This has been the hardest summer of most of our lives, so far, and although it has changed the game and all of our expectations went out the window, it has also reconnected us with the pleasure of the small things - even a walk around the neighborhood takes a whole new meaning in these times.
The sun is still up in the sky, shining its scorching mid-summer heat on our heads. The trees are still standing, offering a solace of shade beneath their dense branches where dance a hundred leaves… and we still need music.
Here is our selection of all time essential summer albums.
Photo Credit: lucindawilliams.com
Words by Paddy
Like cheese on a flame-grilled burger, Mac Demarco’s guitars melt into a delicious goo. The intense mid-summer heat warps his ‘too hot to go any faster’ brand of exotica, bending the landscape like a mirage on the horizon. The kind of music to play in cars with molten-hot leather seats, as the tarmac blisters under the gaze of the sun. The kind of music to give in to whilst you lay paralyzed by the sun’s scorching influence. The kind of music to play while the bugs and the hours fly by, and all you can do is reach for another cold beverage from the cool box.
Forever Changes paints the never ending Los Angeles summer with strokes of lingering paranoiac visions from a long dissolved tab. This summer is one of looming gloom flavored by the reeling of Vietnam veterans. Here, death is a centerpiece, worn like a dog tag tangled into a hairy chest that peaks underneath the loose neckline of a wife beater. But Arthur Lee, the magnetic artist at the helm of Love, favored dandier styles in clothing and sounds, melting his vocals into strummed acoustic guitars and Mariachi trumpets. With tracks like “Bummer in the Summer”, this is the perfect album to contemplate on how terrible of a time we’re all having in 2020.
Can you find a more serene tranquility than Air’s debut album Moon Safari? It is the musical comparison to Hockney’s ‘A Bigger Splash’, or a Frank Lloyd Wright house in the Hollywood Hills, or a sunbaked lilo floating softly on the surface of the water. A friendly gathering of influences that include the lush orchestral lounge of Henry Manicini’s Lujon, the unfettered experimentalism of Serge Gainsbourg and Brian Wilson and the classically crafted pop of Burt Bacharach, powered by the electro heartbeat of modern-day compatriots Daft Punk. A shimmering bliss as inviting as cool water in the midday sun.
Two years before Uncle Tupelo would go on to spark the term "Alt Country", Lucinda Williams had already been fusing heartfelt country music with gritty rock n' roll, blues, and pop. While not technically her debut album, as she had recorded two blues albums on the Folkways label in 1979 and 1980, her 1988 self titled record certainly serves as a rebirth, not just for Lucinda, but for Americana music as a whole. Equally as influential to the pop country rock of the 90's as it is to the explosion of the Nashville rock n' roll scene of today. It's the type of album that even the sad songs make you feel good, and every song has a hook that you'll have stuck in your head for weeks.
This woozy electronica album will warm the head as much as it warms the skin. Blissed out synths and softly psychedelic vocals leave you tingling all over. As the sun begins to fade and the night edges in, Swim is the perfect bridge between both worlds. Smooth and melodic enough to enjoy passively, but with the requisite rhythm and beat to entice you onto the dancefloor, and keep you there all night.
Forget all you know about 1960s Brazilian music - Gilberto Gil and co. - and let’s dive right into 1964 Dayton, Florida, where we’ll find a young Tim Maia getting busted for smoking pot in a stolen car. Cue to 1970s Brazil where a freshly deported Maia spearheads a new Afro-Brazilian movement, flavored by the modern Black music he brought back from the U.S. Think soul over bossa, funk over samba, shake well and serve with a tab of acid.
Strut's compilation of glittering gems from Soweto, South Africa's lavish music scene of the 60s and 70s is a true joy to behold. The collection marks the crossroads where rural Zulu music, soul, funk and jazz meet in a glorious profusion during the apartheid era leading up to the region's turbulent uprising of 1976. The sound of joy, vigor and fire - soaring and immensely beautiful.
Beach House’s bleary-eyed dream pop is a soothing after-sun for the mind. The cymbals crash like waves on a deserted beach in late-summer, when the shadows are longer, the air is cooler and the carefree excitement of the previous months is replaced with a sedated satisfaction. Victoria Legrand’s contralto voice feels more shadowy than anything peak season would have allowed, whilst Alex Scally provides the flickers of brilliance that keep the whole record warm and alight, like a campfire under the starry skies.
William Onyeabor's music would eventually become too funky for its own creator. Fearing the wrath of God, Onyeabor turned away from his music career at its height and refused to speak publicly about his past. Who Is William Onyeabor? is a shimmering mirage of a nearly forgotten Golden Age of Nigerian electro-funk that would sow influences in the likes of David Byrne, Damon Albarn, and James Murphy. The hypnotic propulsion of "Atomic Bomb" is the lonely soundtrack wallpaper you need sitting in your humid apartment, recalling the hedonistic parties of summers past.
One of the best albums of the 60’s and arguably one of the most loved albums ever. Whether you’re a bonafide ‘Californian Sound’ devotee, caught on via the obvious gem in your parents record collection, or simply fell in Love, Actually, after the 5731st rerun of the festive flick on ITV (people of the UK, you know what I’m talking about), you can’t help be swept up by the symphony, the hymn and the harmonies to die for. Do yourself a favour and get some summer sounds in your life, pet, because God Only Knows why you don’t already own this melodic masterpiece.