Albums of the summer
Notable releases you should give a listen
By Kennedy Enns and Robyn Welsh, Web Editor and Publishing Editor
With summer winding down, we thought it was the perfect time to look back at some this summer’s amazing music moments. Give these albums a listen if you’re looking to create a playlist that will help get you through the first few weeks of classes.
Gia Margaret’s debut album There’s Always Glimmer takes the listener on woeful journey through depression and its effect on the mundane details of daily life. Powerful song writing immediately draws the listener in with the first line of the album, “it’s safe to say it’s been a hard year.” There’s Always Glimmer can be characterized by expertly written, poignant lyrics that tell complex stories in few words. Gia Margaret enhances her folky sound with electronic inspiration, calling her sound “sleep rock,” an apt description of a sound that has the ability to carry you into a dream.
“Groceries” re-imagines the cliche of light and dark by integrating it with the mundane comfort of someone else buying you groceries. “Though it’s not easy to see, there’s always glimmer,” she sings. “You bought the groceries and you let the light in.”
While the beautiful hints of horn in “Figures” stand out, the smooth piano in “Smoke” is a window into Margaret’s classical piano training. In the song’s mesmerizing prelude, emotion is painted onto the keys through her fingertips. Matching the tone of the piano, Margaret sings, “I’ll never tell you I cried in the bathroom the first night we moved in.”
With “For Flora,” Margaret skillfully interludes her mellow singing with answering machine samples that encourage thoughts of family. Margaret’s debut album is an ode to navigating relationships, depression, home, comfort and uncertainty.
With the weight of her break-out sophomore album Puberty 2 on her shoulders, Mitski could have easily buckled under the pressure of creating a stellar follow up. Instead she created a gorgeous, melancholy album that showcases her ever-evolving sound. Moving away from the harsher, guitar tones and almost drone-like influence of Puberty 2, Be the Cowboy shifts towards a brighter sound, with a disco influence permeating each track. Over the course of 14 tracks the Mitski takes the listener on a character-study of a host of different personalities. Each song functions as a unique story, delving into topics like heartbreak (“Lonesome Love”), isolation (“Nobody”) and desire (“Come into the Water”). Mitski proves she’s more than just a one time Pitchfork, indie-darling and demonstrates her talents once again as both a skilled musician and storyteller.
Winnipeg power-pop band Housepanther made their Calgary debut at Sled Island this summer after putting out their first full album Club Soda Lows earlier this year. The album has continued to be a rising star across the university radio charts and it’s obvious why. Club Soda Lows takes influence from the more emotional pop stylings of artists like Soccer Mommy and Kississippi. It’s filled with as much clever wordplay and fun as it is heartbreak. Lead singer Bailee Woods takes the listener on an emotional journey through falling out of love (“Price Tag”), binge-watching the OC, (“Can’t Believe They Killed Marissa Cooper Off”) and also putting a humorous spin on the side-effects of depression on the track “Filthy Lazy”. You can listen to Club Soda Lows on Bandcamp at https://housepanther.bandcamp.com/.
Wet’s sophomore album Still Run skillfully toys with a vagueness that leaves listeners craving emotional depth while simultaneously giving them the opportunity to project their own experiences onto the album. The album feels and acts like a plea for change by Kelly Zutrau both professionally and personally. Skillfully mashing R&B and synth-pop, Still Run is a powerful glimpse into Kelly Zutrau’s experiences as a woman in the music industry. However, because of the vague lyrics, the album can be easy to look past before hearing about the relationships and emotional history within the group.
Still Run is the product of changing band dynamics. Listeners will hear a shift from the discernable tension throughout “Don’t You,” to one that feels more cohesive. Much of this tension was fueled by Zutrau demanding more acknowledgement for the work she was putting into the band and music. Around this time, the group parted with Marty Sulkow and became a duo consisting of Zutrau and Joe Valle. Though it wasn’t heavily publicized, Zutrau and Valle were dating around the inception of Wet. When the two broke up, Wet was changing; this stemmed further tension. While these shifts were beneficial for Wet’s sound, I am hopeful that the duo will grow further in future albums as their sound becomes even more cohesive.
Zutrau’s silky voice is one that demands a sense of calmness in the listener, especially when paired with the album’s full-bodied strings and building synths. With hints of emotional abuse finding their way into lyrics like “there’s always something wrong / it must be my fault” and “we always got along / but not on my terms,” the track “Lately” walks the line of unequal balance and emotional turmoil in relationships. The song holds a lot of meaning for Zutrau, with lyrics such as “you never like how my song sounds, but you give nothing of yourself” directed toward her ex and musical partner, Valle.
Riding the new wave aptly called ‘party emo,’ Mom Jeans put out their sophomore album Puppy Love this summer. While their first album faced harsh internet critique for being too derivative, Puppy Love shows the band growing into their own sound. Without taking themselves too seriously, Mom Jeans makes it fun to whine along to ridiculous lyrics like “turn off my cellphone I’m going off the grid / which is for me eating Cheetos in my bed.” Yet they still pull on the heart-strings with genuine, emotional lyrics, proclaiming “nobody’s ever been this good to me / not even myself” on a song called “now THIS is podracing.” Mom Jeans haven’t grown up on Puppy Love, but they have matured their sound and have done so with a great sense of self and sense of humour.
Sam Beam’s latest release, six-track EP Weed Garden, is a collection of uniquely styled tracks that feel authentic and intimate. From the gentle ballad of longing “Autumn Town Leaves” to the haunting suspense built in “Milkweed,” the album showcases the array of Beam’s talent and seems to have something for every fan.
Beam skillfully weaves hints of nature with humanity. Upon careful listening, the instrumentation in “Waves of Galveston” evokes thoughts of birds, and the overall song feels light despite discussions of death and departure. “Last of Your Rock ‘n’ Roll Heroes” hits listeners with stark contrast: the funky bounce of percussive guitar, soft drums and a quippiness in Beams voice. The song finishes by building intensity with tinkling piano keys and repetitive lyrics, cutting off quickly: “like the last.”
The EP finale “Talking to Fog” navigates sorrow and depression with both a hopefulness that dreams of one day being surrounded by immense beauty and an awareness that it is not fully or easily attainable. This safe place is “where our memories of singing fill the air behind our heads / and our meadow bugs are living for the only flowers left,” Beam sings.