As we are now fully immersed in autumn, it’s never been a better time to admit that you’re missing the scorching sun or that perfect beach vacation. Though the temperatures aren’t getting hot anytime soon, here are some summery indie rock albums that will warm you right back up.
Wavves - “King of the Beach” (Fat Possum; 2010)
Kicking off this list is Wavves’ “King of the Beach,” an album perfect if you’re looking to spend a day laying on the sand and doing the bare minimum. The title track is a mission statement for the true (or wannabe) garage rock surf-slackers around the world, as frontman Nathan Williams lazily declares: “Let the sun burn my eyes / Let it burn my back.” The desert-y “Idiot,” post-punk revival-tinged “Take on the World”, and the excessively peppy “Super Soaker” are all tipsy, yet sober enough to keep you from falling asleep on your longboard. Other highlights like “Green Eyes” or “Linus Spacehead” might make you feel something other than constant lethargy and the endlessly fun “Post-Acid” has a chorus so perfectly dead simple that you’ll be able to repeat it on first listen.
Joyce Manor - “Joyce Manor” (6131 Records; 2012)
As fierce as wimpy music can get, Joyce Manor’s cult-classic debut clocks in at just under 20 minutes and wastes no time delivering one instantaneous earworm after another. Through combinations of bittersweet power pop, pop punk and a nice pinch of righteous emo group the Get Up Kids, the band effortlessly crafted timeless tracks like the spunky, fidgety “Call Out” and the Weezer-esq midtempo waltz of “Beach Community.”
Unlike many of their contemporaries though, S/T doesn’t consistently sound like a whiny, West Coast teenager’s diary. For example: the painfully heartbroken “Leather Jacket,” where vocalist Barry Johnson seamlessly straddles the line between tender and gruff in the vein of acts like Jawbreaker or Hot Water Music. Further high points include the fantastic verse melody on “Ashtray Petting Zoo” and the 90-second rager “Famous Friend,” both of which easily rival any of their contemporary nerd-punk friends. And who can forget the monstrous closing track “Constant Headache,” which not only is the band’s signature tune but the most essential emo anthem of the 2010s. See, I told you Mom – it’s not just a phase.
La Sera - “Sees the Light” (Hardly Art; 2012)
Out of all the Vivian Girls side projects, it’s safe to say that Katy Goodman’s La Sera stands out as being the most prolific and consistently fun among the others. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in their sophomore album, “Sees the Light.” If you’re not already familiar with tunes like “Please Be My Third Eye” and “Break My Heart” then be warned – they’re so instantaneously fun and catchy that you will be singing them for at least the next week.
Goodman was truly in her bag vocally, as she constantly perfectly melts into (“Love That’s Gone”) or soars over (“I’m Alone”) the velvet, spring-reverb-ed guitars you’ll find littered across this record. The '60s girl group vibes from much of the Vivs’ finest work carry over to this record too, albeit more cleaned up. Take the blissful chorus of “I Can’t Keep You in My Mind” or the breezy, puppy-eyed ballad “Real Boy” as perfect starters. The energy is great. The songs are sunny. It’s just a really fun listen – what else do you need to hear?
Black Lips - “Arabia Mountain” (Vice; 2011)
There are a few acts you can never go wrong with when looking for punky garage jams, and Atlanta’s Black Lips are at the top of that list. In 2011, the boys surprisingly teamed up with legendary pop producer Mick Ronson to churn out “Arabia Mountain,” a slight clean-up for the band’s sound that luckily was done right. At its core, it’s still a grimy Southern rock record, but Ronson allowed the band to deliver these nasty punk tunes with just a little more liveliness. Dare I say, more danceable.
The fiery “Family Tree” ranks among the band’s best openers, the riffs flare with endless attitude on moments like “Modern Art” and “Noc-a-Homa,” and for the tried and true punks, the Lips still throw in some tasteful Ramones worship on songs like “Raw Meat” and “New Direction.” There are also plenty of slacker cuts parodying boomer rock, paired with hilarious narratives through tracks like “Dumpster Dive” and “Don’t Mess Up My Baby.” Perhaps the most charming highlight is the ragged sunshine pop of “Spidey’s Curse,” which is literally about the web-shooting neighborhood hero. While it’s not their magnum opus, this record stands as one of the quartet’s strongest efforts and is certainly an LP that sounds so arid and blazing you’ll get sunburnt after one listen.
Tony Molina - “Dissed and Dismissed” (Slumberland; 2014)
If you’re not familiar with lo-fi power pop addict Tony Molina through his myriad of musical projects, a great place to start is “Dissed and Dismissed” – his debut solo album. Rather than being a true full-length album, his solo debut clocks in at 11 minutes. Yes, you read that correctly – and get this: it’s a concept album about a breakup. It certainly seems gimmicky at first, but Tony essentially mastered the sub-two-minute pop rock “song” by keeping things exciting, crunchy and most importantly – insanely catchy. Have your doubts? Look no further than the 49-second opener, “Nowhere to Go.”
Despite its brevity, Molina makes every second count and skillfully knows how to pull the listener’s emotions. Take the chord progression of “Can’t Believe” or the gloomy solo-slow burner “Nothing I Can Do,” both of which will rip your heartstrings to shreds. He also bleeds his influences in the best way possible, such as Dinosaur Jr. on “Change My Ways” and the dreary yet lyrically savage closing track “Walk Away.” Not to mention the Muffs on cuts like “Tear Me Down” and “The Way Things Are,” Guided By Voices on the runtimes and “W.B.P.” cover, as well as nearly every track leading out with facemelting, dueling guitar solos in the vein of Thin Lizzy. It’s a ridiculously hooky 11-minute break-up rock album that by the time it’s over, you’ll want to replay the entire thing.
Natural Child - “Natural Child” EP (Infinity Cat; 2010)
As for a small bonus, here’s a little gem that is slept on heavily. Hailing from Nashville, Natural Child is a band that has taken on many forms of southern rock music, from jam band territory to weirdo lo-fi recordings. However, their earliest work holds up as some of the finest garage nonsense the Music City has ever seen, and their debut EP is proof.
Much like the Black Lips, the humor and energy the Natural Child boys bring are incredibly funny, dumb, lethargic, and most importantly – really infectious. The four (or five depending on the version you seek out) tracks are all fire. There’s the hysterical party-rock barnburner “Crack Mountain,” the short, sweet and absurd “Cougar,” the wild and loose strut of “Shame Walkin’” and the sparky “Dogbite,” which ends off in some killer ragtag vocal harmonies. I’m telling you – check this thing out, it’s a blast.