With school back in session, it’s only natural to try and squeeze as much summer as possible out from the remaining days of humidity and code orange air alerts. What better time than now to look back at the best music from this summer? And don’t worry, there’s no “Call Me Maybe” or Pitbull lurking in this article; I said the “best” music, not “the most popular.” With that being said, here’s my summer music SparkNotes; my best of list for rap, folk, indie and rock; or, if you like, my “What I Did I over My Summer Vacation” junior high essay. I listened to lots of music. Now study up!
Death Grips- The Money Store
What would a hip-hop album sound like if it sopped up every adolescent vice from modern rap, while at the same time expounding on every one of its virtues? Enter the Sacramento-based garage-rap outfit Death Grips and their album The Money Store. Somewhere in between the frenzied, clawing synthesizers of “Get Got” and the tribal-paranoia lyricism of “Hacker,” I hope you’ll realize a few things. I hope you’ll realize that The Money Store is able to be pure, over-the-top fun while still maintaining lyrical integrity and rhythmic ingenuity. Concerning vocals, frontman MC Ride’s lyrical delivery is not for the faint of heart, as he shouts, screams and bludgeons the listener with a vocal intensity hitherto unseen in the genre. Couple this with his explicit lyrics depicting violence, sex and paranoia, and listeners are left with MC Ride characterized as a PTSD-ridden madman, the sort of person who is so excited to be alive that we find him terrifying yet admirable. Below him, the beats on this album are spiritually overpowering. The synthesizers are huge yet blissfully melodic, and the drums are a meticulous onslaught, delivered with gusto from everyone’s favorite Hella drummer, Zach Hill. Put it all together and The Money Store delivers everything you could want from a hip-hop album and even a few things that you never knew you wanted. Above all, I hope you’ll realize the potential, not only of Death Grips, but of the genre itself.
Mount Eerie- Clear Moon
Hopefully you’ve noticed how gorgeous the nature is surrounding little ol’ Saint Vincent College. Whoever doesn’t love the scenic foothills, wetlands and mountain fog that we are privileged with may have made a slight mistake in coming here. Clear Moon, with its reverb-laden acoustic guitars, soul-cleansing synthesizers and tribal drums is an album made for nature lovers, by nature lovers. Frontman Phil Elverum’s half-mumbled, half-begged lyrical delivery perfectly blends arboreal imagery with existential meditation in a way that demands the listener’s rapt attention. Take, for example, the understated vocals from the song “Through The Trees, pt. 2.”: “I meant all my songs/not as a picture of the woods/but to remind myself/that I briefly lived.” Moody yet? Good. Now grab those headphones and take a midnight walk through the graveyard with Mount Eerie.
Dirty Projectors- Swing Low Magellan
The Dirty Projectors are the sort of band that has something for everyone. They have gritty, falsetto vocals for the Radiohead-heads, noodle-ly clever guitar for the jazz nerds, well produced beats and bass for fans of hip-hop and gorgeous female vocal harmonies for the Music majors. Put it all together and you get the infectious grooves and stuck-in-your-head melodies of the band’s latest album, Swing Low Magellan. Conceptually, what is so striking about the band on this album is that somehow, amidst all their musical complexities, the Dirty Projectors make it all sound so damn easy. No one likes to feel condescended by an album, and no one wants to go on a wild goose chase in the name of broadening their artistic horizons. Fortunately, the Dirty Projectors are a band that gets more and more rewarding with every new listen. For a new listener, Swing Low Magellan is a great place to start with the band, because there’s no telling where they’ll go from here.
Japandroids- Celebration Rock
When a rock band is described as “anthemic,” it’s rarely a good thing. If you’ve ever seen any of Skid Row’s music videos, then you’ll know what I mean. For the Vancouver twosome Japandroids, however, any word other than anthemic would come up short at describing the massive, front-row-of-a-show feeling that their aptly titled sophomore album Celebration Rock delivers. The guitar tone has the rugged integrity of a kid first plugging into an amp and turning every knob all the way up. The overdrive is smooth but subtle, walking the fine line between too grunge-obnoxious and too shimmery and emasculated. The album is a garage-rock firework show, coming as close as any has to offering a live experience under the guise of a studio album.