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SheWired's Fave Sounds of Summer

SheWired's Fave Sounds of Summer

SheWired's assembled its top picks for hottest summer albums! Including Alicia Keys, Pink, The Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, Uh Huh Her, Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow, Madonna, Katy Perry, Lauryn Hill, Melissa Etheridge, Sarah McLachlan, Tegan and Sarah and more... Now it's time for you to vote on your top summer album from our list!

Every now and again an artist releases an album that track for track typifies the sound of that summer. From the beach to the backyard barbeque to the open road and the all-girls’ summer camp, occasionally an album just encapsulates those months between school years or semesters: the lazy days, the heat, the road trip, the summer romance that’s destined to end when the first crisp cool day September day rolls along…

In dreaming about summer days from our office perch in Los Angeles – a mere five miles from he beach and yet so far -- we at SheWired waxed nostalgic and compiled a list of distinctly summer albums that typified our summer days gone by. Whether it’s stand-up comic and SheWired contributor Jen Kober’s memory of belting out Ani Difranco’s tunes from 1995's Not a Pretty Girl at the top of her lungs while driving home from a summer concert or editor Tracy E. Gilchrist’s recollection of falling in love with a British exchange counselor at camp -- how predictable -- and believing Sarah McLachlan’s Surfacing was released just for the two of them, music is as integral to summer as the smell of charcoal, campfire and bug and ocean spray.

So please, vote for your favorite summer album from Joni Mitchell’s Blue to Uh Huh Her’s Common Reaction, and feel free to share your pick for favorite summer soundtrack whether or not it’s on our list. This is by no means a comprehensive list. That could have been nearly infinite. Believing that so many female and queer artists spoke directly to us and our burgeoning sexuality we also stuck to the girls, save for a few tracks off the Thelma and Louise soundtrack. Our main criteria for the list is  that the album had to have a lesbian or queer bent and it had to have hit its stride the summer of the year it was released! 
Go to page six to vote. You can vote for more than one. And please your fave summer album stories in our comments' section.
In My Tribe, 10,000 Maniacs, Released July 7, 1987
Was it the twirling, the angst or the brilliant lyrics masked in upbeat tunes that made 10,000 Maniacs' breakout record and its lead singer Natalie Merchant so compelling? Whether Natalie was singing about a likely clinically-depressed character who could barely move from her four-poster bed in "Like the Weather" -- who else uses terms like "dull torpor" in a lyric? -- or standing idly by while a neighbor abuses a child in "What's the Matter Here?" 10,000 Maniacs had folks merrily singing along to tragedy. Throw in the catchy "A Campire Song," about environmental degradation, with a vocal appearance by REM's sexually fluid Michael Stipe and In My Tribe was the oft-repeated choice for many a marginalized adolescent.
Jagged Little Pill: Alanis Morissette, Released June 13, 1995
The album had four No. 1 singles that garnered simultaneous airplay all summer long: "You Oughta Know," "Ironic," "You Learn" and "Hand in My Pocket." It was her third studio album, but first to be released internationally and marked a change in style for the Canadian singer. Plus working with producer/songwriter Glen Ballard (who co-wrote Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror") didn't hurt at all. She won four out of the six Grammy nominations she received in 1996, taking home best female rock vocal performance, best rock song, best rock album and the prestigious album of the year. (She lost best new artist and song of the year).
Songs in A Minor: Alicia Keys, Released July 23, 2001
Getting her showbiz start at the age of 4 on The Cosby Show, Keys made her musical debut in a big way when her freshman album debuted at No. 1 in June 2001, selling more than 236,000 copies. Selling 12 million copies worldwide, the album featured the lead single "Fallin'," which spent more than six weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Keys followed in Lauryn Hill's footsteps at the 2002 Grammys, collecting five trophies and becoming only the second woman to collect five prizes, including best new artist, record of the year and song of the year.
Not a Pretty Girl: Ani DiFranco, Released July 14, 1995
Ani picked up her magical guitar and gave us the perfect dose of 1995 summer angst, lest the bright sun seep too far into our souls. "I ain't no damsel in distress / and I don't need to be rescued / so put me down punk," proclaimed the cover track. She sang to us about hating the pretty girl ("32 Flavors"), locking herself in a gas station bathroom ("Shy"), and doing bad things ("Hour Follows Hour"). Not a Pretty Girl was bare Ani (Rolling Stone called it "brooding honesty," before labeling her a "spiky-haired volcano"), like we had her all to ourselves just for a summer. All she had to do was pick up her guitar and we fell in love.
