Pretty Lights’ newest album, A Color Map of the Sun, just dropped and let me be the first to say that this is one high quality, groove pumping, tastefully produced record. The progression of the album makes the listener feel like they are on a journey through the human condition, experiencing every emotion possible through their spiral down the rabbit hole.
This album was made for vinyl with vinyl produced by Pretty Lights. In fact, it comes with a whole extra disc of bonus material that is just that: The raw vinyl cuts that were used to produce the tracks found on Color Map. Each cut was orchestrated by Colorado’s very own home grown, Derek Vincent Smith, the mastermind behind Pretty Lights, who collaborated with dozens of musicians from around the country to produce one of his most soulful pieces of art to date. If you dig music, you better dig soul music, and A Color Map of the Sun smacks you across the face with soul.
The album’s first two tracks, “Color of My Soul” and “Press Pause” pack a soulful punch before Color Map really starts to throw down his bone moving grooves with “Let’s Get Busy.” The combination of both horns as strings brings layer upon layer of energy and purpose to almost every track on the album, yet the snap crackle pop of the vinyl brings the element of raw sound full circle.
While at times the album seems to lack the hip-hop references we are so used to hearing at a PL live show, it is almost as if A Color Map of the Sun is a nod to hip hop’s roots. In fact, too literal of a hip hop reference could have damaged the integrity of an album so full of raw musical expression. Pretty Lights seems determined to show the good, bad, and downright scary side of his musical aesthetic. ”Go Down Sunshine”, “So Bright”, and “Dead Wrong” explore the depths of PL’s dark side. On the other end of the spectrum, “Yellow Bird” and “One Day They’ll Know” have a more relaxed, ethereal sound that seems to provide balance to the album. It takes guts to express these types of musical emotions and it is definitely not commonplace within this genre of music.
As with all of Pretty Lights tracks, you can download the entire album for free or it can be purchased through iTunes or Prettylightsmusic.com. As an independent artist, he has found great success by making his music available to everyone for free over the years (with only the suggestion of donation.) In order to provide a bit more incentive for fans to pay, PL is offering a variety pack of goodies in order to entice fans to open their checkbooks. Color Map vinyls, pins, t-shirts, bonus tracks, and a neat little book all about the album have nearly all sold out through pre order. Luckily, there is more swag being produced and record stores are currently stocking their shelves with LP, but I am sure they won’t last long.
PL made a sweet little video on the making of A Color Map of the Sun you can check out here!!!
The PL YouTube channel also has music videos for every track on the album, along with visual art to emphasize the overall concept that is “Pretty Lights.” Check out the playlist here.
Nominated: Christian Hannon
“After I graduated high school and left my hometown, I wouldn’t have imagined keeping in touch with Christian Hannon for years to come. We were teenagers set on different paths and fair-weather friends. We would see each other via mutual friends on weekends, occasionally exchanging conversations about electronic and improvisational music. I expected him to vanish from my life after I left home for college.
Four years later, I was a college graduate and Christian and I had maintained constant contact, despite going to schools a thousand miles apart. We had attended at least one music festival together every summer following my leave from home for school. The people we surrounded ourselves with for each trip varied, but Christian and I remained constant friends and travel partners. We decided to make the dreaded 18-hour drive from Charleston, SC to the Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, IL for the second time, since we attended SCamp in 2011 and had so much fun. The results of that decision were the best road trip and music festival of our lives.
We left Charleston at 6pm on Wednesday with three friends in a completely packed Suburban SUV. Christian and I each drove six hours while the others, who excused themselves saying they couldn’t drive the extra-large vehicle, slept and read. The sun set as I drove northbound through South Carolina. As I drove, Christian sat in the passenger seat keeping me awake and entertained with conversation, and I did the same for him. We sang along to Michael Jackson and grooved to Break Science and Pretty Lights until the sun came up over the vast Indiana cornfields. We arrived at the festival at noon the next day, completely exhausted from having driven all night, sleeping only 3 hours in the morning.
6 hours and many heavily burdened car trips later, we sat down in a campsite that was better than any of us had hoped for. We managed to find a spot in the woods, making cooling off especially easy under the natural canopy of branches and vines. I was so excited to be at our destination, I took off and bought the group a set of tiny hats from a vendor. Nobody had moved when I returned, let alone Christian.
We listened and watched in complete awe as Umphrey’s McGee, Primus, and Lotus made Friday night the best night of live music I’ve ever seen. We never separated from each other, although when one of us wandered too far in the crowd, it was easy for Christian to spot my 6’6” red-haired, tiny-hat wearing head. When we returned to the campsite, Christian had been robbed of $300. He was completely broke for the rest of the weekend. Knowing that he would find a way of making the money back, I lent him $500 in good faith. The next day, Christian came up to me and handed all of the money I had lent to him back. He had met a couple fellow artists and sold their pins and t-shirts for 4 hours before doubling the money I had given him. We made our way over to see our favorite band, Umphrey’s McGee. As we walked up to the stage, Christian bought me a delicious beer and gave me a giant hug. I wish I could relive those five minutes. We laughed at our great luck all night and enjoyed a night of music just as good as Friday, which I had never experienced at any music festival before.
Christian and I live on opposite ends of the east coast now, and we don’t get to see each other often. When we do see each other, the experience we had for the past two years in Chillicothe, IL is always brought up at some point. My Christmas gift to him this year will be an early bird ticket to Summer Camp, because last year turned out to be the trip of my life. I think about how much fun another Summer Camp with Christian will be all the time.”
