Himalaya is everything you ever wanted in a pop album. It glistens, it glows. It is imaginary, surrealist and mysterious. Fueled by love and loss as an entity and not a conceptual identifier as an indicator, Ricchini is battling the gods and goddesses to make sense of some real life situations like the divorce of his parents, married for 40 years.
There’s no harm in emulating your idols as long as you bring something new to the conversation. Bill Ricchini — a.k.a. Summer Fiction — is clearly crazy for the Beach Boys in his lovely sophomore record, Himalaya, but there are myriad instances where he’s comfortable with stepping beyond the boardwalk. Yes, “Lauren Lorraine” has the same mid-tempo jaunt and sporadic tambourine jingles as Pet Sounds offering “Here Today,” but the Philadelphia native imbues a sense of genre unpredictability on shy, acoustic-folk ballads like “By My Side,” a wordless piano-and-flute interlude called “Manchester,” and the church-ready organ-trilling closer, “Cathedral.”
Himalaya does not deliver anything surprising. It’s breezy, whimsical pop music just in time for summer. With that said, it wastes little time attempting to overstep its bounds. ‘Dirty Blonde’ and ‘Perfume Paper’ afford Himalaya a rather grand entrance, with the former bouncing atop upbeat piano notes akin to Jack’s Mannequin’s Everything In Transit while the latter flows effortlessly between crystalline guitar chords that echo with the free air of a summer drive spent with the car roof down. ‘Lauren Lorraine’ is a quaint little cut, featuring the album’s most memorable chorus – even if it becomes a tad repetitive after the first few renditions. As the album commences without a hitch, it’s pleasantly surprising how it continues to roll along smoothly even after the best tracks are out of the way. ‘Genevieve’ thrives on its lax, inner peace-inducing verses, harkening back to Frankie Valli’s 1967 staple ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’, and the piano instrumental ‘Manchester’ serves as a shady reprieve from the midday heat. Himalaya may indeed be a simple album, but it’s devoid of filler.
Summer Fiction’s second release is one of those albums that marks a pleasant, if unchallenging, listen. However, that’s the point – no one is going to fault Ricchini for delivering exactly what he intends to. It’s lazy, pretty pop that sounds best with a margarita in your cup holder in front of a sky blue ocean. With predictably romantic lyrics and the wrenching sting of unrequited love, this is an album that would make any fan of ‘60s surf pop proud. So grab a beach towel and head for salty air. With a copy of Himalaya in your hand, the experience couldn’t feel any more authentic.