SN&R’s 2018 End-of-Summer Music Guide
As constant sunshine withers away, celebrate with new Sacramento hip-hop, punk rock and rock ‘n’ roll
Summer albums are just as important as sunscreen. They set the mood at neighborhood barbecues and provide relaxing vibes during a lazy day spent floating down the river. They’re for hanging with friends and enjoying good vibes. Whether the tunes are upbeat-and-catchy or lyrically dark, the criteria is simple: As long as the album resonates with a particular moment in the listener’s life (and it’s released between the months of June and September), it’s summer-worthy.
And while we can’t deny how eternal Will Smith is, summer jams aren’t just the kingdom of the Fresh Prince. Here, in Sacramento, local artists are pumping out summer soundtracks like metaphorical Neutrogena.
SN&R cheers to the albums that got us through months of heatwaves and scorched skylines to send off the last days of summer:
Sun Valley Gun Club
The Water, The Stars
(June 8, 2018)
Despite its van getting stolen in Sacramento three days after completing a summer tour through states like Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado, Sun Valley Gun Club members Ashley Maiden (bass/vocals) and Evan Bailey (guitar/vocals) say they’re just glad none of the band’s equipment was in the vehicle.
“It did turn up. It apparently got stolen by some Satan worshippers,” Maiden says. “They tore a bunch of stuff apart and stole parts out and decorated the inside with some pentagrams and whatnot. There was also this weird-ass painting where the devil is doing some weird shit.”
Looking on the bright side, at least Satan-loving van thieves make for an entertaining story. And luckily, Sun Valley Gun Club still have all of its equipment to build on its summer release The Water, The Stars.
The album isn’t a typical summer album in that it’s not entirely upbeat or pop-driven and the lyrical content describes somber moments of despair and also explores feelings of loneliness. Yet, in spite of all these darker themes, Sun Valley Gun Club’s approach encompasses influences from early 2000s indie rock like Modest Mouse or Death Cab For Cutie—so it’s dark, but still fun. It’s relatable. Not everything is sunshine and rainbows and The Water, The Stars is an unapologetic glimpse into the real issues most of us keep hidden from the world.
“We’re probably the least summer jam, summer album,” Maiden says. “[We’re] your summer downer, to keep everything in perspective.” (Laughs.)
For Bailey, who co-wrote most of the album with sometimes drummer John Allen, one of the catchiest songs on the record, “You’re Falling Apart” simply describes the wax and wane of everyday life. It’s pepped up with a little moog and slightly overdriven guitars to lift the song’s vibe.
“There’s this feeling that is apropos to the content of the record, especially for artistic people like when you’re playing a show, things are going well and the next day you can be in a dark pit,” Bailey explains. “It can switch really quickly where you go from highs to lows. Being able to perform in front of people is always a high. That’s what ‘Falling Apart’ is to me.”
Summer School Again
(July 13, 2018)
No matter the grade, summer means freedom for many students. No more tests, homework or shuffling from class to class. But for those chosen few, there’s always summer school, and no album quite sums up the dreadful feelings of being trapped in academia quite like The Croissants’ latest album, Summer School Again.
“I think what makes a great summer album is when you’re able to tie it back to a time in your life,” says bassist Hans White. “Our songs are all about how much we don’t like going to summer school and I think we can all relate to that.”
The album is eight catchy, punk rock tunes that take on the alternative perspectives of loathing school, hoping not to get your ass kicked, wanting to walk someone special home and bonding with fellow freaks in the hallways.
“I had just a terrible time in school. I was a real bad student,” says vocalist/guitarist Chris Sabatoni. “I went to summer school every year since like junior high. I guess more so than relationships and more so than anything else I relate to struggling in school. It makes up so much of who I am.”
Sabatoni says not liking school is one of those timeless concepts that most people can get behind, but it’s open for interpretation. Use Summer School Again as a metaphor for other things that are lame to you. The title track with its catchy, Ramones-like tempos will stay with the listener for hours on end while the lyrics just may never leave the memory.
