Four diverse albums added musical interest to summer
Bloom – Beach House (May 15)
Beach House’s aptly-titled fourth studio album progresses like an algae bloom over deep water, one that washes over you and gets in your eyes and ears and mouth.
Bloom takes it slow, allowing the dreamy synth, electro-drones and deliberately plodding guitar to sink in, accentuated by vocalist Victoria Legrand’s breathy, commanding alto.
Individual tracks on this album are less like linear stories than they are like portraits of emotions, most commonly bittersweet wistfulness grounded in the sighs of jaded youth.
This is a sentiment similar to the feel of Beach House’s earlier albums, especially the polished dream-pop of Teen Dream, but what sets Bloom apart is its cohesiveness and flow.
The album does exactly as its title suggests: in a smooth wash of sound that maintains Beach House’s signature dreamy, wistful pathos, each song takes root and blooms into a parasitic flower in your brain that provides the perfect backdrop for angst-ridden summer nights.
There’s No Leaving Now – The Tallest Man on Earth (June 11)
If Kristian Matsson’s debut and sophomore LPs were like salutes from distant mountaintops, There’s No Leaving Now is a kiss on the forehead.
Leaving is much more richly orchestrated with strings, woodwinds and percussion, where the tone of other albums was at best whimsical wanderlust and at worst piercing bitterness.
Leaving is the sound of a man settling into his own skin and liking it.
Matsson’s skill as a melodist comes through in “Little Brother,” a song that with unusual lyrical clarity displays Matsson’s growing vocal range and tender gruffness.
With the sense of joyful lyricism and newfound contentment that pervade this album, the hyperbolically-self-styled Tallest Man on Earth may have to change his name to “A Man Who Has Finally Found Friends His Height.”
channel ORANGE – Frank Ocean (July 10)
After causing a splash with his open letter via Tumblr announcing his attraction to men, Frank Ocean’s July 10 album was very much in the public eye at the time of its release —and it did not disappoint, tackling such themes as unrequited love, sex, drug addiction and class struggle in a dark, glittering portrait of L.A.
Characterized by sensual, mid-tempo songs and surreal imagery, Ocean’s channel ORANGE hooks from the first moment and propels the listener through a masterful, fluid debut LP.
The “orange” in the title refers to Ocean’s synesthesia, a condition in which the brain transposes sensations like music and color—and some of that synesthesia leaks through the music, allowing us to see Ocean painting rich soundscapes with strings, synth beats and smooth guitar licks.
Ocean uses the full range of his R&B croon to punch you in the gut with each of the album’s 17 powerfully constructed tracks.
Tempest – Bob Dylan (Sept. 10)
Some of the summer’s most highly anticipated albums came just on the brink of fall, but Bob Dylan’s 35th studio album Tempest was well worth the wait.
For a man who has been writing American classics for 50 years, Dylan knows how to keep it fresh. The album maintains the hard-driving Americana blues sound of his last few albums.
Many of Tempest’s tracks follow American archetypes of murder ballads and train songs, but Dylan has never been comfortable maintaining the status quo.
Take the title track, “Tempest:” a nearly-14-minute epic ballad, written in Dylan’s characteristic blend of historical fact and poetic fancy, about the sinking of the Titanic “into the underworld.”
The gritty blues sound of other tracks slides into a softer country-western with an appearance by old-time fiddles.Stepping into this record feels at once familiar and edgy, brand-new and timeless.