This summer, as millions of Americans embark on weekend getaways, it is inevitable that the sweet sound of music will upstage the background grumbles of traffic jams and industrial hums. The following is a list of recommended albums that are overlooked by mainstream audiences, but serve as the perfect score for a memorable summer season:
Yo La Tengo Summer Sun
Do not be fooled by the name of the album. Yo La Tengo’s “Summer Sun” is not the typical sunny-side-pop record that will have you reaching for a beach ball or prepping a surfboard. It is, however, the perfect soundtrack for an early June drive to a gray Pacific Coast with just enough sunlight piercing through the maritime fog to evaporate any sign of summer melancholy. “Summer Sun” is a compilation of thoughtfully composed love songs replete with catchy bittersweet melodies and enough experimentation to eliminate a dreadful verse-chorus-verse structure. Songs like “Little Eyes” and “Season of the Shark” stand out with their progressive rhythms and restrained vocals, contrasting the New Jersey Trio’s early signature sound of distorted feedback and lush textures.
Broken Social Scene You Forgot it in the People In their critically acclaimed album, “You Forgot it in the People,” Broken Social Scene demonstrates how a group of experimental musicians could easily create a feel-good pop record through a massive collaboration. Serving as an ideal album to spin during a summer barbeque, BSS’s second full-length radiates with energy and bursts with variety, reminding everyone what has been missing in popular rock music for decades. The album offers 55 minutes of eclectic tunes ranging from jazzy instrumentals to spaced-out pop songs with a splash of lewd lyrics that would have anyone take a double-listen.
Igloo is the latest addition to the all-star Bubble Core lineup, featuring Adam Pierce and regular Bubble Core Records contributor, Doro Tachler. In addition to being the creative forces behind Mice Parade, Pierce and Tachler show off their raw side in their self-titled debut, creating hypnotic loops intertwined with a subtle Brazilian rhythm, perfect for a tropical retreat to a South American paradise. The album is brief and to the point, while the eight tracks sound like an odd mix of Antonio Carlos and Steve Reich with a lo-fi production. Highlights include the catchy yet nonchalant vocals on “Frog”, and the playful, childlike chanting on “Ye Yo.”
The Shins Oh Inverted World
There is something nostalgic about summer that triggers an emotional reaction when reminiscing about the childhood days of bicycle streamers, summer camp and the liberating last day of school. As we grow older those days seem to vanish, as the abundance of leisure time is replaced with the dread of a nine-to-five job. Fortunately, there are bands like The Shins, who make brightly sunny pop records that help evoke that feeling of a carefree summer day. With their Sub Pop debut, “Oh Inverted World” the quartet from Albuquerque, New Mexico proves that retro is not always a bad thing. The vocal arrangements by front man James Mercer are reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ classic album “Pet Sounds,” while the music echoes the carefree, summer-of-love sound of 60s bubblegum pop with a modern twist.
Nick Drake Pink Moon
Although Nick Drake’s classic album, “Pink Moon” may seem gloomy at a first listen, the timeless debut by the late great folk singer has the ability to charm any listener. Unfortunately, Drake’s talent was overlooked until years after his apparent suicide, provoking contemporary audiences to dig up these deeply buried musical gems. “Pink Moon” is a collection of intimate folk songs as raw as Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'” and as sincere as Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska.” All Night Radio Spirit Stereo Frequency
Some albums are indelibly imprinted with nostalgic traces of certain places and times. All Night Radio’s debut album, “Spirit Stereo Frequency” recorded by the duo of Jimi Hey and Dave Scher, is a musical adventure. The recording blends 70s AOR song styles and Phil Spectre wall of sound technical prowess with organic recordings of crickets and radio static to create a long playing seamless transmission from a pirate radio station deep in the heart of the milky way.
Beachwood Sparks Once we were Trees
Prior to the adventurous All Night Radio release and fresh off stints with bands like the Lilly’s and Tristeza, Jimi Hey and Dave Scher managed to take some time out to record an overlooked summery mini-masterpiece titled, “Once we were Trees” under the luminous moniker, Beachwood Sparks. Gliding pedal steels compete with the fuzzy sound of vintage guitars and gleaming vocal melodies. Once again, making ingenious use of country and folk rock influences, Beachwood Sparks evoke timeless blurry memories of 8mm birthday parties.
Wilco Yankee Foxtrot Hotel
Alt-Country has come a long way. From Whiskeytown to The Court and Spark, indie bands have proven that country does not necessarily have to paint pictures of patriotic barbeques or clich?d stories about a life gone progressively sour. Perhaps the most influential of these bands is Wilco. With their fourth full-length album, “Yankee Foxtrot Hotel”, Wilco managed to impress audiences yet again with their thoughtfully composed country ballads filled with plenty of bells and buzzards in the background to distinguish them from the clean-cut production of many mainstream outfits. Despite the band’s internal turmoil it endured during the making of the album, including the dismissal of guitarist Jay Bennett, Wilco pulled off another masterpiece record of Americana folk-country in the tradition of George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.”
– Compiled by Andres Cruzalegui Album art courtesy of Wikipedia