Though it’s still cold outside, these albums oughta warm you up
It may not seem like it, what with the cold weather and the white snow still occupying our rooftops, but summer is just around the corner. No really. The heat is nearly here and festival season is almost upon us.
With the temperature still hitting the negatives however, it’s understandably a bit hard to get in the swing of things—it’s been a notoriously unpredictable spring season. To help speed it along, here are a handful of albums that oughta get you primed and ready for the year’s most exciting season in music.
Yo La Tengo – I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (Matador, 1997)
Over 30 years strong, Hoboken’s Yo La Tengo have built a career out of noise pop bliss and dreamy, experimental diversions. To put it simply, they are the logical extension of The Velvet Underground. I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, their eighth studio album, found them at the peak of their power, seamlessly blending the cathartic guitar squeals of yore with elegantly subdued ballads and pop sensibilities. What’s always been most striking about Yo La Tengo’s approach to indie rock is the amount of love they imbue into every release, their music having the therapeutic qualities of a nice warm hug. In that sense, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One is akin to being hugged by a giant fuzzy teddy bear. Skeptics should just listen to “Green Arrow” as the sun sets following a long, eventful day.
Boredoms – Super Roots 7 (A.K.A., 1998)
Principally known for their cacophonic and incredibly percussive brand of psychedelic noise rock, it’s easy to forget how positively fun Japan’s Boredoms can be—Vision Creation Newsun remains a mainstay for instant happiness. The 1998 three song EP Super Roots 7, however, is something else entirely. A prolonged reconstruction of English punk rock band The Mekons’ classic single “Where Were You?,” Super Roots 7 is an odyssey of sun-baked guitar tones and driving rhythms brimming with droning repetition and pure gleeful joy. Psychedelic rock should always be this fun.
The Congos – Heart of the Congos (Black Art, 1977)
Produced by Jamaican dub pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry, Heart of the Congos is a warm and mellow voyage through the world of roots reggae and an essential addition to any summer playlist. The Congos have an absolutely infectious energy and some of the most pleasant rhythms around, serving as a healthy and much needed reminder that not all reggae sounds alike. Don’t let those MP3 tags fool you; not all reggae songs are by Bob Marley.
Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze (Matador, 2013)
If Kurt Vile’s Smoke Ring for My Halo was distinguished by its flanger-drenched guitars and solitary psychedelic vibes, its 2013 follow-up marks a sunny welcome change to his signature formula. With its psychelia stripped down considerably, Vile and his band (known as The Violators) lay down nearly 70 minutes of potent folk rock perfect for the summer season. Singing in a nasally, lackadaisical snarl, Vile exudes more confidence than ever on some of his longest songs to date. If you find yourself digging his stuff, be sure to catch him this summer at Osheaga.
Fela Kuti – He Miss Road (EMI, 1975)
Though much of his work is starkly rooted in politics and largely guided by protest and revolt, Fela Kuti brings a livewire energy to each and every recording that’s nearly impossible not to dance along to. In fact, choosing the best Fela Kuti album is akin to having to pick between your two children—it’s pretty much impossible. 1975’s He Miss Road, however, harbours one of Kuti and band Africa ‘70s best grooves, its horns blaring melodically as the percussive backdrop grows increasingly untamed. Though it may not be their best, He Miss Road showcases Kuti and Africa 70 at their most diabolically infectious. If you want to get people dancing, don’t hesitate with this record.
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (Silvertone, 1989)
Driven by a playful, sometimes cocky demeanor and glistening jangly guitars, The Stone Roses laid the groundwork for much of the ‘90s alt rock scene with their self-titled debut. As one of the quintessentially hypnotic albums of its time, much of The Stone Roses’ appeal lies in its energetic delivery and warm, cozy psychedelia, with guitarist John Squire layering bright leads over Mani’s punchy basslines. Without a doubt the most important release to emerge from the drug-fueled Baggy/Madchester scene, The Stone Roses’ debut is a heartwarming snapshot in time and a timelessly pleasant record tailor-made for the summer.
Quad City DJ’s – Get on Up and Dance (Atlantic, 1996)
Seriously, if “Summer Jam” or “Stomp-n-Grind” don’t get you moving, nothing will. This is Miami Bass we’re talking about! Get on up and DANCE!