As spring is finally upon us, our musical selections must change with the season. Every piece of music has a season to it. What determines that season is dependent on many different factors.
It could be when the album was initially released — for example, Vampire Weekend’s Contra was released in January 2010 and it will forever be connected to the dead of winter when the energetic hope of a New Year lingers over everything. It could be the mood or design of the album to reflect that season. It could also just be personal preference and nostalgia for the season in which you first heard an album or a song, forever melding that season and song together in your mind.
The following are five albums to put on your playlist for the spring of 2011. The choices aren’t from little known independent bands or pretentious curiosities I thought to share with the world. They’re merely albums by well-known artists that fit the season so well that you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not listening to them.
Andrew Lloyd Webber — Jesus Christ Superstar
One of the greatest musicals ever written, Jesus Christ Superstar is the perfect music to listen to during the Easter season. Regardless of whether you’re Christian or not, Jesus Christ Superstar captures the vitality of the Passion Week story and the vibrancy of spring. From Judas’ impossible-to-top opening number, “Heaven On Their Minds,” to Jesus’ soaring falsetto in “The Temple,” rock operas don’t get any better than this.
While many enjoy Andrew Lloyd Webber’s later musicals, Phantom of the Opera and Evita, more, Jesus Christ Superstar best encapsulates his hyperactive musical tendencies and appreciation for synthesized guitar solos. It’s a religious experience in and of itself.
Belle & Sebastian — The Life Pursuit
No album better captures the newness of waking up on a spring morning when the air is crisp and the sun is shining than Belle & Sebastian’s The Life Pursuit. The energetic first piano chords of “Act Of The Apostle I,” the seminal classic (and Belle & Sebastian’s best song) “White Collar Boy,” the hilarious, macabre “Sukie In The Graveyard,” the quiet dÃ©nouement “Mornington Crescent” — all these songs emanate that optimism that is only to be found in the first moments of spring. Although If You’re Feeling Sinister and The Boy With The Arab Strap are arguably better albums, neither of them match the optimistic energy of The Life Pursuit.
Duran Duran — All You Need Is Now
Any season is a good season for Duran Duran. However, what makes their new album All You Need Is Now so perfectly suited to spring is that it marks a season of rebirth for the band. After more than a decade of mediocre knockoffs of their previous work, Duran Duran has finally produced an album that can live up to their mid-’80s classic, Rio. The title track will prove to be the best synth-pop song of the year and songs like “Safe” and “Runaway Runaway” have the potential to become new classics for the band. There’s also the bizarre mid-album number, “The Man Who Stole A Leopard,” which alone makes the album worth checking out.
Editors — In This Light And On This Evening
While spring is ostensibly a season of optimism and bright horizons, that is not always the case. For those rainy spring days when the grey of the sky seems all-pervasive, seeping into your mind and affecting your mood despite your best efforts to fend it off, there is Editors’ In This Light And On This Evening. This musical celebration of the city of London and all its dark complexities is possibly the best album of recent years. While their previous albums exist along with the albums of Interpol as the standard-bearers for Joy Division-inspired music of the 2000s, In This Light marks Editors’ evolution from Joy Division to New Order, but without losing any of the depressing gloom that so dominated the music of Ian Curtis.
The Strokes — Angles
This isn’t an in-depth review of The Strokes’ new album. If you’re looking for that, see Michael Cuthbertson’s piece from last week. No, this is just a reiteration of the energy and vibrancy that the new Strokes album displays. From the coy irony of “Machu Picchu” to the unadulterated joy of “Gratisfaction,” Angles is the band’s glorious return to mainstream music-making and their best album since debut Is This It? Angles is guaranteed to dominate your iPod playlist this season. It’s just that good.
The YouTube player embedded below features a song from each album. It’s well worth a listen.