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Taking the Long Way: Dixie Chicks, Released May 23, 2006
Three years after lead singer Natalie Maines' remarks about George W. Bush and their bannishment from country music radio stations, it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album charts. The song "Not Ready to Make Nice" was a clear response to the rejection, heartache, anger and frustration the band went through after their comments in the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The album brought the Chicks back to center stage and new legions of fans — and won five Grammys, including album of the year. All the buzz from the album and single also served as good word-of-mouth for the documentary based on the band's experience and resurgence, film festival favorite "Shut Up & Sing," which was released in October and grossed $1.2 million domestically.
Dusty in Memphis: Dusty Springfield, Released March 1969
Arguably one of the greatest albums of all time, native Brit – and Sapphic-leaning—soul and pop singer Dusty Springfield became an overnight darling with Dusty in Memphis. Her mega-hit about a lusty, forbidden tryst, “Son of a Preacher Man” climbed to #10 on the UK and US charts and enjoyed a boost when Uma Thurman’s Mia Wallace danced to it in 1992’s Pulp Fiction. Bolstered by tunes like the haunting “Windmills of your Mind” and the playful “Breakfast in Bed,” the record is a cool, timeless trip back to the sixties and the perfect antidote to hot summer night.
Rites of Passage: The Indigo Girls, Released May 12, 1992
What an apt title! For many lesbians of a certain age – and even now – The Indigo Girls were themselves a “rite of passage.” While their anthem and biggest hit “Closer to Fine” was off their 1989 self-titled record, the “Indies” turned a corner of popularity and became must-listen lesbian music with this album that boasted one kick-ass, emotion-laden song after another.  Featuring Emily Saliers’ lyrical “Galileo,” her feminist-leaning ode to "Virginia Woolf" and Amy Ray’s ultimate road song “Chickenman,” the record became the gay girls’ sing-a-long driving album of the summer.
Square the Circle: Joan Armatrading, Released June of 1992
Joan’s Square the Circle is hot and steamy, just like the summertime. Sexually ambiguous with songs like “Wrapped Around Her,” “Weak Woman,” and “If Women Ruled The World,” it’s a light listen with funky bass lines and sassy synthesizer that goes perfectly with a cool glass of iced tea [or any alcoholic libation of your choice]. And with lyrics like “take me on the town, flaunt our love around, dancing rude, we're gonna leave cos the steam will start a hissin', you drive me crazy” you can’t go wrong with this summer classic!
Blue: Joni Mitchell, Released June 1971
Call it the album of an era, or of several eras for that matter. From the opening strains of  Mitchell’s “California” to lyrics that captured the essence of the early seventies like “Carey’s” “you’re a mean old daddy but I like you…” to the cover song “Blue,” ask many a Mitchell fan and this is the one record they would choose to take along were they stranded on a desert isle.  While “River,” her oft-covered ostensible hit of the album has become a Christmas tune for the heartbroken and disenfranchised with it’s tweaked and depressive ode to “Jingle Bells,” there’s nothing like listening to "Blue" lighting some Sandalwood incense, taking to the front porch and dreaming of Laurel Canyon while pining to “A Case of You” on a smoldering summer night.
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One of the Boys: Katy Perry, Released June 17, 2008
She "Kissed a Girl" and everyone knew it. There was no escaping this song — gay or straight — in summer 2008. The album later spawned a second hit, though not as big, in "Hot N Cold," which were both certified three times platnium. "I Kissed a Girl" earned Perry a Grammy nomination for best female pop vocal performance (she lost to Adele's "Chasing Pavements").
Invincible Summer: k.d. Lang, Released June 20, 2000
The sweet high of falling in love, expressed aurally through 11 luscious songs by Canadian goddess k.d. Lang—that’s “Invincible Summer,” lang’s 2000 pop album that’s spawned a hit dance single with the remix of “Summerfling,” the album’s sunny second track. But cuts like “Consequences of Falling” (sung memorably by Lee Pace as Calpernia Addams in Showtime’s “Soldier’s Girl” movie) and “Love’s Great Ocean” are so beautiful, you’ll feel slightly drunk after listening. The cover art is also breathtaking, with a gorgeous k.d. lolling around a field as the sun sets. Fun fact: the title of the album comes from a poem by Albert Camus: “In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.” 
