Monday, December 5, 2016

Best Albums of 2016 - Number 9

best summer ever

I think the best word to describe Har Mar Supserstar's (Sean Tillman) sound is impassioned. His voice - the actual sound of it as well as his point of view - is unabashedly open and raw. He goes for it with all he's got and there's no sense of pretentiousness in any of it. He doesn't care if maybe some of it is a little too sugary or if you might think it's cheesy. And if it were anyone else doing it, you might think those things. But with Har Mar, you don't, unless you're a cynical asshole who misses the point. The lesson could be that honesty in music goes a hell of a long way. Unless of course, it's not necessarily completely honest. Some of this is meant with a little tongue in cheekiness. But ultimately, no matter which way you interpret the intent, he's crafting perfect pop songs and while he has written for others, I just don't know how anyone could do his music better than him. Best Summer Ever is loosely set up as if it were his greatest hits from 1950 - 1985. While that might seem like it would all be gimmicky and retro, it's all anchored by his unique style and sense of melody, hooks and pop.

If I were producing a John Hughes style movie today, this would be the soundtrack. The songs are mostly steeped in 80's style pop with synths and general electronic groove, but then, the 80's relied heavily on the 50's for inspiration, so that comes through as well. But Har Mar is not a throwback artist. Everything he does is all his own. The opener, "I Hope," is a dramatic cover of a Bobby Charles song that burns slow with a pulsing synth that sets the mood perfectly for what's to come without giving away any of the surprises that will follow. It's just a taste. Then we hit "Youth Without Love" with a chorus that exemplifies everything I love about Har Mar. The melody, his voice at the high - going for it - register, is chill inducing. It's the type of music that you heard as a teenager in love, maybe looking out a rainy window or spilling your trampled-on guts into a journal.

And, then near the end of the album, is what I consider a fucking masterpiece of a song that somehow defies everything set before while also reinforcing it. "Famous Last Words" is lyrically made up of actual last words uttered by famous people just as they were about to die. It's amazing that John Lennon never thought of doing this. Musically, it's a churning punk attack with Har Mar's passion pushing you into the catharsis. And then, right at the start of the chorus, there's a bass drop from hell that distorts and interrupts in a gloriously insane way and had me cracking up the first time I heard it. The gleeful insanity of it is absolutely perfect.

Each time I listen to this album I find more to love about it. I may love a wide ranging style of music, but ultimately, what I respond to is heartfelt, well written songs. There are few artists who do both of those as consistently as Har Mar Superstar and Best Summer Ever may be his best yet.

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