At long last it seems the world has finally come into full bloom. I find that during this time we tend to reach for music more frequently, calling on it to soundtrack various excursions into the outside world, now warm enough for ample exploration. We spend our days filling these spaces with music, from walks accompanied by headphones and the insular world they provide, to the bassy echoes of the portable speaker in the midst of bustling conversation. However you choose to live out your days this summer, consider taking some of these albums along with you.
Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love? (2023) – Kara Jackson
Though a newer release, the Chicago-based artist’s latest effort feels as though it has spent aeons ageing in the sun. Wise beyond her years, Jackson’s folk and blues roots are buried deep within this album’s sonics, but always manage to overcome conventional tropes of the genres with her subversive storytelling. She brings a contemporary take to lyrical expositions on love and loss, its meditative warmth lingering ever onward as she works through grief and overcomes the need for forgiveness. With her voice like honey, Jackson’s poetry guides us to the parts of ourselves we have neglected and left amongst the shade. Instead, she implores us to tend to them, to cultivate new growth where life once flourished.
The Fawn (1997) – The Sea and Cake
An irresistibly spacious and patient record, The Fawn is a great pick for fans of Broken Social Scene and The Durutti Column, respectively. Grounded in gentle melodies and sweeping soundscapes, it somehow is able to paint a crystal-clear picture of summer days drenched in thick humidity, spent beside bodies of water, aeroplanes flying overhead and the muggy weather that brews before an impending thunderstorm.
Bitter (1999) – Meshell Ndegeocello
Following up on a recommendation, I only just discovered Ndegeocello‘s 1999 masterpiece, Bitter, but it feels like one of those albums I have been searching for my whole life. It’s an incredibly intimate record, tracking the ups and inevitable downs of relationships, and the subsequent solitude that they leave in their wake. Ndegeocello slips in and out of various identities and genders, with the interior emotions of her narrators laid bare for all to see. Its songs are somehow inescapably arid, perhaps it’s the close-mic’d vocals that feel like they’re being whispered to you.
Mind Palace Music (2023) – @
Short but sweet, the duo’s long awaited debut arrives just in time for the warmer months, and delivers on all fronts. Marrying the intimacy of bedroom pop and tender folk sentiments, Mind Palace Music transports the listener to the chorus of a campfire circle, beckoning us to sing along. Its call-and-response sensibilities foreground intricate arrangements – full of warm woodwind and subtle percussion crafted from the clap of a hand to the slap of a worktop, making the record a labour of love created in the true spirit of collaboration and togetherness.
Mambo Nassau (1981) – Lizzy Mercier Descloux
Trading in the streets of New York for the Bahamas, Descloux decamped to the island nation in search of a new sound. The product is Mambo Nassau, a turning point away from the conventional disco of her previous efforts and towards progressive take on the genre. Its original cover depicts Descloux against the intense saturation of a cloudless blue sky, a seashell to her ear, perhaps in an effort to replicate the sound of the ocean. On this record, it seems she has succeeded – embracing the innovations of punk and mutant funk, in tandem with the notable African musical influences, Mambo Naussau is inescapably joyous.
Citrus (2007) – Asobi Seksu
Unlike some of its shoegazing contemporaries, the sonics of Citrus are far from the genre’s usual gloom. Instead the New York band provides a record overflowing with colour, its expansive sound bursting out the seams with every track. There is no way to describe this record other than to praise its infinite beauty and its almost synaesthetic quality, masterfully recreated on its album cover. Full to the brim with tuneful distortion and spiralling vocals, the band somehow manage to create a technicolour world beyond our own through their music.