Let’s face it: times are pretty dark right now — but what else is new? Harmonics was born out of a love for music and its healing powers, and we are once again turning towards art to pull us through. Today, Beth is joined by Amy Reitnouer Jacobs — our very own BGS co-founder and executive producer of Harmonics — who shares with us the fruits of her curatorial labor in the form of her top albums getting her through the summer: from heart-wrenching yet uplifting folk songs by Allison Russell, to the vibey, Don Henley-esque sounds of John Mayer’s recent release, on through to ’70s Japanese pop, and stopping everywhere in between.
Allison Russell – Outside Child
BGS readers will be familiar with this first pick. We’ve long sang the praises of Allison Russell (she was our Artist of the Month for May of this year) and when asked their favorite albums of the year, essentially every member of the BGS team chose her solo debut Outside Child. This is a very special record — for so many reasons — that you do not want to miss. And your listening experience will only be enhanced by learning the context in which it was written. Russell shared her painful story with us back in Season 1 of Harmonics, then came back and breathed uplifting hope into that story through the beautiful music of Outside Child.
This album has been Amy’s weekend soundtrack for some time now. Throw this record on first-thing Saturday morning, and you, too, will be grooving, coffee in hand, in no time.
This posthumous album from Tony Joe White features vocals from acoustic demos the roots legend recorded shortly before his passing, brought to their full potential through the lush arrangements and editing magic of Dan Auerbach.
Fall into the weird and wonderful world of Valerie June through the intricately layered yet completely raw and vulnerable musical journey of her latest album. Don’t try to define this album — just allow yourself to get wrapped up in whatever it is.
While Amy has admittedly not dug into any John Mayer album since his 2001 debut Room for Squares, her love for the newly coined “Bistro Vibes” aesthetic (read into this y’all, and just trust us…) has led her to Mayer’s latest summer release: a more-than-likely pandemic-fueled nostalgic nod to the sounds of the ’80s a la Don Henley, Dire Straits, Steve Winwood, and Phil Collins, paired with songwriting that taps into the isolation and despair we’ve felt for the past year and a half.
The experimental nature and endlessly chill vibes of Japanese pop of the ’70s and ’80s make for the perfect summer soundtrack, and the traceable influence on today’s indie music is fascinating. Bonus points if you can listen on vinyl, as the depths of these recordings are all the more rewarding and delicious in this format.
While the beautiful Under the Pepper Tree — a collection of lovely lullabies, both original and classic favorites — was recorded and released for Watkins’ small daughter, we, as adults, have been unable to take it off of repeat since its March release. While some may laugh at the idea of being so enamored with a “children’s record,” we dare them to experience the comfort of Watkins’ magical collection — especially amidst the tumultuous year we’ve had — and not fall in love. She pulls out what is so beautiful and lasting about these songs, and what makes us connect with and feel through them.
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