Summer school: memorize these dates

2008’s hottest new records for it’s hottest season.

Jay Boller

With a new season upon us, thoughts will inevitably shy away from school and focus in on greener and less mind-enriching pastures. While those pastures may materialize in the form of jobs, booze, beach frolicking or any number of sultry hookups, one thing is for sure: they’ll need a banging soundtrack.

Whether you’re in the market for introspective Omaha emo poster boys or politically charged Latino Harlem hip-hoppers, summer ’08 has enough new records to satisfy the ranks. If the agonizing heat or even more agonizing presidential campaign coverage doesn’t do you in before autumn, the following album releases should serve as red letter days for any self-respecting music fan.

June 17 – Silver Jews “Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea”

Published poet/recorded singer David Berman and his glistening Hebrews have been making their mark with dense but accessible country-rock albums for more than 15 years. This summer, the band finds themselves not only engaging in something they’ve sparsely done in the past – touring – but also releasing a new record that’s sure to channel the same Johnny Cash meets Wilco vibe they’ve been cultivating for nearly two decades. But, according to Berman, the new batch of songs are “really different” from previous efforts “in that the songs have more epic settings. They are faux-heroic. Or rather foe-heroic.” How literarily hilarious. But with a solid track record, don’t expect this Jews offering to disappoint.

June 24 – Immortal Technique “The 3rd World”

In the five yeas since his last LP, “Revolutionary, Vol. 2,” rapper Immortal Technique has thoroughly carved out his niche as one of underground rap’s fiercest emcees. Although Technique’s frequent use of the word “faggot” and misogynistic tendencies hint that he might not be as progressive as most self-proclaimed “revolutionaries,” his wordplay and political knowledge are unparalleled. Regardless, his new disc “The 3rd World” is being released on his own Viper Records with D.J. Green Lantern taking the helm for most of the production duties. In his own words: “It is an album/mixtape of all original tracks. Political but something very brutal and street-orientated.” The world should expect nothing less from Harlem’s best Afro-Peruvian emcee/political activist.

July 1 – Alkaline Trio “Agony and Irony”

These Chicago punk stalwarts have never shied too far from the dark, booze-centric and high energy music they’ve been perfecting for over a decade. The leaked copy of “Agony and Irony,” their major-label debut, inspired reviews contending that their standard formula is utilized again to a tee. Although production values have been soaring ever since their 2003 LP “Good Mourning,” the band still tours hard, has a tenaciously loyal fan base (they organize themselves in what’s called “The Blood Pact”) and delivers impassioned pop-punk with more substance than 95 percent of other bands within in the genre.

July 15 – The Hold Steady “Stay Positive”

Our very own bar rock heroes issue their hotly anticipated follow-up the ultra-successful 2006 album “Boys and Girls in America.” Possibly in order to sidestep the inevitable Internet leak of the new disc, The Hold Steady are already streaming the entire album from their MySpace page. After first listen, it’s clearly a traditional Hold Steady record – but hey – there’s nothing wrong with that. The new songs do have an increase in keys, some choir refrains and other experimental dollops, but it’s still Craig Finn’s poetry – both sung and spoken – and the band’s searing riffs that make up the meat of the record. As ardent Twins fans and habitual Minneapolis name droppers, The Hold Steady do plenty to represent our town; the least we can do is buy their new album.

July 22 – The Black Kids “Partie Traumatic”

It’s hard to not think of Vampire Weekend when The Black Kids come to mind. Both have absurd amounts of blog-hype. Both have ringing endorsements from the indie rock kingmaker Pitchfork Media. And both possess distinct names. Only time will tell if “Partie Traumatic,” The Black Kids first LP and major-label debut, will generate the typhoon of success Vampire Weekend enjoyed earlier this year. But given the promise shown on their demo/EP “Wizard of Ahhhs,” these Jacksonville indie poppers are poised to deliver on “the next big thing” – title already bestowed upon them. If you want to catch them live before their inevitable popularity explosion, they’re touring – or, as the industry says, “gigging” – almost every day for the rest of the summer.

August 5 – Conor Oberst “Conor Oberst”

It’s common knowledge that Bright Eyes is essentially the Conor Oberst Show, but the Nebraskan heartthrob is going solo anyway. Minneapolis had the exclusive privilege of experiencing 13 of the new Oberst tracks sans his Bright Eyes players last spring at The 400 Bar. Word has it the new songs hearken the more emotionally volatile Oberst of old while remaining true to the country-folk sound he’s delved into in recent years. The record, which is being released not on his Omaha mainstay Saddle Creek, but rather on Merge, was recorded in Mexico City with the help of guitarist Taylor Hollingsworth and bassist Macey Taylor (kin of Conor’s boo Maria). If Oberst does one thing better than being gorgeous, it’s crafting exceptional songs. So expect something great.