What makes a good summer album? Last summer I had It's Almost Dry by Pusha T on heavy rotation and it felt like a perfect summer album. My sister and brother inlaw visited and I remember that playing while we sat outside in the sun having drinks and talking. In some ways I think of summer music as happy, as hopeful, after a long winter. Listening to while outside, cooking, hanging out with friends or family. Harry Styles album fit into that too last summer but I don't think they have to be happy-sounding or upbeat. In 2019 I listened to Jesca Hoop's Stonechild while laying in a hammock in late summer and had an almost religious experience. It was more private than communal. I don't know what will become the summer albums for 2023 for me but here are some contenders, some albums I'm listening to now and feel "summery".
1. Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love? by Kara Jackson
I started this album the other day while walking home and the first two tracks felt different and interesting so I kept listening while doing some chores, not paying close attention, but loving it. Now it might be my favorite album of the year so far. It's so intimate and spare in places but also so big, symphonic. Every song feels like a captured moment, not necessarily perfected, but real. The vocals never phone it in but keep surprising. It's not a happy album but it feels like summer. All the little sounds. Play the first track, which feels like a one take bedroom demo, while walking somewhere in the sunshine. I'm not sure how to define the type of music. It's folk, maybe, "singer-songwriter", even country in places, but feels like its own thing. I didn't know anything about her when I started listening, that she's a poet, but the lyrics are fascinating, and I'm only beginning to really listen to all the words. The almost 8 minute song Rat is absolutely stunning and you need to listen to it right now. I'm in love with this whole album.
2. Soul,PRESENT by Q (or Q Marsden)
This is more of a happy summer album with a retro 80s dance pop sound. Is this guy known? He should be a superstar. I've been wondering if there would be an album since I found the single Stereo Driver last year which should be a SMASH HIT. It feels like a timeless song that's always been around. If you're working on a teen show and you need a song for the school dance scene this is it. There are other songs on here that should be hits too, like SOW and LUV (I KNOW I WANT THIS FOR REAL). I just love his sound and this album is full of bangers.
3. Wait Til I Get Over by Durand Jones
It's friday and the skies are blue and cloudless but you've been feeling kind of low and you don't know what you're doing, how to get out of it. Put on Wait Til I Get Over, Durand Jones (of Durand Jones & The Indications)'s first solo album, on full volume in your living room and open the windows, and it might get you out of it. I guess I'm on a retro kick. This is Black southern roots music: gospel, soul, rock, and it already feels like the kind of album I will keep playing because it just makes me feel good. The first song, Gerri Marie, will cut you into pieces. So good! We're having a small gathering for mother's day and I'll definitely be playing this.
4. On Grace & Dignity by the GOLDEN DREGS
If you're looking for a more melancholy summer experience this might be for you. This album was released back in February but I keep returning to it and Benjamin Wood's deep baritone vocal musings. He's from Cornwall and I know nothing about Cornwall but if this is how it sounds I want to go. Sad indie cornish pop? It's an album to curl up with on one of those summer thunderstorm evenings after a hot humid day when large drops of rain starts beating on the window. Not a lot of music has stuck with me this year but this is one and I'll keep playing it this summer.
5. 79.5 by 79.5
More retro sounds and this time disco. I don't know how I found the song Club Level but it's such a good song. It had me follow this band and I was excited to find out they released an album last week. Their spotify bio starts: "Far from the predictable center of the radio dial lies 79.5, a station that may or may not be entirely real. The soundtrack shifts smoothly, from '70s underground disco to addictive adult contemporary to sugary sweet girl pop." It's a fun album and a cool vibe! More saxophones in songs people!
6. That! Feels Good! by Jessie Ware
This isn't a small album by a lesser known artist but I just love Jessie Ware! This album is a full party, and I guess retro. What the fuck does retro even mean? This is timeless. Try playing That! Feels Good! and Free Yourself or Pearls without feeling like like you're on your way to somewhere. This whole album. It's summer.
7. Secret Life by Fred again..., Brian Eno
I was only going to do 4 or 5 of these but now I'm up to 7 because I want to add this quiet ambient album by Fred Again... and Brian Eno. I'm not sure what the collaboration is here but I take daily walks in the woods and I've been playing this a couple of times. It makes you want to lie down in the grass somewhere. Secret Life is borrowed from Leonard Cohen's In My Secret Life and Fred samples sounds and words and creates dreamy soundscapes. His singing sounds a bit like James Blake. I'm into it. It is definitely a more private than communal experience and I expect to return to it this summer when I want calm.
That's it for now. Hope there's some stuff here you'll dig here! Let me know about your summer albums.
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