04 July 2009

Summer Haze: The Music of 2009 For Your Summer

This is not an exhaustive list as I have omitted certain artists like Funeral Mist who do not count as summer music as these artists do. They are simply titles from 2009 that I have enjoyed this summer. There is one older title, but it is one of the best summer albums ever so I wanted to include it here. I hope you enjoy one or all of these albums!

Neko Case: Middle Cyclone
Effortless, simple, beautiful, and fun – one can truly run out of adjectives for Neko Case’s work. There is little to be disappointed with in this album and only too much to be charmed by. I had hoped that that this album would be a further hit from left field just like her last album, but instead she stayed planted on that new learning curve from Fox Confessor and tried nothing too radical. This album has a sense of dislocation in terms of place and narrator, but the longing in these songs keeps the album from being a mess of fuzzy atmosphere and fever dream lyrics. The uniting factor is the skilled playing and always impeccable singing. The album is a siren song through and through.
Listen: The whole album!

Camera Obscura: My Maudlin Career
Although it’s the band’s sunniest record to date, the songs detail the bitterness and missed opportunity of love. The beginning is very promising, but by the second song something has caught a snag. The middle of the album details pain and fallout in a confessional manner not normally associated with the usually ironic band. By the end, Traceyanne Campbell is older but wiser. Whether she’ll stay cold to the prospect of true love or embrace hope remains to be seen. The music and singing is just as strong as the change effected from the last album. Unlike Neko Case, the band seems to have grown on their new learning curve. Camera Obscura is the same here, but different.
The songs are composed in a cycle to reflect on the failed relationship that is the album’s loose concept. Instead of the usual indie rock solipsism, Campbell allows into the narrative details that indicate what happened rather what she wants to say has happened. The album benefits from the lack of anger and loathing as the lyrics are bitter and the music is sweet. This is not Pinkerton and it’s certainly not Boys For Pele, but it reflects on the same romantic problems with delicious irony, true pathos, and tangible joy. It may lack the wistful grandeur of Patrick Wolf’s The Magic Position, but it covers the same territory and remains just as enjoyable.
Listen: “The Sweetest Thing” and “Away With Murder”.

The Thermals: Now We Can See
Lo-fi will eat your heart, move your ass, and sex up your road trips. If the Thermals do anything less then just demand a refund. Not America’s greatest contemporary punk band for some reason, they use lo-fi as a reward rather than a demerit and make one of the more enjoyable albums of the year. It sounds like a punk rockified John Darnielle in a tank. The energy and noise in the songs are trademarks of the band, but here they keep it shiny like a good sword. If there’s a better rock album for the summer, it better be illegal.
Listen: “Now We Can See” and “When We Were Alive”.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: s/t
They get the lo-fi tag, but it’s just bad amps. The mix of Ride and JAMC are the true roots of this band. It’s fast, sweet, and enjoyable with tons of buzz and no sludge. Almost like Dinosaur Jr doing Cure covers all day. The joys of the music are mostly found in the buzz and speed of the playing. There is a shoegaze influence, but it’s minor and used with restraint. The album is a lovely mirror to Camera Obscura because it also follows the path of love, but here it’s a high school prom and not the drama of failed romance. As far as fast rides go, this is great music for summer. Simple joys like this are here to stay.
Listen: “Gentle Sons”.

The Cocteau Twins: Heaven or Las Vegas
The Cocteau Twins are otherworldly and indescribable. This may in fact be due to their Scottishness. However, they sound like nothing terrestrial. Heaven or Las Vegas is certainly an appropriate title with this in mind. Wherever it is that they reside, their light, angelic music holds a bit of both. Elisabeth Fraser’s vocals may sound like confused baby talk, but they serve simply as wrapping on the songs. They are the emotional barometer while the music serves as the power of the songs. Best heard at night, the music is mysterious and beautiful like night. Far from being shrouded in reverb or feedback, the music is clear as glass. With the slow motion quicksilver vocals, the album is excellent summer music because of its fluidity, beauty, and joy. The cover of the sleeve certainly sums up the look and feel of these songs. The music glistens like sunshine on chrome and cools like darkness at night. The Cocteau Twins have the wings to take you anywhere and this album will show you how.
Listen: “Cherry-Coloured Funk”

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