," which recalls Pinback's emo roots, but the album's most delicate moments are also its strongest. Summer in Abaddon
is an album of small, but hardly insignificant pleasures, and it may be Pinback's finest work yet.