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7 Swank Summer Soundtracks 


Monster Rally - "Coral"

As a person obsessed with music, and then later as a music writer, I have always had the mental habit of associating songs, albums, and even bands with a particular time of year. I don't think that I'm particularly unique in this, but my identification of certain music as tied to certain seasons definitely has a powerful subconscious effect on how I feel about a given album when I first hear it. If it's pensive and folksy indie-rock, I'm more apt to like it if I first hear it in the fall or winter. If it's messy garage-blues, I'll like it far more if I first hear it in the summer. If someone drops a hip-hop mega-banger in mid-January, I always wonder why the PR team didn't think it'd be better in the hotter months, when school's out and scarce clothing leads hormonal youth to make even worse decisions than normal.

Having been a student or a teacher for all but five years out of my thirty here on Earth, the music that I associate with the summer tends to hold a special place in my psyche. This is the music of happy laziness, of abandon–aqueous moods, driving beats, and ramshackle production/playing values all seem to fit with the feeling of “being off” that accompanies summer for so many. Here is a quick list of some of the best albums to maximize the awesomeness of the remaining summer months. Tell us some of your favorite summer jams in the comments below.

1. The White Stripes, The White Stripes (Sympathy for the Record Industry)

The first album from one of the best bands of the recent past is their grittiest, their bluesiest and their most pleasantly idiosyncratic and noisy. Dedicated to the old blues man Son House, and including covers of Robert Johnson and Bob Dylan songs, The White Stripes is a sweaty garage-rock opus that's just made for your summer listening pleasure.

2. Sleigh Bells, Treats (Mom + Pop Music, N.E.E.T.)

Scuzz-pop, indie-grunge-glam, noise-cheer are just a few of the descriptions that come to mind when I think of Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller's first album as Sleigh Bells. Though their performances and recordings have gradually gotten more refined and polished, this record still maintains some of the NGAF loud love of the duo's excellent 2HELLWU demo. Bass heavy, anthemic and warped as fuck–these songs are made for late summer nights.

3. Monster Rally, Coral (Self-Released/Gold Robot)

Sample-based, psych-pop beats full of warmth and spongy textures, filled with nostalgic twang and far-out buzz. The repetitions here are meant to drive the listener into a trance where nothing matters but the moment at hand and how far you can fall into your own head. At first these songs seem half-realized, but after multiple listens it becomes clear that their charm depends upon this easy-going aesthetic. Get this album for free here:

4. Marcus Rubio and the Gospel Choir of Pillows, Oceanic Tremors (Bedlamb Records)

A local addition to the list, Oceanic Tremors finds SA composer and pop-mastermind Marcus Rubio at his most ambitious and playful. This loose concept album details the adventures of a lovesick whale as he courts danger and forever in an ocean that is never what it seems like it should be. It's an album full of quirky imperfections, over-the-top arrangements, beautiful harmony, and lyrics that alternate between fatalistic, romantic, and hilarious. It may not be his absolute best work (though definitely among my favorites), but as a delightful underwater pop adventure in sonic form... It is essential summer listening. Get it free here:

5. Buffalo Moon, Wetsuit (Self-Released)

Though Buffalo Moon hails from South Dakota, of all places, they seem to have the sound of summer down pat. Smoky and jazzy, bright and sultry, poppy and sexy–Wetsuit is a brilliant album of songs seemingly constructed for poolside daydreaming. It's only five dollars at their Bandcamp:

6. Pill Wonder, Jungle/Surf (Underwater Peoples)

Pill Wonder's only album Jungle/Surf is actually one of my favorite albums in general. One listen to its eight short tracks, however, will make it obvious why I had to include it on this list. Frantic and jumpy psychedelic pop songs recorded and played seemingly with little attention to detail, make for a beach-side aesthetic that will make you smile and move your feet now matter how hot the Texas sun gets. Get the album for just five bucks here:

7. Ma$e, Harlem World (Bad Boy Records)

I listen to hip-hop year-round because it helps me cope with an alarming array of issues that I have with the world. That being said, I certainly find myself bumpin' more of it in the summer months. For my money, few hip-hop albums will get any party started as quick as this 1997 classic from Ma$e. Replete with fight songs, smooth R&B excursions, and the rapper's unforgettable way with wordplay and delivery, Harlem World is sure to help you out whether you're nursing a hangover or working on one.


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