What’s the Greatest Summer Album of All Time? Round One

Take a stroll through The Suburbs or get whisked away to Graceland. Your pick!

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Two weeks ago, Consequence of Sound asked its readers to join them on a quest in finding The Greatest Summer Album of All Time. As expected, thousands submitted three top contenders for the title, which offered one lively afternoon for our intern, who tallied them up, trimmed the fat, and put together the appropriate bracket below. By the way, that intern’s name is Stevie Dunbar, so if this all goes according to plan, you can thank him later as you’re listening to whatever album wins.

summeralbums ROUND 1

Similar to previous tournaments, we’re going to ask you to vote on each matchup to take us to the next round. That means you’ll have to decide between Animal Collective or Kanye, Arcade Fire or Queens of the Stone Age, and, yes, Vampire Weekend over Paul Simon. It’s an arduous task, no doubt, but by the end, we’ll finally know which album to wax nostalgic over. If you need a little sunlight to find the right answer, perhaps you can spark a discussion in the comments below. As always, be civil.

Pet Sounds vs. Forever Changes

Image (18) petsounds.jpeg for post 388490

Pet Sounds could be, from my perspective, the greatest album of all time. The fact that its lush sounds fit in the summer is simply a minor point of reference. However, there’s a sunny tilt to Brian Wilson’s masterpiece. It’s a compendium of raw emotion: happiness, longing, confusion, frustration at the nomadic way life unfolds. But you never doubt for a second that its existentialist musings come from anything other than a place of unequivocal love for the weird world around him. –Dean Essner

Love_-_forever_changes

Forever Changes doesn’t exactly approach summer romantically or treat it as the temporary heaven-scape that your prototypical “summer album” probably paints, but more in the way that summer can seem in places that don’t reap all the transitional satisfactions of true springs and falls: an unsettling limbo. It’s a summer album by way of being such a Los Angeles album. If anything, the closest that we get to anything resembling laid-back appreciation is a perfect sunflower of a guitar solo halfway through a song that’s called “Bummer in the Summer”. Altogether, the album is a nuanced portrait of what it meant to be young, scared, and horny in Los Angeles in 1967, but also how everlasting sunshine will make you long for the changes. –Steven Arroyo

The Suburbs vs. Songs for the Deaf

Image (3) arcade-fire-the-suburbs.png for post 102339

The vision of bored teenagers’ hair flying in the wind on hazy summer days throughout all of suburbia is something that’s had no shortage of representation in American pop culture, from film to bad reality shows. And at times, The Suburbs is mistaken by the undiscerning for another celebration of middle-class ennui. However, Arcade Fire’s acclaimed LP is actually about the schisms inherent in the most nondescript parts of America, the angst laying beneath the dreamy listlessness and always similar houses. If Win Butler sang of how “I don’t wanna live in my father’s house no more” on Neon Bible’s “Windowsill”, The Suburbs is about the pain of watching year after year pass without ever actually getting out. –Dominick Mayer

Songs+For+The+Deaf

Whereas “summer albums” are often toothsome (i.e., sweet-sounding), the Queens’ third album has fangs. More-than-heavy guitars and grim vocals abound, but if that doesn’t sound like cheerful road trip material, there’s the fact that it’s literally a road trip album, buckling the listener in shotgun (or maybe roped-up in the trunk) on a drive from L.A. to Joshua Tree. Following “The Real Song for the Deaf”, aka “track zero”, a car turns on, the driver twists the radio dial, and with Nick Oliveri’s opening screams on “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire”, the rest is a whole lotta leadfooting. Torque comes from the riffage of Josh Homme as well as guests Brendon McNichol and Dean Ween, while Dave Grohl’s drumming hits as hard as anything he did in his stool behind Kurt. –Michael Madden