“Summer is ruined / I’m stuck inside / All my friends are hangin’ out in the driveway/ Summer school again / Summer school again / Summer school again …”
“Roses,” “Patience,” “Broadway”Run For Your Money
Summer singles are just as prevalent as full-scale summer LPs. In the case of hip-hop artist POOR Majesty, his album Run For Your Money may have a fall release date, but he released three singles paired with individual music videos this summer, and its gained him instant, widespread attention in Sacramento.
His video for the song “Broadway” has more than 1,000 views on Facebook and touches on issues like gentrification, a struggle he sees occurring in Oak Park, a neighborhood where he lives with his family.
“I live off Broadway and I see a lot of the changes that are happening there, and I thought it would be something important to talk about that a lot of people could relate to,” Majesty says.
Another single Majesty released this summer was one dedicated to his late grandfather M.C. McCarter called “Roses,” which received more than 3,000 views on Facebook. It’s a hip-hop ballad with lyrics that give you the feels immediately.
“My grandfather had to work harder than the next man / Cause his black skin / He was workin’ at the dam / Working with hands and working on the fam / I know it wasn’t easy, but now I understand … / I want to follow my grandfather, I’m a fan …”
The black-and-white music video opens with Majesty’s grandmother telling stories from the past sitting next to her husband. Five days after shooting the video, McCarter passed away at 98 years old.
“I really love my family and my grandparents are definitely the cornerstone,” Majesty says. “I really wanted to write a song that showed my appreciation for them. I just wanted to tell him I loved him before he passed on, and thank God I did it in time … I feel really blessed that I was able to do that. It was really special to me.”
Drop Dead Red
(July 13, 2018)
Right after the rock group Drop Dead Red released its album Inside Fires in 2015, vocalist/musician Carly DuHain says she immediately wanted to get started on the band’s next album, AirRaid.
Drummer Coday Anthony describes the album as one of activism, lyrically, but it also touches on a lot of social concepts and ideas. The vocalist and musician at the helm of Drop Dead Red, DuHain, very much shares that sentiment.
“There were so many things that I wanted to talk about that soured in my heart and in my gut over the past couple of years, and it seemed that our country was going into a massive demise, especially politically and culturally,” DuHain says. “I needed to get them out somewhere, and luckily the band was 100 percent, completely on board with being a little more political this time around.”
The first track, “Blame Me,” is the perfect song to start the album. DuHain’s voice is so sultry and inviting. She’s also backed by such a full-bodied, powerful band whom truly command their instruments. Musicians Gabe Aiello and Stephen Hendry on guitars, Chad Benzel on bass and Anthony on drums bring the right amount of grit to match DuHain’s authoritative vocals that shakes listeners to their core.
“That was one of the first songs we wrote together as a band with this lineup,” Anthony says. “It’s just a fun song to play and I think it feels the most like what our band is like these days.
Sonically, the vibe of AirRaid is old-school rock with a modern feel and they dance the line well. The band’s influenced by ’90s music, ’60s and ’70s rock ’n’ roll, with a little blues and jazz thrown in for good measure. If there is one feeling DuHain wants listeners to take away from this album: “Resistance. To resist. Fight back.”
Sad Girlz Club
(August 10, 2018)
Sad Girlz Club had put together their demo Membership Dues in a matter of months before they booked a show opening for The Ataris at the Blue Lamp just a few weekends ago. The four-piece punk rock group made of up musicians from Sacramento to San Francisco like Lys Mayo (lead guitar), Shelby Murray (guitar/vocals), Travis Dunbar (bass/vocals) and Eric La Febre (drums) are stoked on how well they gel together both musically and as new (and old) best buds.
“I think it’s really cool how much we get along for such the short amount of time,” Dunbar says. “We’re like the best friends club and it’s fucking rad.”
Murray wrote most of the songs on the demo, which projects an overall pop-punk vibe, but listen closely and her words make this band one that is emotionally driven with Murray’s honest, heart-wrenching experiences about past relationships, inner struggles and turning to whiskey to mask the pain. All of this under the guise of simple, upbeat chord progressions that are dance-y, but with candid feelings behind them makes for an album worthy of repeat plays to send off summer.
“I feel better at the end of playing every single set, every time we’ve played. I think it’s therapeutic for me,” Murray says. “It’s OK to be sad sometimes and you can be in our club if you’re sad, too.”