It’s the (unofficial) last weekend of summer, and you’re gearing up for your Labor Day pool party, last call for fun in the sun. You sent out the group text to your homies. You’re whipping up spicy margs to go with the fajitas you’re serving (marinated meats from Vallarta market, natch). You decided on the banana hammock/bikini you’re gonna sport. What’s left? Hmmm….OH YEAH – MUSIC! You could throw on some algorithmically arranged playlist, but where’s the glory in that? Let’s face it, that bathing suit is only going to do so much to establish your hipster bona fides. What you need is some music that captures a vibe, while not being too obvious or played out. I realize that playlists with an array of artists may be the way to go. That’s fine I guess. However here are five albums that came out this year that you should spin, or at the very least, throw some tracks in your queue.

Janelle Monáe, The Age Of Pleasure

For my money, the year in music for 2023 starts and ends with Janelle Monáe’s The Age Of Pleasure. It might not be my runaway album of the year – we still have a few more months to make that decision – but it’s most definitely a frontrunner. It’s the sound of libration, free expression, Monáe up for the downstroke. Leadoff track “Float” plunges you diretctly into the deep end, and you’re not coming up for air for another thirty-two glorious minutes. As for your pool party, the album cover has JM swimming topless under her friends’ legs for the love of god. One can only pray that your spicy margs and edibles will have the same effect on your guests.

Lil Yachty, Let’s Start Here.

When it comes to hip hop, I tend to veer away from the “Lils” and “Babys” of the world. Normally I could give a lil shit about all of that garbage. Then again, one could argue that Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here. is barely a hip hop album at all. More of a psychedelic mind fuck, the bastard child of Parliament’s Mothership Connection and Grateful Dead’s Shakedown Street. The album has been polarizing amongst hip hop heads, but no less than Questlove nailed it when he posted a review that chrystalized my thoughts eloquently – “I thought I’d NEVER say this – & not because ‘I didn’t expect this from Lil Yachty’ – but just in general I didn’t expect this from MUSIC” So so true. Also his SNL appearance was one of the best in recent memory. As for your Labor Day soiree, Let’s Start Here. will boost morale like a halftime locker room speech.

Gorrilaz, Cracker Island

Like Yachty’s joint, Cracker Island sounds like a party on the dark side of the moon. All of the hipster celebs you could want to show up at your bash are here – Stevie Nicks, Thundercat, Beck. Shit, Bad Bunny might show up with a Khardashian. The title track feels like a call to arms, even though I wonder if Cracker Island is a vacation spot for white people? Hey, if the bathing suit fits…

Disclosure, Alchemy

I’m hardly an electronic music expert, but I recognize when dance music gets adventurous and doesn’t feel like it’s just a product to get the DJ a raise for their performance fee at Ibiza. The term alchemy is defined as a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination. You can only hope to achieve such a metamorphosis amongst your partygoers. “Higher Than Ever Before” is the perfect soundtrack to your cannonball dive.

Jungle, Volcano

Speaking of transformative music experiences, Jungle’s latest is one of those unexpected releases that seemed to come out of nowhere to shake up any “best of the year” album lists. I was aware of Jungle but their music was never particularly on my radar. Yet nearly every damn track on Volcano is one of those songs that pops up on a playlist and causes the listener to be like what the FUCK is that?!” In a good way. In a great way. Spin this album and I guarantee that next year, when Labor Day weekend is celebrated at your buddy’s house instead, they’ll ask you to provide the playlist.

PS if you’re looking for some vintage pool party recs, may I suggest:

  1. Dr Dre The Chronic
  2. Beck Odelay
  3. Bob Marley Uprising
  4. Khruangbin Mordechai
  5. Stevie Wonder Hotter Than July