Since I Left You vs. Sound of Silver

the avalanches Whats the Greatest Summer Album of All Time? Round One

Over an estimated 3,500 vinyl samples, the international decadence of Since I Left You shifts between sounds that tickle the mind, body, and soul of any adventurous listener. The Avalanches originally orchestrated the hour-long masterpiece to be a concept of sorts, “an international search for love from country to country,” and while that idea was abandoned, the global gallivanting comes across in the way the samples shift from The Mamas & The Papas to Edmundo Ros to Richard Pryor to Françoise Hardy. The album’s seafaring cover, tracks like “Pablo’s Cruise” or “Little Journey”, and even Prince Paul, who repeatedly insists he “had to book a flight tonight,” all make for an aggressive push to get out of the house and into the world. What better time for that than the summer? Fuck Rick Steves, you got this. –Michael Roffman

 Whats the Greatest Summer Album of All Time? Round One

Sound of Silver is a highly nostalgic record. On “All My Friends”, James Murphy famously longs for the social life of his teenage years, when spending time with people wasn’t at all about ending a streak of loneliness and solitude. Summer, similarly, is about looking backwards. As you get older, certain aspects of the beach suddenly become a nuisance: There’s the traffic, the crowd, the noise. You need to plan. Sound of Silver is all about wishing that we could stop micromanaging our fun to instead try and live again. –Dean Essner

Merriweather Post Pavillion vs. The College Dropout

146724merriweather 0 Whats the Greatest Summer Album of All Time? Round One

Animal Collective’s pinnacle, frontier-penetrating album Merriweather Post Pavillion was designed, written, produced, arranged, and even named to translate the most precise details and strongest sensations that come from lying out in the summer-baked grass. Somehow, that they couldn’t wait for its spirit season to have us hear it and dropped it in January served that mission even better; just as Die Hard went down forever as a “Christmas movie” in July of ’88, Merriweather’s clunkily timed birthday became a testament to its evocative power. Not even a week into 2009, three ritualistic daydreamers delivered us a 55-minute sneak peek of our futures in six months and made them sound impossibly bright. –Steven Arroyo

the college dropout Whats the Greatest Summer Album of All Time? Round One

Much of Kanye West’s music doesn’t really fit with beaches and warm weather. On 808s and Heartbreak, West mournfully sang about the “Coldest Winter” through icy Auto-Tuned filters and deeply personal lyrics. Yeezus too was barren and cold enough to evoke anything but the summertime. However, with his earlier material, there was more than enough sunshine and humor to brighten things up. The College Dropout marked everyone’s introduction to Kanye West’s good kid in a mad city persona, and his characteristic soulful productions. Kicking off the summer with a skit about a graduation, West raps on “We Don’t Care”, “This is for my niggas outside all winter, ’cause this they ain’t finna say: next summer I’m finna.” –Josh Terry

Sublime vs. Blood Sugar Sex Magik

sublime Whats the Greatest Summer Album of All Time? Round One

“This ain’t no funky reggae party,” late Sublime frontman Brad Nowell insists on opener “Garden Grove”, but I beg to differ. Sublime is indeed a funky reggae party with ska, punk, hip-hop, and alt rock also on the guest list and, what’s more, an inextricable summer vibe. The heat of a mellow Long Beach slacker summer practically radiates off these songs. Hell, just look at the band themselves. Scavenger hunt: try to find a Sublime-era photo of the band where someone isn’t in shorts, sleeveless, or shirtless. Brad, Bud, Eric, and Lou Dog are why convenience stores have “No shoes, no shirt, no service” policies. And the record itself plays exactly like what you’d imagine an LB summer day would be like for these guys: waking up with a cigarette (“What I Got”), checkin’ in on the girl (“Wrong Way”), putting in an appearance down at the riot (“April 29, 1992”), swinging by the pawn shop (“Pawn Shop”), and heading home to unwind for the night (“Doin’ Time”). –Matt Melis

RHCP Blue Sugar Sex Magik

It’s tough choosing just one summer album from the Chili Peppers’ canon, especially if it’s not the one called Californication with the damned swimming pool (literally: it’s a swimming pool from hell) on the cover. But Blood Sugar Sex Magik stands alone at the funky, freaky summit, with a collection of radio-ready hits (“Give It Away,” “Breaking the Girl”) flanked by more sexual innuendo than you could shake a strategically placed tube sock at. The Chili Peppers have always been aggressively Californian, but credit producer Rick Rubin for dialing down the distortion and helping them achieve a sound worthy of all that bare skin. –Collin Brennan

