Summer 2018 is defined by four highly-anticipated albums: Ariana Grande’s Sweetener, Travis Scott’s Astroworld, the Kid Cudi and Kanye West collaboration Kids See Ghosts, and Nicki Minaj’s Queen.
Perhaps these albums remind you of the worry-free days spent lounging in the sun, sleeping till noon, surrounding yourself with friends, and probably not picking up your summer reading book once. Or, perhaps you only heard any of these albums blasting from the radios of other friends’ cars, and never your own. While these albums were each wildly successful in their own light, does that necessarily make them the absolute best albums of the summer?
Of course not. The amount of money made does not define a true masterpiece. A true masterpiece is so carefully crafted that any listener is going to play it on repeat for months at a time and feel like they are entirely above the world the whole time, all the while fellow musicians curse themselves for not thinking of that idea first.
Luckily for you, four other albums released this summer that stole everyone and everything’s shine, including the sun, thanks to the musically-brilliant minds of Clairo, Jorja Smith, Gorillaz and Foster the People.
Clairo intimately vocalizes lyrics bursting of jumbled feelings, longing and racing thoughts- all of which you would place in a diary with a lock and key- on her appropriately named, first full-length album, diary 001. After finally listening to the face of bedroom pop’s so-called diary, I have been praying for many, many more. The album is conversational at times, possibly written through multiple entries directed to the “B.O.M.D.”, otherwise known as the boy of Clairo’s dreams. With two viral hits to her name, Clairo’s sound is more polished than ever heard before, slightly retouching the acclaimed “Flaming Hot Cheetos” as well as “Pretty Girl”. Featuring the experimental Rejjie Snow on “Hello?” and a dreamy rough-cut of “How”, I am hoping Clairo has more to say in diary002.
Jorja Smith has had an accomplished year, from earning a well-deserved spot on the Coachella lineup to being one of the most influential artists behind the incredibly best-selling Black Panther soundtrack. Did I mention that she did all of this without having an album to her name? In comes Lost & Found: a collection of mysterious, whispery ballads, each with a distinctively fresh vibration. Jorja’s voice is perfectly her own, illustrating experiences of love, being lost and in her own words, being found again. Mending perfectly distorted piano riffs and deep bass lines, each song on Lost & Found likens Smith to that of a modern-Winehouse. The simplistic yet atmospheric tones of “Blue Light” and “February 3rd” as well as the stripped-back, emotional “Goodbyes” showcase Jorja at her strongest.
Damon Albarn has done it yet again, and again. Only a mere year after the release of Gorillaz’s lengthy, 26-track album politically and electronically fueled Humanz, Albarn is back, and back for good. The Now Now brings Gorillaz fans a taste of the long-gone eras of the previously released Plastic Beach, Demon Days, and self-titled Gorillaz. While Humanz featured a plethora of collaborators, and only a small hint of what makes Gorillaz distinct sound: Albarn’s voice, The Now Now is him stripped back almost entirely, containing only one track showcasing any features and a remaining 10 tracks centered on his voice and famous melodica. “Humility” is the perfect summer track, accompanied with an amusing visual, courtesy of co-collaborator Jamie Hewlett, featuring the lanky, black-eyed character, 2d, roller skating in sunny Los Angeles. “Kansas” and “Souk Eye” come at a close second, combining the instrumental aspects of 2010’s The Fall as well as lyrics reflective to Albarn’s inner-thoughts.
Forget what you knew about Foster the People, except maybe the basslines that made them a house-name with the eccentric “Pumped Up Kicks”. Take the strength of that bass and multiply it by 100, and you will be slightly close to their latest treasure, Sacred Hearts Club. Sacred Hearts Club is a medley of Foster the People’s best characteristics: the unusual electronic sound-effects seen on Torches, Supermodel’s polished-yet-lively composition, Mark Foster’s vocal flexibility and Foster the People’s famous aspect of being entirely unpredictable. Sacred Hearts Club finds the group experimenting with a variety of sounds and genres, landing on that of a funky, throwback vibe, yet still holding the underlying electronic and bass-fueled tones. Foster’s lyrics paint an almost raunchy scene, with each song sounding more alluring than the last. With “Sit Next to Me” as an instant hit, the song that actually stands out the most is “SHC”. “SHC” places layered guitars over a jumpy bass line, cut by Foster’s clear, boisterous vocals. The strong track list, featuring “I Love My Friends” and “Lotus Eater”, will have you dancing through your end-of-summer blues.
Summer may have come to an end, but that does not mean that listening to good music has to come to an end. Sit back, relax and find yourself worry-free once again, thanks to the summer’s best hidden gems in music.