As I near the end of my annual “Summer Listening” checklist and get ready to go back to school next week, I thought it’d be appropriate to do a quick round up of stuff I listened to over the past three months and liked… or didn’t like. Womp womp.
In total, I listened to almost 100 albums for the first time this summer. I’m pretty sure that’s my new personal record!!! I tried to focus on new releases, but naturally a lot of older albums snuck into the mix too. So that you don’t have to spend 100 hours of your life sifting through music like I just did, here’s a list of some of the best albums I heard. All selections are alphabetized by artist. To listen to the tracks I recommended, just click the song titles!
Andorra by Caribou (2007)
A long-time fan of Caribou’s Swim (2010), I decided to check out other stuff in his discography. Given that Swim is an electronic record, I was really surprised to find the ’60s-inspired psychedelic pop/rock of Andorra. It’s amazing how Caribou can make a stylistic shift like that and not sound out of his element. This album – like Swim – is really, really pretty.
Settle by Disclosure (2013)
All I have to say is WHEN A FIRE STARTS TO BURN… AND IT STARTS TO SPREAD… SHE GON’ BRING THAT ATTITUDE HOME.
Funky and fresh music that’ll get you into a groove when working out. This was one of the first albums I had on my list, so yeah, I’d say I started off my summer on a good note.
Emergency & I by The Dismemberment Plan (1999)
If you throw a ’90s indie rock album at me, there is a very good chance that I’m going to like it. There’s something about the music of that decade that gets me every dang time. This album is no exception. I’m definitely hoping to catch the D-Plan on their upcoming tour.
Figure 8 by Elliott Smith (2000)
This is actually more of a re-discovery than a first listen for me. Figure 8 has been sitting in my iTunes for years, and I’ve definitely listened to it in passing before. I don’t know what spurred me to give it another listen – maybe it was that iconic album cover – but I liked it so much more this time around. R.I.P. Elliott Smith, you tortured soul, you.
We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic by Foxygen (2013)
I saw the name of this album and I was like, whoa there, look at these pretentious dicks but also congrats guyz I will now listen to your album because I would like to find out if you are, indeed, the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. Does it live up to the title? You’ll have to decide for yourself. I’ll just say this: Foxygen’s sound is what would happen if the Stones, Bob Dylan, and Wilco had a baby.
Soft Will by Smith Westerns (2013)
Smith Westerns are definitely an up-and-coming band to watch. I spontaneously went to their show at the El Rey this month and really enjoyed it. They’re young kids (like, 21-23 years old I think?), awkward in a charming way, still working on their stage presence, but absolutely killing the game at the same time. Soft Will is a perfect summer record full of dreamy and retro melodies for lying out in the sun or cruising along the coast with all your windows down.
Major Arcana by Speedy Ortiz (2013)
I imagine that this is what Nirvana would sound like if they had a female singer. If this is Speedy Ortiz’s debut album, I’m really excited for what they have in store next.
Recommended tracks: “Tiger Tank”
Wondrous Bughouse by Youth Lagoon (2013)
I am ALL ABOUT this album. It’s probably my favorite of the summer. A quaint little collection of songs, Wondrous Bughouse is an entrancing mix of psych-pop, electronica, and lo-fi ambience. It’s magical. Trevor Powers has magical powers.
Yuck by Yuck (2011)
Yuck by Yuck by Yuck by Yuck. Yuck. Don’t be fooled by this… yucky… album cover. This London band reminds me of Pavement in the very best way. They just announced that their second album is due out this year (yay!), but apparently it was made without their former frontman, Daniel Blumberg. I’m interested to see how it’ll compare to their debut, which is an excellent and inventive throwback to the nineties.
OK, so this is the part where I attempt to become a vicious music critic. Here are a few of the albums that I wanted to like SO BADLY but just couldn’t. I was really excited to listen to these, so it pains me to rail on them like this. Disclaimer: A lot of this is based on me being in a bad mood the morning or afternoon that I listened to the album. I’m probably (definitely) being unnecessarily harsh.
Tago Mago by Can (1971)
WTF is this album? Can somebody please explain to me why it’s heralded as a “hugely influential” work of experimental rock? The first half is decent, but then it devolves into this plodding mass of 20-minute “songs” that are not really songs at all, just super annoying noises. I guess that’s the ~experimental~ part of it or whatever. I’m sorry, but if that’s experimental, hold on one sec while I bring out my pots and pans, k I’m banging on them with spatulas now, OH WAIT LOOKS LIKE I’M MAKING AN EXPERIMENTAL RECORD LOL.
Shaking the Habitual by The Knife (2013)
Oh man. I love when bands challenge gender norms with their music. A lot of the time I even love it when bands make deliberately inaccessible music. However, the inaccessibility of this record is so excessive that it’s not even listenable. I know that the atonality is intentional and a crucial part of getting their message across, but it just doesn’t work for me. This makes me sad because, like I said, I love that the Knife is questioning social norms and making a political statement with their music.
mbv by My Bloody Valentine (2013)
I was bored out of my mind while listening to this. Why this album is the darling of the music blogosphere I will never understand. Alright alright, I get that people have been waiting 20 years for MBV to come out with new music, but let’s not get all head over heels about an album that just isn’t even that good. *Release the hounds*
Middle Cyclone by Neko Case (2009)
This album ends with a 31-minute-long track that is nothing but cricket noises. I have a rule that I have to listen to albums all the way through the first time, so you can imagine that I was royally pissed off when I had to sit through this. I kept waiting for something to happen, but NOPE, the crickets chirped for a full half hour. It’s a shame the album had to end this way, because it probably wouldn’t end up on my shit list if it wasn’t for that one track. The rest of it was pretty good, albeit forgettable.
Person Pitch by Panda Bear (2007)
I cannot even tell you how much I wanted to love this album and cherish it forever and ever. I’m definitely a fan of Animal Collective, the band that Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox) is from. I just didn’t find anything terribly interesting about this release – at least nothing that would justify its rave reviews or make me want to listen to it again. Oh well. My loss.