King of the Beach vs. Slanted and Enchanted

wavves cover

No album sums up the season’s chilled-out indifference and raucous, warm-weathered antics like King of the Beach. “Super Soaker”, “Post Acid”, and “Idiot” make sure of it, throwing a punch to our teenage selves to pass the blunt before the succinct 37 minutes of lo-fi garage rock ends and beach-obsessed lyrics stop giving us a reason to flip off our stodgy summer jobs. So high-five aimless boredom, re-watch Wayne’s World, and woo that summer fling with “Green Eyes”. Just promise Nathan Williams you mean it when you sing, “I’m stuck in the sky, I’m never coming down.” –Nina Corcoran

pavement slanted

Teenage summers filled with lazy afternoons, loads of half-admitted emotions and mischievous smirks, hope, happiness, heartbreak, and plenty of messy fun. Just the way that young summer seems nothing but airy and light in hindsight, Stephen Malkmus imbued the “Summer Babe” with just enough of the wintery pain and confusion that we all felt on those late-night walks. There are “Loretta’s Scars” and the insistence of want and try in “In the Mouth a Desert” and “Conduit for Sale!”. They even find the place where summer ends in “No Life Singed Her”. But let’s not play up the frustration and angst too much; Malkmus and Pavement always managed to find the head-rocking catharsis of those moments too, coming together in the vibrant life that those adolescent summers offered. –Adam Kivel

Graceland vs. Vampire Weekend

Paul Simon - Graceland

“These are the days of miracle and wonder.” Like most people, I don’t know if I exactly know what summer is supposed to sound like, but I know how it feels. That line from “The Boy in the Bubble”, the jaunty lead track of Paul Simon’s pop meets world music masterpiece Graceland, hits the spirit of summertime square on the head. Of course, that’s just one snippet of an album that thematically and sonically dives headfirst into summertime like a dip in your neighbor’s backyard pool. It’s light and airy, but it’s far from fragile. Instead, it’s the kind of record that’s impossible to listen to sitting still. But don’t fight it. Let your foot tap away. –Ryan Bray

vampireweekendcd2 Whats the Greatest Summer Album of All Time? Round One

Armed with a copy of Paul Simon’s Graceland, a pair of Perry’s boat shoes, and Ezra Koenig’s endlessly quotable witticisms, in 2008 Vampire Weekend released one of the most instantly lovable debut albums. With songs like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” successfully referencing a Congolese dance rhythm and “Peter Gabriel too.” Boasting island-infused guitar work, tribal percussion, and a strong dose of clever melodies, Vampire Weekend is one of the brightest debuts of the last decade. The perfect soundtrack for self-aware yacht parties, novel reading at the beach, and classy cookouts. –Josh Terry

Channel Orange vs. Random Access Memories

Frank Ocean Channel Orange

On “Sweet Life”, Frank Ocean wonders “Why see the world when you’ve got the beach?” Later, he drops another resonating line in the “best song wasn’t the single.” That’s certainly true on Channel Orange, where each song reveals a sort of introspection and emotional clarity. There are the sunny songs like “Sweet Life”, the snappy “Pilot Jones”, or the tongue-in-cheek jingle “Fertilizer”, but Ocean’s summer is more melancholic, dreamily singing about unrequited love on “Thinkin’ About You” and “Bad Religion”. Sometimes, even in the warmth, you just need to go to beach by yourself, lost in your lonely thoughts. –Josh Terry

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories Artwork

If you were anywhere in public last summer, you probably heard the earworm chorus of “Get Lucky”, and you probably heard it too often. But, Daft Punk’s excellent Random Access Memories had loads more sun-soaked melodies than last year’s song of summer contender. With the breezy, Auto-Tuned Julian Casablancas-assisted “Instant Crush”, Pharrell’s soulfully fun vocal turn on “Lose Yourself to Dance”, and the surprise smash “Doin’ It Right”, which featured Animal Collective’s Panda Bear, the album was full of songs to soundtrack the warmth and summer fun. –Josh Terry

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