The top four albums of the summer

The top four albums of the summer
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Music has had a pretty good summer in my opinion; actually it’s been incredible. I’m utterly impressed by the truly unique and inventive albums that have finally become available during these last few summer months. Here’s my four favorite albums of the summer. 

1. SZA - “CTRL” 

SZA is a “20 Something” old R&B artist that describes solving the mysteries of modern-day love and friendship in a satirical, witty voice. She almost sounds like one of your friends conversationally mocking a recent romantic escapade, but then you notice the guitar riffs and experimental electronic beats that allow her album to straddle the line between R&B and alternative. The album feels excitingly fresh and inviting. Just listen to “Prom” - the complexity of the track and self-reflective lyrics are somehow made simple and beautifully easy to listen to. Also, Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott and Isaiah Rashad are featured on “CTRL,” so she must be onto something.

2. Fleet Foxes - “Crack-Up”

“Crack-Up,” released June 16, embodies the word “journey.” Each track itself changes and evolves. They wind effortlessly while never stopping to stare at a destination. The album provides Robin Pecknold, the lead singer, with the opportunity to quietly reflect on his relationships while also weaving through various sounds that represent immense landscapes. The instrumental components intertwined with Pecknold’s voice paint a vivid portrait in the listener’s own imagination. The album’s third single, “If You Need To, Keep Time On Me,” paints in the lightest colors. This track seems to float high above the others, almost out of reach. Pecknold sings to his band mate: “But if you need to/Keep time on me.” When performing, the band must rely on others to “keep time;” Pecknold is taking some of the weight off his friend by offering to keep time for him. It’s an idea anyone can understand, but how Pecknold illustrates this is extraordinary in its simplicity.

3. Slowdive - “Slowdive”

Slowdive’s self-titled album is the band’s first album release since 1995. That’s 22 years, if you’re into numbers. It’s the shoegaze band’s fourth album. I’m going to be honest. In 2015, if you described a band as “shoegaze” to me, I probably would have looked at you rather quizzically and said “No, that’s an Alabama Shakes song” and shaken my head as I walked away. But it’s more than that. Shoegaze falls under the large umbrella genre that is indie rock. Shoegaze describes music that features droning guitar riffs that ultimately overpower any vocals. The listener is left to immerse themselves in the guitar, a great place to get lost. A voice is predictable. Once you hear a song a few times, you can sing along seamlessly. The guitar doesn’t allow for that. There are always layers to peel back and nuances that take dozens of listens to catch. Shoegaze celebrate that and puts it at the forefront of the music. “Slowdive” perfectly demonstrates this. With some of the most appealing riffs of recent times, in my opinion, the album ebbs and flows. The vocals and lyrics are on the back burner, ultimately indistinguishable, but aiding in the overall noise.

4. Hoops - “Routines” 

Hoops, the Indiana indie rock band, previously released their music on cassettes, entitled “Tape #1,” Tape #2,” and “Tape #3.” Their new album, “Routines,” plays as if it was also on a cassette. With light fuzz and a whole lot of reverb, the album has that same attractiveness of a 90s college rock band, playing in basements and recording in dorm rooms. The album sounds like the college band you always wanted to be in. It sounds like a home video, grainy but wholesome, and wildly entertaining. At the risk of sounding trite, it is an album meant for summer. 

Honorable Mentions: Kevin Morby’s “City Music,” Phoenix’s “Ti Amo,” Cigarettes After Sex’s “Cigarettes After Sex,” and Chastity Belt’s “I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone.”

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