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: Lauryn Hill, Release date: Aug. 25, 1998
The lone female member of '90s hip-hop legends the Fugees, Hill ditched the boys and went out on her own with her first solo studio album in the summer of 1998. The album, which blends Hill's delicate harmonies and brilliant raps, was an instant hit and featured collaborations with Carlos Santana, Mary J. Blige and the as-yet-undiscovered John Legend. Featuring No. 1 hit "Doo Wop (That Thing)," the release debuted at the top of the charts and spent four weeks perched atop of the Billboard 200 albums chart. Also featuring a cover of Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," the album went on to earn 10 Grammy nominations, taking home five including album of the year, best R&B album, R&B song and best new artist for Hill. Guess she didn't need bandmate's Wyclef Jean's support after all.
Car Wheels on a Gravel Road: Lucinda Williams, June 30, 1998
Toss on the tattered cowboy hat and climb into vintage Buick because Lucinda’s unmistakable rasp melded with a bit of twang and some of the finest lyrics this side of Joni Mitchell, is taking you on a ride through her native Louisiana on a steamy summer night. “Car Wheels” kick starts with the love song-- a rarity for Lucinda -- “Right in Time” and jumps into high gear with raw, driving tunes like the title song "Car Wheels...'" “Drunken Angel” and “Metal Firecracker.” Slow it down and enjoy the ride on heartrending ballads “Greenville" -- on which the legendary Emmylou Harris sings harmony -- “Lake Charles” and “Jackson." Voted one of Time’s greatest of all time, we agree, and it’s hands-down a contender for SheWired’s Best Summer Album. 
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True Blue: Madonna, Release Date June, 30 1986
While she was well on her way to international superstardom in 1986, Madonna sealed the deal with her third album, True Blue, released that year.  With five of the album's nine infectiously catchy tunes released as singles, Madonna was on heavy rotation throughout that summer and for months to come. The album’s hits include the boppy title track “True Blue,” the cautionary tale “Papa Don’t Preach,” the ultimate dance tune “Open Your Heart,” the calypso-beat bearing “La Isla Bonita” and the power ballad “Live to Tell.” Whether on the airwaves or in the privacy of your living room ogling her on MTV, Madonna was ubiquitous and typified the sound of the summer. 
Melissa Etheridge: Melissa Etheridge, Released June 15, 1990
It was 1988, Melissa's hair was big, and we wanted to rock.  She wouldn't come out until 1993's "Yes I Am," but Melissa was already burning up with "Bring Me Some Water." The self-titled album is a sexually charged, veritable black book of her (pronoun-elusive) dating history. And could she work a guitar -- the first 15 seconds of "Like the Way I Do" had us hooked, and that was before she got to  "scratching in crawling / along the floor to touch you." We weren't the only ones who loved it -- the album went platinum and led to an invitation to sing at the 1989 Grammys. The rest is history.

I'm Not Dead: Pink, Released April, 4 2006
Whether she’s calling out Paris Hilton/Britney Spears/et al. for being “Stupid Girls” or telling the jerk who thinks buying her and the girls a drink at a bar is gonna get him laid that it’s “just ‘U and Ur Hand’ tonight,” Pink’s post-feminist soundtrack “I’m Not Dead” may not out and out declare her a friend of Sappho… but it’s clear she’s definitely the girl you can get to second base with and she wont have a nervous breakdown the morning after. Add to that her seriously kick-ass lyrics in the Bush-bashing “Dear Mr. President (“What kind of father would hate his own daughter is she were gay?” Pink sings) and you have a truly gay friendly summer album.
Surfacing: Sarah McLachlan, Released July 15, 1997
Released three and a half years after "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" put her on the pop culture map and right before McLachlan began the legendary Lilith Fair, this album debuted at No. 1 in many countries and wound up with a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Album. Singles "Building a Mystery," "Sweet Surrender," "Adia" and "Angel" make this a must-have on any summer soundtrack. This album became almost the theme for Lilith Fair and all things associated with the plethora of female vocalists in the late '90s. Plus "Sweet Surrender" is perhaps the best pop song by a female performer ... EVER.
