Black and Blue Simmer: Three Albums for Your Summer Soundtrack

With my first Capri Sun of the year imbibed (thanks Hunter and LA!), we can now officially announce the onset of summer. School business is coming to a close and graduations are commencing. Baby boy will soon celebrate 7 months of joyful existence and bask in his first summer brightened by familial sun.

So pop your cans and clap your hands! It’s time to cue up the summer soundtrack! From morning commute to beach getaway, these albums will liven up your travels. Each artist on this list offers up a record that represents a culmination of their musical powers and all are worthy of your grill and chill time. Without further delay, here are three strong contenders for your endless summer rotation.

oberst-upside-down-mountain-338x300Upside Down Mountain is Conor Oberst at his very best. The album’s reflective and expansive lyrics are sealed in a 1970s California sound.  While the Wah-Wahs wah and the guitars twang, Oberst delivers lyrics that dance around the dark edges of life. With song titles like Enola Gay, the artist is not afraid to point out the futile struggles of modern life. This isn’t to say the album is downcast. In many ways, the acceptance of life’s limitations has a freeing effect and the music moves upward as Oberst laments his musings. Ziggzaggig Toward the Light is a confident testament to living free and making art on your own terms.  Night at Lake Unknown is a whimsical, swirling country tinged play about. All in all, Upside Down Mountain is perfect for bringing your summer morning into focus, especially when the album strips down to the acoustic simplicity of Desert Island Questionnaire and Artifact #1.

turn blueThe Black Key’s Turn Blue trades in the crunch stomp that made the band famous for a more nuanced, pop bubbling sound. With Danger Mouse once again producing and co-writing with the duo, the band finds itself experimenting with song construction and vocal performance.  The songs on the album expand outward and falsetto-croons are trapped inside Danger Mouse’s airtight sound. Songs like Weight of Love and Bullet in the Brain build and move across sonic landscapes that dip and dive with flourishes of guitar brilliance.  Gary Clark Jr.’s influence can be felt throughout the record and is most evident on the album’s subdued title track. Turn Blue plays best out by the grill or on motorcycle drive-bys. If you need to take a trip to headphone land, the album can fill that void, too. Overall, Turn Blue represents the big mid-day snack of your summer.

Jack_White_-_LazarettoLazeretto is probably the best album of Jack White‘s inventive and groundbreaking career. The Black Keys sing the blues. Jack White belts out the blues with a white-hot flame throwing veracity that torches the eardrum.  White has gone on record to point the finger at his imitators (the Black Keys among them) and the self imposed shoulder chip serves him well. We all need something to prove. With that in mind, White delivers a record that deconstructs all of his earlier work, from the White Stripes to his collaboration with Loretta Lynn, and rebuilds it into one giant towering babel of sound. The title track lays down the gauntlet, White rapping with enthused zeal while his guitar plays jam master to the ceremony at hand. The album goes on to the explore every music possibility from the modern Appalachia of Temporary Ground to the stripped down Entitlement. No genre is left untouched or reimagined.  High Ball Stepper brings all White’s musings together and the stomp that entails is an instrumental warning to all other musical challengers that he is a force to be reckoned with.  With that said, the entirety of Lazaretto has enough variety to support a romping party by a summer bonfire held underneath the held high stars.  In deed, the energy present throughout the album should inject your summer rotation with enough vigor to get you to August and beyond.