Last week, Consequence of Sound kicked off its end-of-summer tournament in search of The Greatest Summer Album of All Time. Not surprisingly, the first round received thousands of votes, but unlike past challenges, most of the matchups came incredibly close in the polls. For example, Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion edged out Kanye West’s The College Dropout by 16 votes, while Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs locked out Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf by only 31 votes.
There were blowouts, however. There was really no Love for their classic, Forever Changes, leaving The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds as a clear victor. Few opted for The Avalanches’ Since I Left You over LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver. And while Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik gave Sublime a run for its money, the late Bradley Nowell came out on top.
This week, the challenges get even harder. So take a look below, flip to each write-up, and then vote.
Deadline: You have until Wednesday, August 28th to vote.
Pet Sounds vs. Sound of Silver
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
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
Sublime vs. Vampire Weekend
“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
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
The Suburbs vs. Merriweather Post Pavillion
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
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
Slanted and Enchanted vs. Random Access Memories
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
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