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The Struggle For The Summer Sound


I was talking with a friend of mine about a week or so ago about Real Estate. If you are not familiar, they played PS1 last year along with releasing one of the great albums of 2009. He was lamenting the fact that there had not been any new material from the Real Estate/Ducktails music organization. As I ran it through my mind, I realized two things. The first was that he was completely right. The only person out of that whole sound to release anything recently was Woods. The second was that this summer has been really nondescript. In a lot of situations, being nondescript is usually good. For example, I’d want to be nondescript if someone just got shanked…by my shank. In terms of the summer music sound, this is an awful thing.

I’ve listened to a ton of music this summer. Forgive me for a second because I’m about to just start name checking bands for a second. If you know them, awesome. If you don’t, that’s cool too. No big whoops. So, amongst other things I’ve listened to: Ian & Sylvia, Dan Sartain, Back from the Grave comps, Lightning Bolt, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, Dolly Parton, Johnny Horton, Das Racist, Adult., School of Seven Bells, The Go-Betweens, Yo La Tengo, Chris Isaak, Polly Jean Harvey, Ghostface Killah, The Gap Band, Rare Essence, The Gun Club, Uffie, and ESG. While I’ve liked everything that I have listened to, I’ve found myself struggling to make it the soundtrack for my summer.

This is not to say that I don’t think that this summer has a particular aesthetic. I think that this is the summer of the guitar. It has either been too rainy or too hot to listen to anything too hectic. It’s been a summer of forced relaxation for better or worse. I think this is why I’ve found myself listening to a considerable amount of country as I showed above in all of the name checking. I also believe the bizarre nature of this summer is why I’ve also found myself connecting well with folk music. This isn’t to say that a non-guitar based album can’t sneak in here, but when I look back, I’ll see more guitars than drum machines. Even with the lack of a perpetual soundtrack, I think I can point to a couple of albums that will nicely summarize my summer if I look back at it when there are 2 feet of snow on my steps (don’t freak out yet).

The Feelies – Crazy Rhythms

The debut album from this NJ-based quartet is amazing. Surely, it is the influence for probably forty of your favorite bands. No matter who it has influenced, it is an awesome album on its own. It starts with easily one of the greatest songs about being weird ever: The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness. The guitars twitch and erupt. The lyrics are touchingly sad. The rhythms are, in fact, completely crazy. It’s an absolutely gorgeous post-punk album.

Best Coast – Crazy for You

Best Coast has been making waves for a little while now with their EPs. This summer, the band released its debut Crazy for You. The album will not win any points for originality. Every song is about having a boyfriend or smoking pot. This album, instead, wins because it is a collection of well-written and performed pop tracks. They are catchy and completely infectious. It’s got a bit of that washed-out sound from last summer, but it doesn’t seem derivative or stale. Rather, it comes across as very sincere. An amazing opening album from Bethany Cosentino and company. It’s been on steady rotation in my car.

My Favorite – The Happiest Days of Our Lives

A collection of tracks from the now-defunct NY band, The Happiest Days of Our Lives is the record for late night drives along Burlington and out under the stars in the country. It’s a morbid album, but the band deals with its morbidity in a way where you are singing along with strange choruses such “the ghosts of dead teenagers sing to me while I am dancing.” Additionally, they write excellent pop songs, which can always take a band very far. This is a CD for people who like to roam through cemeteries at night for fun like myself.

The Go-Betweens – 78 til 79: The Lost Album

The Go-Betweens are one of those bands that doesn’t get the recognition that it should. I don’t say this as a fanboy (which, for full disclosure, I am). I say this as someone who stumbled upon a copy of Before Hollywood at my old radio station and realized that it’s one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. Since listening to that album, I’ve gotten pretty much the rest of their catalog. This is their earliest set of recordings. It features songs about apathy, rain, Lee Remmick, and a librarian. All of their albums are incredible, but this is the one that resonates with me this summer.

While this is all fine and dandy, this is not going to get my summer mixtape made. There’s no way that I can be the only person with this problem. Others have to be struggling to find a way to score this summer. It has just been too strange. Up and down. Highs and lows. Ins and outs.

Tell me your stories about finding the summer sound. Have you already found it? What is it? Can I get a sample?

Although I can’t find my sound, I have to keep listening. It’ll eventually click in and I’ll be happier than when the new seasons of Mad Men and Jersey Shore start. I can only hope this happens before the beginning of the school year.


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