Lakes, backyards and parks are places we like to go in summer. Coolers, easy chairs, a good book and our favorite songs are the things we like to bring along.
Musical recordings matter more this time of year. MP3s and CDs make for sun-soaked memories we'll be recalling when snow shovels and hats are back in season.
Recently released Madison albums give local music fans worthy choices for summertime listening. The wide variety of genres says something about our scene's diversity. Still, every one of the discs I'm listening to right now sounds like it was made for July.
That's especially true of the old-time rock 'n' roll energy captured on Gone Not Lost, the new release by the Midwest Beat.
All 15 songs clock in at less than three minutes, and each is a blast of high-energy 1960s pop. The title track is verse-chorus-verse simplicity embellished by playful percussion breaks and sweet vocal harmonies. The electric guitar solo at the bridge is as melodic and memorable as the rest of the track.
The band can slow it down, too. "Firefly Blues" is the kind of be-true, angst-filled love song Brian Wilson mastered in his youth.
The instrumentation is mostly straight-ahead guitar, bass and drums. But on "Sister Mary Katherine," the group throws in a frenetic keyboard passage halfway through.
If you play the new Ritt Dietz album, Pop, right after listening to the Midwest Beat, you'll hear how rock evolved between the 1960s and 1970s. Pop's opening track, "Let Up," is a case in point.
The verse-chorus-verse structure is replaced by freestanding musical passages that loosely fit together.
There's a bluesy element to "Nothing I'd Rather Do," which recalls the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman." "The Landslide" evokes the mellow rock that also became mainstream in the 1970s. The restrained electric guitar gently supports the lead vocals, and the acoustic piano suggests spiritual wayfaring.
If you need a summertime chill, this CD is it.
Rising Gael are a local Celtic rock band known for spicing up live performances with their formidable dance skills. Their new CD, IV, is a mix of original and traditional songs that seamlessly blends Peter Tissot's acoustic guitar with Katie Dionne's amazing fiddling. Jeff Olson backs it up with a variety of percussion. He's known for playing the bodhran, a handheld Irish drum. Erin Ellison tops it all off with her graceful lead vocals.
IV is sometimes more Celtic and sometimes more rock. "Home Again" starts with acoustic guitar that sounds like a Dave Matthews song. The occasional entry of Dionne's fiddle gives the song a touch of Ireland.
The disc ends with a live version of "Donald McGillavry," the rowdy traditional Scottish song that's perfect for dancing a jig.
No local summer 2011 disc sounds more contemporary than the self-titled debut by Kyle & Keem. The duo blend Hakeem Myers' rapping with the singing, keyboard and production skills of Kyle Schlienger. Both graduated from Verona Area High School in June, and their song "Amazing" has been in regular rotation on 93.1 FM, Jamz.
"Fantasy" shows the way rap and pop have become intertwined in recent years. The chorus is sung. The verses are rapped. And the song structures hark back to the roots of pop.
Schlienger's production work on "Amazing" is just that. The swooning strings give the song its emotional edge. The chorus is pure pop sing-along. It's the definitive Madison summer album for the up-and-coming generation.
The middle of summer is here, and the great outdoors beckons. Whatever musical era you prefer, Madison bands have the songs you can take along.