I’ve noticed that the last few summers have been defined by one or two albums in particular. ( 2004: Rubber Soul (The Beatles), Underneath (Hanson), Break Every Rule (Tina Turner), 2003: Electric Version (The New Pornographers), 2002: Down By The Old Mainstream (The Golden Smog) ) This summer, however, I was blessed to have several defining albums brought to my attention. Three absolutely delightful and artfully recorded records accompanied me on the El to work, in the car on road trips, on the planes I took to visit my friends and family. These three were constantly in my CD player and I just couldn’t get enough of them.
The first was The Milk-Eyed Mender by the amazing young talent that is Joanna Newsom. Her romantically written lyrics, mystical harp playing and otherworldly voice really brought the songs together. For me, it started with seeing her at the
The second album that was the soundtrack to my summer was Blue Notes by Paul Burch & The WPA Ballclub. There is a not a weak song on this album. The instrumental parts of the songs are well crafted and catchy. Burch’s voice melts on your ears and his words get you laughing and crying along with the characters in his songs. There are tales of lost love and women done wrong, like “Willpower” and “Tonight, Tonight.” Even songs that seem happy on the outside, like “Forever Yours” and “Head Over Heels”, still contain strains of Even songs that seem happy on the outside, like “Forever Yours” and “Head Over Heels”, still contain strains of obsession and inevitable heartbreak. The one truly positive song on the album is “How Do I Know?”, a traditional call and response song which contains lyrics from the traditional “Little Birdie”. Burch’s story-telling abilities are very strong and he can pull you in, making the listener empathize with the narrator. “Isolda”, arguably the most beautiful song on the album, tells the story of the girl that got away, the one that the narrator wants but doesn’t need and can’t have. Occasionally, his narrative style is very blunt and honest. “Long Distance Call”, which tells of a truck driver who is VERY eager to get home to his girlfriend/wife, is so straightforward in its description that it still makes me blush. This album went with me on the plane to
The final album that shaped my summer is Arabella by Laurie & John Stirratt. I have seen them perform four times, and each time I loved the songs. It was surprising that I hadn’t gotten the album before my birthday this June, considering that I was at the record release party last November. As soon as I put it in my CD player, I began dancing around the room. I was trying on new skirts that I had gotten that day, the kind that flared out and had flounce to them. They fit the music perfectly, and I danced around my room. The Stirratts had been working on this album for a while, and it was exciting that it was finally released. It’s a really classy collection of songs. They are mostly tales of reflection on the self, events that happen in one’s life and life changes and growing up (whatever your definition of that may be.) John’s voice is reminiscent of Neil Young at times and the harmonies between the two siblings are very pure yet imperfect and vulnerable. The sound is very smooth and folkie and easy on the ears. The imagery of the songs is beautiful in those such as “Canadian Noon”, “Golden Fence” and “Mistral”. Occasionally, they rock out a little bit, such as in “We’ll Meet Again” (which is, perhaps, my favorite song by them.) I accidentally left this disc in my boombox when I went to