There was much talk in 2007 and 2008 in the music press about how For Emma, Forever Ago -- Bon Iver's thrice-released, highly-lauded debut -- was very much a winter album. The music press wasn't lying; I'm sure many of Vernon's biggest fans are still in hibernation as I type this. But what of the winter album's much sunnier cousin, the summer album?
My first concrete understanding of the "summer album" came in 2006 in the form of The Gold Record, the Bouncing Souls' sixth full-length. I was 17 when it dropped and the intensity and instantaneousness of the impact it had on my summer -- though I barely listened to it at all come that fall and winter -- made me realize that this "summer album" archetype was a potent force for musical magic.
To my mind, a proper summer record has to have a bunch of things. First and foremost, the album must be released during the summertime, and preferably near the beginning, to ensure maximum replayability. The cover should use primarily warm colours, and it should include summer heat-inspired lyrics. Musically, pop sensibilities must run rampant. It has to sound fun; you want this to deliver a pep into your step when it blasts through your headphones. And you also want to play this from your car stereo as you drive around with your best buddies while feeling great about life, so it's gotta have a good measure of sing-along-ability.
One band particularly adept at the summer album is Bedouin Soundclash. A quick scan of their album covers reveals almost entirely red, yellow and orange hues... All of their releases have been put out between May Day and the autumnal equinox... Hmm. Musically, Bedouin's always been pretty summery, too. Their sound -- a blend of reggae, dub and ska, with a dash of the Clash and a pinch of the Police thrown in for good measure, played by kids from Kingston (Kingston, Ontario, that is) -- meshes perfectly with the more temperate clime of the warmer months. They know how to do catchy, anthemic stuff -- their biggest hit, "When the Night Feels My Song" comes to mind, sure, but also "Johnny Go to New York," "Santa Monica," "Natural Right (Rude Bwoy)," "Money Worries," the first four songs on Street Gospels, "Gunships" and so on -- and Jay Malinowski's lyrics gain a certain universality from their vagueness of detail and simple vocabulary, making them easy and fun to sing along to, if you've got a lyric sheet handy, and, well, easy and fun to hum and mumble along to if you don't.
Where Have the Songs Played Gone To?, despite the awkward syntax of its title, and the fact that it's 80% Street Gospels B-sides, is a collection of five Bedouin Soundclash songs that are unlikely to disappoint their fans, and which form a pretty fucking solid choice for the highly coveted "Summer EP of the Summer" Award. From the absolutely unbelievably catchy guitar riff that runs rampant through "Radio Palais" and the simple, upbeat upstrokes and 'hey hey'ing of "Talking Man," to the slow jangle of "Stand Alone" and the sweltering heat palpable in the lone new cut, "On My Block," this is an undeniably fun listen. I'm not crazy about Track 3, "Disgeneration," but it's hardly a bad song -- it just doesn't stand out, sandwiched between these other four strong tracks. In any case, the record's short enough that it never gets boring, and Bedouin don't feel the need to deviate from their formula -- "Hush" springs to mind -- to keep it fresh all the way through.
So, Where Have the Songs Played Gone To? -- all 16:34 of it -- has gotta be, pound for pound, the summeriest shit of this summer, and that's the double truth, Ruth. What else can I say? Cop it like it's hot.