Summer’s best music: 2008 edition

| Music Editor

Long days… warm weather… being in, on and around large bodies of water…no school…not to mention Shark Week. We associate all of these pleasures with the summer season, arguably the most romanticized season of the year. It is a well-known fact that all seasons, particularly summers, have a soundtrack, and this year’s was no exception: It saw many high and low profile releases.

While every summer has its share of hits and misses, this one had more than its fair share of hits. Thus, instead of highlighting some arbitrary number of “best” releases, we here at Cadenza have provided you with something different. While you were enjoying summer’s niceties, we worked tirelessly (okay, so we did take a break for Shark Week), stealing (errrr—legally purchasing) and listening to the summer’s offerings. We are now proud to present to you our finished work: a complete(ish) guide to this summer’s music.

The big names of summer

Death Cab for Cutie opened the summer by releasing “Narrow Stairs,” a darker album than previous releases. It features the single “I Will Possess Your Heart,” a gutsy choice at more than eight minutes long. The album was a welcome improvement over “Plans” and even rivals their breakout album “Transatlanticism.” Also in May, Lil Wayne released “Tha Carter III” after months of hype and countless delays due to leaks. The album sold more than one million copies in the first week, making the mixtape boatloads of cash and proving that even during the summer of digital downloads people still buy CDs. Alanis Morissette released her first album since her break-up with Ryan Reynolds and showed the world that she’s best when depressed. While it’s no “Jagged Little Pill” (which is to be expected, since Ryan Reynolds is no Dave Coulier), it’s definitely her best work in years. Coldplay released their Spanish-influenced, Brian Eno-produced “Viva La Vida,” and while it is a significant improvement from “X & Y,” it’s still clearly a Coldplay album. The album casts itself into the purgatory that is the listener’s indifference. Another surprise release this summer was Beck’s latest, “Modern Guilt.” Produced by Danger Mouse (best known for his work as the half of Gnarls Barkley that doesn’t sing), the album is surprisingly boring. Fortunately it’s only a half hour in length so trying to make oneself like it isn’t too much of a time-waster. Sigur Ros, everyone’s second favorite Icelandic artists (sorry guys, but Bjork really is that good) released their latest, which includes their first song written entirely in English. While the album is one of the best of the summer, it’s still not quite as good as “( )” and it’s shown us that it’s more fun not knowing the meaning of their lyrics, if you don’t speak Icelandic, that is. Conor Oberst, the prolific singer-songwriter who leads the band Bright Eyes, released his first solo album in 12 years. The self-titled release is a folk album that focuses on the theme of escape. While it’s not his best work overall, the self-titled release is a welcome return from the terrific flop that was Bright Eyes’ last album, “Cassadega.” Finally, after months of conflict over the name of the album, Nas released his latest without a title.

The further rise of the digital release

The summer of 2008 was the summer of the digital release. Ace Enders, the former lead singer/songwriter of the Early November opened the summer releasing “The Secret Wars,” his first solo effort under his own name (plus “A Million Different People”) on the music television station Fuse’s Web site for free. While at first the eight-track album made waves within the music community for its method of distribution, it was also noted for being some of the best material Ace has written. Tracks such as “Reaction” and “Why Do You Run” are as infectious and poppy as anything he’s put out with the Early November, while “Bring Back Love (Year 2020)” is a track that is somehow truly touching and inspiring while simultaneously embarrassingly campy. Girl Talk followed Enders’ big digital release with what could be argued was the second biggest hit of the summer (after “Tha Carter III” of course). “Feed the Animals” was released through the Illegal Art’s Web site using the “pay-whatever-you-feel-like-paying” scheme Radiohead debuted last October. The album, like its predecessor “Night Ripper,” is an instant party starter with clever mash-ups of the biggest pop artists of our time. While the entire album is dance party gold, the mash-up of Ace of Base’s “All That She Wants” with Cassidy’s “My Drink n My 2 Step” is the clear winner, standing alone as the best on the album. Finally, in mid-August, Bloc Party announced to the world that they had completed their third album, “Intimacy,” and just days later released it digitally. The album came as a huge surprise to fans and journalists as its release was not expected until early 2009. A full review of “Intimacy” will appear in a future issue of Student Life.

This summer’s “summer music”

We all know what summer music is: more fun, geared primarily toward high school kids, and it sure isn’t serious. In the past, summer music was traditional pop—the latest single from Britney, Jessica, Christina or any other pale-skinned, large-chested, highly choreographed pop “artist.”

However, the kids’ tastes have changed, and now it’s largely dominated by the current “scenes” emo/screamo/pop-punk, or whatever you want to call it.

This summer saw the release of an immense amount of summer music. Bands that are relatively new to the scene and blend together to the point of being indistinguishable released much of it. Cute is What We Aim For, Hit the Lights, Rookie of the Year, There for Tomorrow, the Maine and a slew of other similarly poorly-named emo/pop-punk groups are all examples of bands that released albums this summer as part of the “new scene.” While all of their albums were definitely similar, the Maine did it the best.

Big names from older scenes also debuted new albums. Alkaline Trio released “Agony & Irony,” a clear departure from the production value that had steadily increased starting with “From Here to Infirmary” and culminating in their last album, “Crimson.”

While not their best material, the album is solid, catchy and distinctly Alkaline Trio. Weezer released their third self-titled album (sporting a red cover) this summer. While the album is unquestionably terrible, it is so much better than their last release, “Make Believe” that it has allowed fans of old Weezer to admit their love again. Anthony Green (best known for his main gig as the singer in Circa Survive) released a solo album this August. Unfortunately, the album is mind-numbingly mediocre and will likely only make it into a true fan’s album rotation.
Finally, this summer saw releases from a slew of screamo/hardcore bands, particularly those of a specific subgenre recently (and hilariously) dubbed “lolcore” which can be best described as having both melodic and screaming vocals, mind-numbingly catchy hooks and dumb lyrics that take themselves way too seriously.

The best release from this subgenre this summer is A Skylit Drive’s “Wires… And the Concept of Breathing.” The album sounds a bit different; it’s their first with new singer Michael “Jag” Jagmin, but maintains the ridiculous lyrics and infectious intensity that made their first EP, “She Watched the Sky” so fantastic. While not as good as “Wires… And the Concept of Breathing,” Dance Gavin Dance, Alesana, and Emarosa also all put out new records full of solid lolcore summer music.