Trying to capture the essence of summer can be a tricky thing. It’s one thing to evoke memories of what you were doing in the summer of whenever, but it’s another–and much harder–thing to actually transport you back to that time, letting you experience again the feelings and senses of those days. Dana Buoy (aka Akron/Family percussionist Dana Janssen) has made such an album. Janssen created Summer Bodies in a bungalow near a jungle lagoon in Thailand, which accounts for the balmy atmosphere. And what would summer be without some kind of romance? The initial groundwork for the album was a series of hopeful love notes left on an answering machine. Thailand and telephone love letters might not have been how you spent your summer, but Janssen finds a way to make it all seem relatable.
Janssen describes the music on the album as tropicore, which sounds like a mix of the caffeinated optimism of Matt And Kim (“So Lucky”) and the Afro-beat elements of Animal Collective–well, if Animal Collective wore Hawaiian shirts and played beach parties. During the first 34 seconds of album opener “Anatomy Of Now,” Janssen especially sounds like Noah Lennox. What follows, though, isn’t a jittery Animal Collective breakdown but rather a feel-good wanderlust that’s colored by Janssen’s time in Thailand. Before Janssen came back to Brooklyn to flesh out the album with live drumming, guitar, thumb piano and various samples, he created the shells of the songs with just a laptop and an MPC1000. This means he initially took the time to take in his surroundings and make Thailand a sort-of contributor in the musical process. “Call To Be” is a track that feels particularly sunbathed and is paired with tribal-sounding drums, a constant synth pulse and Janssen chanting “ya-ya-ya” like he’s having the time of his life.
Like most summers, Summer Bodies gets more low-key and reflective as the album progresses. “Purple shade on the horizon/Falling faster than we knew,” Janssen ponders on “Futures Part.” Of course this could also be due to the fact that Janssen and his engineer dealt with an earthquake and Hurricane Irene during the recording process, resulting in days of isolation. But this isn’t a morose album, and the more dialed-down, hurricane-influenced songs are more akin to staying in from a rainy day than a tropical storm. Janssen ends the album with “We On The Sea,” which is fitting with its nostalgic guitar strums and tropical effects in the background. Janssen only croons the same line throughout, “Just you/And me/On the sea/Floating.” This is your soundtrack for summer.