Summer 2012 Albums: Five Must Hear Releases

As listeners, we were spoiled with the plethora of shiny new albums that hit the shelves this past winter – and we’re bound to get another dose this upcoming fall, when some of the musical greats have announced they will shell out even more long-awaited singles and LPs. So what about the summer albums of 2012? Is anyone (other than Pitbull and Katy Perry) making new music for us to soak in along with the July and August rays, or are we going to be stuck hitting repeat on last summer’s breakout releases?

Whether released in late spring or this week – this is hardly the case, because the new tunes are a plenty. You just (like all good things) have to do a little digging and listening. Luckily I don’t mind “the music hunt” (everyone loves the chase, right?), so I’ve put together a list of some very repeat-worthy must hear albums in music stores this summer that will add even more sunshine to your muggy days.

1.   WINTERSLEEP – Hello Hum: This is the most worthwhile rock album of the summer. I strongly believe that Wintersleep is one of the most underrated, ever-blossoming Canadian bands that will stand the long test of time because of their diverse and often unparalleled songwriting abilities. Hello Hum is a collection of cohesive and striking rock songs decorated with beautiful lyrics and an obviously mature understanding of their own potential. Now seasoned and fairly worldly after years of touring their anthemic and triumphant sounding rock, slow motion ballads like “Saving Song”, the impossibly addictive and luminous “Resuscitate” and the Interpol-reminiscent chugging rock on “Rapture” are enough to keep them coasting (in the least ho-hum way possible) for decades to come. Must Hear: Resuscitate, Saving Song, Nothing Is Anything (Without You)

2. EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS – Here:  And this if the most worthwhile psychedelic indie-folk album of the summer. The first time around, this 12-piece hippie collective had never looked rattier, smelled funkier (presumably) or sounded better. So, following up to 2009’s debut Up From Below would understandably be no easy feat – but the cult of caravan-crashing free spirits did it service without a glitch. Soft, sunsetting horns over slapped guitar bodies and folky doo-wop harmonies make this the bonfire album of the summer season – (literally) perfect for that sundown canoe into the abyss. No less scruffy, probably no less pungent, but just as endearing with every new twinkling melody that seeps from their hearts into ours. Must Hear: One Love to Another, Child, Man On Fire, Mayla, All Wash Out (my favourite song of the entire summer – easily)

3.  REGINA SPEKTOR – What We Saw From The Cheap Seats: Recently called “her generation’s Joni Mitchell” by Rolling Stone Magazine, one of the most respected songwriters in the biz did it again – securing herself as completely worthy of that comparison, as well as one of my all-time favourite women. With her eccentric piano-driven insights – complete with fidgety melodies, softly worded sentiments, build-ups and screeches – Spektor has the wild ability to make almost anyone just shut up and listen to her. Strange stories like poetry and piano loops that can incite both tears and laughter – she’s a born genius on this album. Must Hear: Small Town Moon, How, Jessica (bias…)

4. NAS – Life is Good:  As one of my favourites in the game, Nas has released eight consecutive platinum and multi-platinum albums since 1994. Should I stop there? Pushy rhymes, relentless beats and a kind of middle-aged rap wisdom make up Nas’ Life is Good – the tenth studio LP which promises to remind the industry of some of the hip-hop essentials that somehow got lost these past few years. Boasting an assertive but enlightened outlook in his pursuit of breaking the chip off his shoulder post-divorce from Kelis (the green dress on the album cover is the only item his famous ex-wife left behind), Nas adds soulful loops and classic kickdrum thumps under his heated commentary. Other highlights of Nas’ tenth? His heavyweight producer team, sampling of the late Amy Winehouse and the gangster low-down on being a single parent to a teenage daughter – a song that wipes the mush away from John Mayer’s “Daughters” with lines like “When he date/ He straight, a chip off his own papa/ When she date, we wait behind the door with the sawed off.” Must Hear: The Don, Nasty, Daughters

5. FIONA APPLE – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do: Say that ten times fast. Or, save yourself the time and just listen to this highly-anticipated and critically praised release from one of everyone’s favourite female 90s misfits. Apple’s unpredictable, scattered rambling can make you dizzy with confusion halfway through some of the kooky critiques of her own existence – often following little to no musical pattern – but like so many legendary jazz and art-pop artists before us, her between-the-lines storytelling and otherworldly instrumental combinations make for some beautiful kind of mastermind. I always appreciate anyone who’s honest with themselves and Apple is exactly that. Must Hear:  Every Single Night, Werewolf

Honourable mentions (still very worthy buys): Metric Synthetica, John Mayer Born and Raised, Yukon Blonde Tiger Talk

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