Lighten Up: Summer Music '05

First off, seriously, invest in an iPod Otter. It’s this little polyurethane badboy that snaps around your iPod and makes it impermeable to water. Perfect for plopping it down in beach sand. Also good because you don’t have to worry about your idiot friends spilling beer on it or touching it with their nasty BBQ sauce-stained fingers.

The best summer albums aren’t ones that sound like summer, or ones that feel like summer, or ones that are even remotely about summer. They are just the ones that happen to be playing while you do summer things. The Neptunes and Brian Wilson could join forces to make a song so sunny and warm that just hearing it made you plump like a Ball Park Frank. But that still wouldn’t be as memorable as that annoying Audioslave song on the radio while you watched your brother accidentally light his apron on fire at the Independence Day barbeque.

This year’s best summery indie-rock records are from Canada. Do they even have summer in Canada? If you don’t hear New Pornographers at whatever hipster vegan grillfest you attend this year, you’ll probably hear ‘em on The O.C., even though it might be a little unnerving for those kids — it’s both super sunny and a little bit apocalyptic. Track four sounds like Jesus Christ Superstar rising from the dead to kick Polyphonic Spree’s pasty asses! Look for the album sometime in August.
Most Serene Republic (also from Canada) are on Arts & Crafts Records, which is hot right now, and the album drops in June. The kid on the album cover is already in a pool, so they’ve done half the work for you, I guess. There’s six of them, and they are crazy eclectic. At times it's totally overblown lushness, other times it's just accordions and handclaps. They’ll scream total bummer stuff like, “She took a sad song and made it sadder,” but it sounds like a party jam.
Coming in August is T. Raumschmiere. Imagine dirty, ugly, disgustingly distorted beats turned into total pump-up anthems. Its like Andrew WK with a laptop. It sounds like dance music and feels like punk rock. This crazy guy in Berlin got so bored with electronic music that he tried to make an album that felt like his old punk rock bands as a kid.

J-Live’s new record touches a lot of the same ground as Kanye West, but J-Live is a lot more humble because he never really broke. So many summer hip-hop anthems are rooted in escapism—think suburban kids grilling up hot dogs listening to Dr. Dre and Snoop going 187. J-Live raps about how he grew up on the comparatively less-rough upper east side and how much he loved being a schoolteacher—but he’s thankfully not one of those hippie-dippy conscious rappers either.
Excepter Throne is good for passing out on the beach. It kind of sounds like what a sunset sounds like. It’s mostly just moaning into distortion pedals, but it’s formlessness is totally gorgeous. They’re certainly not the best noise band out there, but their undulating goo is pretty transfixing if you’re headed for late-night swims. It’s like Margaritaville for people with serious emotional damage.

Christopher R. Weingarten is the music editor at CMJ New Music Monthly.