Tuesday Night Music Club: Sheryl Crow, Released August 3, 1993
The album opener, "Run Baby Run" is laid back and bluesy followed by the chunky beat and pining vocals of  "Leaving Las Vegas." "Strong Enough" is a power ballad of sorts, as Sheryl lays out a challenge to a man. "All I Wanna Do" is the song that made Crow a star with an instantly recognizable riff and day-in-the-life lyrics that you can't get out of your head. Tuesday Night Music Club is a solid debut by Sheryl Crow. Her best asset is her strong, expressive voice, which effectively conveys the emotions of her songs. At a time when grunge ruled the airwaves Sheryl’s fresh, catchy and ultimately singalong-able tunes put her on the map and into our collective hearts for that summer and long after!
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The Con: Tegan and Sara, Released July 24, 2007
Tegan and Sara waited three whole years after tempting us with So Jealous and finally released the brilliant The Con in July of 2007. What makes this a great summer album is the constant up swing and playfulness of the record. It does have its sad melancholy tunes, but mostly it is a poppy and up beat album that has great dance songs like “The Con”, “Back In Your Head” [which actually gained some airplay with its release] “Nineteen”, and “Like O, Like H”. What separates this from the other Tegan and Sara records is its use of producer (and Death Cab For Cutie’s guitarist) Chris Walla, who contributed keyboards to many of the tracks, which previously had not been used on T and S albums. The Con is a rockin’ summer classic for a lady of any persuasion.
Thelma and Louise Soundtrack: Various, Released April 30, 1991
Whether viewed as a cautionary tale or a post-feminist paean to reclaiming one’s freedom, just about every budding gay girl remembers the iconic image of Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis covered with dirt and grime, sporting tattered tanks and soaring through the Arizona desert in a vintage Cadillac in Ridley Scott’s 1991 film Thelma and Louise. Not your typical summer popcorn flick, Thelma and Louise is searing social commentary melded with eye candy and a kick-ass summer soundtrack. From Glen Frey’s driving anthem “Part of Me, Part of you,” to Toni Childs’ inimitable sound on “House of Hope,” to Marianne Faithfull’s trippy “Eyes of Lucy Jordan,” the soundtrack took listeners on their own road trip. Throw in blues, country and soul by Martin Sexton, Martha Reeves and Kelly Willis and there’s enough to keep a girl going for several thousand miles.
Tracy Chapman: Tracy Chapman, Released April 5, 1988
Released at a time when British new wave imports and pop idols like Tiffany and Debbie Gibson ruled the airwaves, the first refrain of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car" -- an acoustic ode to a better life-- hooked listeners like no other song on mainstream radio at the time. Acoustic guitar had long-since been replaced with synthesizers and drum machines and Tracy's sound was a breath of fresh air. Her debut album spawned songs of the summer. Many a lovelorn lesbian identified with her non-pronoun specific pining for romance gone awry in songs like “Baby Can I Hold You” and “For my Lover.” Tracy’s adorable, slightly andro look with her trademark short dreads also lent to her appeal. Many a gay gal’s summer night that year involved driving with the windows rolled down and singing along to “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution."
Common Reaction: Uh Huh Her, Released May 20, 2008{C}
After releasing I See Red in 2007, duo Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey promised to release a full-length album soon after. Uh Huh Her has a synth-pop sound, with a retro feel. Common Reaction is crisp and modern, but with a dark mood from the 80’s synth-pop ballad sounds of the keyboard. The ambience is enhanced with the tender sexual heat created by the ambiguous lyrics. Delicate vocals will suck you in as the pair sing about lust, love, and heartbreak. “Explode” is the soundtrack for making out. The throbbing base and driving guitar of “Dance With Me” make it impossible not to dance the night away. Intricate layering of both Hailey and Grey’s multi-instrumentalist capabilities are seduction at its finest.
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With written contributions from Tracy E. Gilchrist, Boo Jarchow, Lesley Goldberg, and honorary lesbians Ross von Metzke and Neal Broverman and opinions and nostalgia by Jen Kober, Trudy Ring, Shannon Connolly, Rhiza Dizon and Amita Parashar.
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