I always have hazy memories of my summers. Even when it is summer, I have the imagined vision of sun-dappled parks, bare feet and ice cream that sometimes (okay, often) clashes with the reality of chilly and foggy San Francisco summers. In my head, my summers are endless montages from a Sofia Coppola movie – softly focused and with an awesome soundtrack. So, on the first day of July when I listened to Secret Cities’ Pink Graffiti and found a suitable soundtrack for this summer, I came awfully close to this idyllic seasonal fantasy.
Pink Graffiti came as a complete surprise. See, this album had been sitting on my desk for some time – waiting to be reviewed. My post-graduate mind was reeling from spending too many hours staring at Word documents and deadlines after deadlines. The prospect of writing for fun seemed utterly foreign. So when I popped the CD into my laptop drive, I was dumbfounded by what I was listening to. Immediate Google searches yielded a few peripheral blogs and entering “pink graffiti” took me straight into the land of Ariel Pink (another contender for the Summer 2010 soundtrack). I learned that Secret Cities hails from North Dakota, starting as two kids (MJ Parker and Charlie Gokey) swapping mixtapes at summer camp. Eventually a collaboration began and their story is just one more case for the continued existence of mixtapes.
The album is one of lush, melodic arrangements that bring to mind images of lazy rivers, warm evenings on the grass, climbing trees, evenings with good friends and a cold beverage. Beginning with the anthemic yet enigmatic “Pink City,” I was sold on the reverb-drenched vocals, Beach Boys melodies and Gokey’s alternately cryptic and on point repetition of “we had a lot to say.” Sounding perfectly in tune with any number of Bradford Cox tracks, the tracks on Pink Graffiti sound alternately dusty, modern – showing their allegiance to both Brian Wilson and like-minded bands, such as Wild Nothing.
At its best Pink Graffiti does sound like a mixtape. The goth-tinged “Slackers” follows a whistle-accented “Boyfriends,” standing alongside a soulful “Wander” and pop-minded “Pink Graffiti Pt. 1.” Each song seems perfectly suited to accompany summer days and nights: the bouncy “Color” for a leisurely bike ride, the Beck-ish “Vamos A La Playa” during beer with friends. Yet despite the variety, the songs have a unified tone. The songs have a sweetness to them that is never cloying or overwhelming. Rather they tug lightly at the heartstrings, adding color to your summers.
MP3: “Pink Graffiti p.1”