This summer's best new albums

Summer brings sunshine, heat, and long days. The defining attributes of summer vary with location. The Beach Boys personify the West Coast, as their music oozes surfing, blonde hair, dancing, and beautiful women. The cowboy’s night of pleasure describes The Southwest, much as the ever-classic blues personifies the rural south. There is a definite atmosphere that each of us associates with the summertime. Let’s take a look at a variety of albums that ooze summer.

The most recent phenomenon is the West Coast music of Best Coast’s Crazy For You. While not a fantastic album, Crazy For You has all the tropes of the Beach Boys. The album is low-fi surf pop released at the peak of its seasonal popularity. The hype surrounding the album leads to disappointment, as nearly every song sounds similar.

Despite its setbacks, Crazy For You defines a day at the beach. The album is a solid freshman debut. While the lyrics aren’t horrible, they lean heavily on the boyfriend/love-interest topic. Songwriter and frontwoman Bethany Cosentino will surely be a voice to look for in the near future.

Bob Wills is the king of western swing. Most readers probably haven’t heard of Wills or western swing. Wills’ music defines 20 years (1935–1955) of pop music in the Southwest. Recently released are the Tiffany Transcriptions, the eight-disc collection of live performances of Wills and company. The songs come from a different era (recorded in 1946), but the lyrics and accompanying music are endearing to both heart and soul.

The Tiffany Transcriptions are a collection of songs that embody the history of the Southwest. The genre’s simple beats, fascinating guitar and fiddle, and memorable lyrics were the dance music for an entire geographic region.

Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky embodies the diverse attributes of the South. The album contains so much more than its moniker of “dad-rock.” The addition of Nels Cline’s guitar filled the void left behind after Jay Bennett’s departure. Lead singer Jeff Tweedy’s lyrics are at times quite personal, speaking of lost love and loneliness.

Cline and Tweed feature colorful and expansive guitar work on Sky Blue Sky, a combination perfect for listening to in the sunlight. While Sky Blue Sky is not Wilco’s best album, it remains timeless. The album captures the mood of the summer countryside in 12 expansive tracks.

Animal Collective’s Strawberry Jam is a recent phenomenon — as is the Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. While it’s clear that the summer cannot be described by a couple of contemporary albums, there are detectable trends. This summer’s most popular albums are light-hearted affairs, reflecting the fleeting nature of summer encounters and experiences. While each geographic region is different, technology and the concept of universal music are connecting and blending the differences.