After careful deliberation, I think I’ve finally been able to capture my summer so far in the form of ten albums: music that defines sunny summer days laying on the white sands of Naama Bay in Sharm, working late into the night, writing and reading, and going out in the city with friends to catch up on old times. Here they are, in no specific order:
1 Ani DiFranco Knuckle Down
This may very well be the soundtrack to my life, so not just exclusive to summer. Ani defines herself through her music in ways I can’t even fathom. There’s just something about this album that screams perfection, and I find myself once again putting it on non-stop replay whenever I’m at home, doing whatever I’m doing. She’s a poet with a pen as much as she is a singer with a guitar. ‘Studying Stones’ is like a post-midsummer reflection of the past year, and ‘Sunday Morning’ is just what it says it is. ‘Lag Time’ is going to be the song I use when I film the movie about my life, queuing in at one of the crucial points for the lead protagonist as she maks an important future-life decision/ends a relationship, wondering why she ever even cared/moves yet again to another distant place.
2 Sigur Rós Takk…
Some may argue that this is more a ‘winter’ album, but I beg to differ. Nothing spells sunlight more than beautiful Sigur Rós ballads, taking you over the sea in ‘Glósóli’, through the forest in ‘Sæglópur’, all the way up to a mountain top (albeit in cooler summer climes). One of my all-time favourite songs, hands down, is ‘Gong’. This band is a vision of post-rock, shoe-gazing, and instrumental harmony all rolled into one. Whether winter or summer, they will always top my list.
3 Björk Greatest Hits
Usually I don’t like greatest hits albums with all the expected hype surrounding often a bad selection of work. But this is certainly a major exception, and yet another reason why I love Iceland-based artists. I would even go as far as saying this album probably combines better songs than many of her previous releases. I’m addicted to ‘Bachelorette’ and the version of ‘Isobel’ here is much better than the one I had previously. ‘Joga’ is a fantastic song, and ‘Human Behaviour’ is a classic. ‘Venus as a Boy’ is fused with eastern sensuality.
4 The Chemical Brothers Push the Button
I’ve always liked The Chemical Brothers, and like The Crystal Method, they make for great energizing mood music. Push the Button is a mix of clubby tunes and trip-hop rythms. I love the Arabic pop influence in ‘Galvanize’, and ‘Hold Tight London’ embodies the perfect city-night song. ‘The Boxer’ sounds more Daft Punk than TCB, but it’s okay: ‘Believe’s wicked thumping beat and ‘Left Right’s army feel more than make up for it.
5 A Perfect Circle Thirteenth Step
I was going to put Jack Johnson’s In Between Dreams in this spot, but decided it was too summery even for this list. So a darker, hard rock/industrial album had to be thrown in to create a balance. I remember the first time I ever heard APC–I was crammed in the back of a Jeep with six other people on the way home after an all-day outing. I borrowed ‘Mer de Noms’ from a friend after being really impressed with ‘3 Libras’, and eagerly awaited the follow-up album. And here it is, even better than the first, and definitely a challenge to Tool. Keenan really hits the spot with ‘A Stranger’, ‘Vanishing’, and ‘Blue’, with more complexity and non-standard song structure.
6 Madonna Confessions on a Dance Floor
I was skeptical about this one after her last few disappointing album releases (the contrast between Ray of Light and Music is undeniable). But after being constantly bombarded by ‘Hung Up’ at clubs in central London, I finally gave in. And after listening to the entire thing, I find it’s a surpringly fun album to listen to even with its touch of house techno. The ABBA cover isn’t bad, though along with ‘Get Together’, it’s been too overplayed. My favourite tracks are ‘Like it or Not’ and ‘Future Lover’. And I especially like ‘Isaac’, with the chant in Hebrew running through till the end.
7 Thom Yorke The Eraser
I’m in love with the mind of Thom Yorke and everything by Radiohead. Need I say more?
8 José González Veneer
I discovered José González quite by accident, and I’m very glad I did. Based in Göteborg with an Argentinian background, his style reminds me of a combination of Tom McRae, Nick Drake, and Elliott Smith. But he goes far beyond that, as well. I can’t get enough of ‘Crosses’ and ‘Hints’ is one of the best on the album. His music is subtle, yet fused with passion. He’s undoubtedly an extremely talented guitar-player, and his Cat Stevens-like voice blends beautifully with his melodies. Check out several of his tracks on MySpace.
9 Ali Farka Touré Talking Timbuktu
One of the many examples of great West African Blues, Ali Farka Touré and Ry Cooder are exceptional on this album. ‘Ai Du’ is absolutely summer-smooth and the slide guitar is unstoppable in ‘Bonde’. ‘Lasidan’ is like a boat-ride down the Niger. If you like Malian tunes such as these, Amadou & Mariam are also great, and the story behind their music is both incredible and life-affirming.
10 Martha Argerich Début Recital
Okay, so I’m not a big fan of Brahms, but the generous offering of Chopin, Liszt, and Ravel is enough to win me over. Prokofiev’s Toccata in C major is fast-paced and lively–one I have to score the sheetmusic for. Neither the Scherzo or the Bacarolle are my favourites for Chopin, but they fit really well with the tone of the album. What really makes it all worth it, though, is Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor. Roughly a half hour of non-stop reverie, pulling between a flurry of arpeggios and chords spanning octaves, all the way to hushed, ‘uncertain’ notes between changes in movement. Agerich does a fantastic job of it, and her playing is both skilled, expressive, and eloquent. This one’s a winner for a summer’s evening of reading.
– Sarah Badr
© 2006. S.H.Badr, All Rights Reserved.