Summer has come and gone, and with it three months without Argus music reviews. I know you guys had a rough go of it, and without the Argus’ musical recommendations you probably spent the summer weeping while caressing a well-worn 98 Degrees album (it was a tough time for us, too). But that’s all behind us now, and to get you caught up, I’m giving you the run-through of some of my favorite albums of the summer.
1. John Maus——We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
This album is absolutely glorious, if you can ignore just one thing: the pretension oozing from its every pore. Yes, it may be a challenge for some, but those who can pull it off will be well rewarded. Maus takes us into a world of 1980s decadence, where every guy sings like Peter Murphy and every girl looks like Siouxsie Sioux. It’s a bit jarring to hear an album so removed from its time, and one that seems to be trying so hard to conjure up another era, but that’s part of its appeal. “Pitiless Censors” is a funny little record, full of quirks and complexities and things that just don’t belong. In short, it’s wondrous.
2. Ty Segall—Goodbye Bread
Garage-rock wunderkind Ty Segall always has been (and I suspect always will be) very young. It’s an enviable gift, and one that makes “Goodbye Bread,” his seventh solo album, shine. It sounds like a debut LP—uncynical, energetic, impassioned—but it’s reaped the benefits of Segall’s years of experience. It pulls off what so few albums can: a delicious lo-fi sound that’s not at all immature. This feels like the album before the album that makes Segall mega-famous. Check it out, and you can tell your friends you knew him when.
Widowspeak sounds like Twin Sister with edge, and while that puts them somewhere between bunny rabbits and cotton candy on the edge-o-meter, it’s endearing, I promise. Molly Hamilton’s breathy vocals float high above the music, which is firmly grounded in the prototypical rock style. This is the sound that’s going to take chillwave into 2011 and make us all forget how tired we were of it. Whenever you start to feel that “indie-pop” is a dirty word, a new band manages to prove you wrong. Right now, it’s Widowspeak.
4. Cat’s Eyes—Cat’s Eyes
Horrors frontman Faris Badwan and opera singer Rachel Zeffira have teamed up to form Cat’s Eyes, and they sound like 1960s girl groups meets post-punk—simultaneously sweet, airy, dark, and foreboding. Gloom and despair undercut even the cheeriest lyrics on songs with titles like “The Best Person I Know.” Sure, it’s a bit heavy on the theatrics, but Badwan and Zeffira wisely made the album only half an hour long, and by the final track, you won’t even be close to tiring of the melodrama.
5. Gillian Welch—The Harrow and the Harvest
The Harrow and the Harvest may be my number five album of the summer, but it’s definitely your mom’s number one. Gillian Welch has long been alt-country royalty, and she doesn’t disappoint on this album of steady, sedate, back-to-basics folk. Yes, the L.A. native is seemingly unembarrassed to put on a country twang and sing, “I was so happy with Mama and Pappy down along the Dixie line,” and yes, I did fall asleep the first time I tried to listen to the album in its entirety, but Welch’s songwriting is solid, and she really does recall the classic American folk stylings of the likes of Dylan and Seeger. Plus, your mom’s awesome; throw her a bone.