Today’s episode of The Summer Jam 3: Electric Boogaloo seeks to answer the age-old question of ‘in how many original ways can one say hello to and welcome one’s readership before eventually running out and resorting to meta jokes about this extremely specific dilemma?‘ The answer is: I have absolutely no idea! Jokes aside, we are very happy to have the four members of prog-pop band Vesper Sails as this week’s curators. Take it away, guys!
‘Ah, summer. It fills me with a peculiar sense of possibility, contentment, and a longing for simpler times. I feel the rays of morning sun more keenly across my skin. I wander about the city at night. I take detours, delight in tangents and digressions. I activate my auto reply at work and literally head for the hills. Maybe this is why we in Vesper Sails take a detour away from our progressive, math rock, and djent favorites toward spacier, softer indie records this time of season. Here’s a list of our top summer jams currently on heavy rotation.‘
Kayo Dot – Choirs of the Eye
I LOVE this album any time of the year, but especially during summer. It works its way through these heavy, raging monsoons consisting of some of the densest guitar arrangements I’ve ever heard, then subsides into passages of blissful laziness, like “Pitcher of Summer”, my favorite track. The overall effect is really poignant to me. It makes me appreciate those moments when you have the time and freedom to just exist, lie in the sun, think your thoughts. I don’t take that for granted; I savor every last drop.
Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise
A well-balanced cocktail of indie, folk, bluegrass, overlong titles, and your old high school’s pep band. This is the state where I was born and where much of my family resides, so I feel a weird sort of ancestral reverence whenever I listen to this album. While still being cohesive, it encompasses a wide range of styles and moods, from the quirky title track to the devastating “Casimir Pulaski Day”.
Taylor McFerrin – Early Riser
Probably my most listened-to record during the last few summers, this 2014 release is a perfect poolside pairing. According to my google search a few second ago, this album took nearly six years to complete, which explains the laser-like attention to detail in production and instrumentation. Pile on great featured artists, focused beats, slurpy synths and flooding atmospheres and you find yourself with a great set of tunes for a sunny summer’s drive.
Andy Shauf – The Party
I love this album. The playful and syrupy sounds lend themselves as well to a party atmosphere (coincidence??) as they do to a laundry folding session. Very agreeable music that is impeccably produced and performed, The Party captures a 70’s pop vibe combined with a simple but effectively crafted concept. My go to when entertaining folks from all walks of life and interest in other genres, I often find myself enjoying it during a beautiful sun-drenched ride up California 280 North.
Joni Mitchell – Court and Spark
I always return to this album during the summer. I grew up in San Diego, where I used to listen to this by the pool at my parents house, swimming and baking under the sun. The lyricism evokes introspective themes about escapism, love, freedom, and sadness, the mix keeps the mood light and airy, and songs like “Help me” and “Just Like This Train” show incredible jazz harmony and compositional mastery that entrances me to this day.
The Tallest Man On Earth – Shallow Grave
I remember first listening to this record on repeat while exploring the Wilder Ranch area of the Santa Cruz mountains in the summer. It’s hard to believe that it’s just one guy and a guitar, he’s a master of fingerpicking. His surreal lyricism made this record all the more mystifying, which I think is what kept me coming back to his music. Songs like “The Gardner” show both amazing use of open tunings to create a magically positive and summery vibe with subtly brilliant harmony, contrasted with intense imagery and more complex/darker lyricism to create what I think is one of the best folk songs in modern music.
Brazilian Girls – Let’s Make Love
This band’s chemistry is palpable. It has to be to make a record this good after a ten-year hiatus! Upbeat pop tracks, heartfelt ballads, and world rhythms each get their turn in the spotlight, rekindling my spirit of adventure. Let’s party.
Blonde Redhead – Misery is a Butterfly
After their art punk beginnings in the mid ‘90s, Blonde Redhead’s sound evolved on this 2004 release, blending blissful dream pop, hauntingly melancholic vocals, sonic experimentation, and meticulous arrangement. Thematically, it’s about Makino’s accident falling from a horse, but it’s also about beauty and pain, about the feeling of being fractured and the search for wholeness – concepts that hit you right in the feels, especially during those reflective summer moments.
Thanks for reading, folks, and thanks to Ian, David, Marshall, and Evan for submitting their delightful summer jam picks! You can check out their music on their Bandcamp page, and if you like what you hear there, you should leave them a like on their Facebook profile – they deserve all the attention they can get! Be sure to tune back in next week for more recommendations for your summer playlists.