Perhaps one day I’ll miss frantically scribbling down 800 words every other Thursday evening, but that day is not today. That said, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel compelled to do something at least a little bit special for my last column. In a perfect world, I’d handcraft you all a nostalgia-tinged mixtape for crying on the dancefloor, but since taping a CD to a bunch of newspapers sounds shitty, I hope you’ll settle for a small collection of some of my favorite summer records of all time. May they serve as a soundtrack for your own ride off into the sunset.
Saturday Looks Good To Me – All Your Summer Songs (2003)
All Your Summer Songs is the scuzzy, underwater version of the Beach Boys you never knew you needed. Caked in layers of reverb and tape hiss, Fred Thomas’ take on indie pop alternates between triumphant, twee, and melancholy on a dime, occasionally ticking off all three at once. It’s certainly a rollercoaster of an album – “Alcohol” has been on every summer banger playlist I’ve ever made, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never made it through “Typing” with dry eyes – so it’s not exactly the “let’s go drive to the beach” sort of summer record. But that’s also why it’s so damn good – after all, it’s all your summer songs.
Kona Triangle – Sing A New Sapling Into Existence (2009)
Kona Triangle was a short-lived collaboration between Lone and Keaver & Brause, with Sing A New Sapling being their only release. It’s a shame, too, since it’s one of my favorite instrumental hip-hop records, a beautiful blend of woozy synths and wonky drums. Like Boards of Canada without any of the experimental baggage, it’s a pastoral stroll through various forms of summery soundscape: a dense forest here, a sun-drenched field over there, and a whole lot of washed-out coast in between.
Fishmans – Long Season (1996)
Long Season is a tough pitch, but for good reason: words just don’t do it justice. Unless you’re deep into the experimental Japanese dub scene, it’s not particularly easy to explain the context that it comes out of, and, even then, it’s not like it stands head and shoulders above the rest of Fishmans’ discography. And yet, I find myself returning to it again and again every summer. It’s humid, warm, and sweaty. Essentially one 35-minute “track,” it’s a classic example of dub, based around weird loops, tape manipulation, and crazy effects drenching its shuffling groove in atmosphere. By the time it reaches the climax in part 5, the swooning accordion (!!!) melody will have you so deep in your feelings you won’t know which way is up.
Lescop – Lescop (2013)
I still can’t really forgive English-speaking music outlets for sleeping on Lescop, as its brilliantly French take on synthpop remains my go-to album for late summer nights. A blinding mix of the best elements of The Cure, OMD, and early New Order, it’s a highly concentrated and distilled version of the eighties, with every production flourish and hook arranged just so. At once rapturous and poised, Lescop’s voice is just the cherry on top of what I would without hesitation describe as a perfect pop record. It’s got dense, vertiginous anthems (“Un Rêve”) and teary-eyed prom ballads (“Slow Disco”), plus a healthy scoop of teen angst. What more can you ask for?
Palmistry – Pagan (2016)
Okay, this one’s a bit of a stretch–it doesn’t come out until the middle of June. But if you asked me to make a list of my favorite songwriters, entries 1-7 would be Palmistry. He first caught my attention producing for fellow experimentally-minded Londoners like Felicita and Cantonese rapper Triad God. But it wasn’t until he dropped “Catch” in 2013 that he revealed his real endgame, a disarming, wide-eyed take on dancehall anchored around his voice, a creature so frail it sounds like it could wash away with each hushed melody. Since then, he’s honed his across a few scattered singles, an EP, and a (flawless) mixtape called Ascensión. In the process, he became one of the flagship artists for Mixpak, the record label best known for dancehall staples Vybz Kartel and Popcaan. I’ve been hyped for Pagan for a while, but lead single “Club Aso,” a silky anthem for bawling in the late-summer rain, made the wait unbearable. If this isn’t one of the best albums you hear all year, I’ll gladly eat my own shorts.