Nominated: Chris Koller
“My MVP would be Chris Koller!! There were a few shows I wouldn’t have made it to if it weren’t for him! Pretty lights and Zeds Dead I would have totally regretted not seeing!!! Thankfully, he said we are going! He is one of my best friends and is willing to do anything to help you out. After partying through Pretty lights, Zeds Dead, Team Bayside High and many other awesome shows, my weekend was complete..but extremely sad to see it end! Chris has turned me onto a few of my favorite artists. I feel he is a MVP because even if I was having a down moment he always knew just how to turn it around! He made each day a blast and never complained. Everyday was a new beginning and a fun new experience and tons of memories were definitely made! I couldn’t ask for a better person to hang out with and party with, we always have a great time together! He keeps me up to date with up coming shows so I don’t miss a beat! Music is a great release and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend going to a show then with my best friend!”
Well folks, we did it. And as a Summer Camp veteran, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this was possibly the best Summer Camp yet! Here are the top 10 things I loved about this year….
1. Nobody’s set got rained out this year. Whew!
2. The collective screams of approval when Umprey’s McGee started playing Tom Sawyer.
3. Moe. and Umphrey’s light shows. Duh. I mean, you can be stone cold sober looking at those things and still be in a total trance.
4. The look of joy on some guy’s face when I told him he could have my extra Saturday late-night wristband for free.
5. The dude taking a dump in a bucket right underneath the Moonshine stage arch. (Hey, I didn’t say these were pleasant memories, but that will surely not be forgotten!)
6. A dog named Akimbo. I have no idea what his owner’s name was, but I ran into Akimbo easily 6 times this festival and he always was having fun!
7. Water guns. Everywhere, all the time, all shapes and sizes.
8. Sunrise kickball with Ryan Stasik.
9. Warren Haynes sit-in with G. Love & Bob Weir sit-in with Primus. Absolutely fantastic.
10. When I got back into Chicago, I saw 3 separate groups of Scampers within 5 blocks of my house. That’s the thing about Summer Camp – you take it home with you.
Until next year, loves.
The bearded solo guitarist was all over Summer Camp 2012
This interview is the first in a three part series shot in three unique locations.
Part I explains why Summer Camp is such a good festival year after year. Click JAIK to experience the beard firsthand.
Part II of our series has Jaik giving a roadside chat about the perils of flying particles of dirt. Click DUSTSTORM to check it out.
Part III from our series shows the journey of Jaik Willis and his keys. Click FOUND to discover more!
Cody Diekhoff talks about his experience at Summer Camp Music Festival.
Click DUB STOP to listen.
Guitarist Matt Robinson from the band Old Shoe and their Manager Mike Kaiz talk Summer Camp Music Festival amidst a fierce backdrop of wolves hunting. Click SHOE to view.
If I could quickly sum up Sunday’s experience it would be: dance party.
I peeled myself out of my tent around 9 (the latest I’d been able to sleep all weekend), got ready, and headed over to the Summer Camp offices to load up pictures and blog posts. When I got there, I found out that I’d been cleared to interview Michael Franti after his set that afternoon. I spent a few minutes freaking out with excitement, and got to work on prep.
Around 3 I met up with some buddies at moe.’s acoustic set on the Starshine Stage – so much fun! They kicked it off with St. Augustine, which is a favorite of mine, and the dance party began. At this point in the day, you could really tell that the heat index was well over 100 degrees, so a big thanks goes out to all you nice festies who were smart enough to bring Super Soakers to spray the crowd… we really appreciated it!
After moe., I took a short break to collect myself in time for the Franti interview, and headed over to his set. I spent about the first 3 songs in the VIP area (thinking I didn’t want to get too dirty or sweaty before meeting him), but quickly it became apparent that this wasn’t going to happen — dance party #2! We rushed to the middle of the crowd, kicked off our shoes, and got down to some amazing tunes. About halfway through, Franti popped up with a makeshift stage in the middle of the crowd, right near where we were standing. It could not have been more perfect; it was like out own little performance. That’s what I love about Franti – he brings people on stage, comes into the crowd, and generally makes every show feel like a community experience. After the set, I got my big interview, which will be posted on the site sometime this week… let’s just say, it was a dream come true and I am still smiling about it.
Next up, it was time for Pretty Lights. I’ve seen him before and although I’m a fan, we had planned just to stop for a little bit before moving over to Galactic. But once we were in the crowd, we knew we had to stay… dance party #3! Somehow, a group of people had managed to take over one of the golf carts and use it as a party platform… how this happened, I have no idea. But they looked like they were having a ball, so we joined in.
We walked over to Jane’s but stayed way in the back so we could scoot back to Moonshine quickly and catch moe.’s last set from up close. It was a perfect set and – as expected – dance party #4! We danced the night away sharing swigs from a bottle of Jameson and soaking in the last bits of Summer Camp… because, as always, it just went too fast.
If you’re particularly good at staying up all night (or waking up really early), you can catch sunrise kickball on Saturday. The sun was already up at 6am when the group converged on the grass towards the back of the Sunshine Stage viewing area, and about 200 people were there and ready to play.
I stayed mostly on the sidelines – the collective outfield, really – where you main job is to catch any ball that comes your way. The mad dash to get on deck to kick was pretty impressive each inning, and I’m not entirely sure how teams went (or really if anyone cared).
The real gem of kick ball is Ryan. Ready to rock in a red kimono and a speedo, he twirled his mustache before throwing out pitches (side note, he’s a really good pitcher). The crowd loves him, and couldn’t wait to show off their skills and earn a high-five or a hug from him for a job well done.
It’s not easy to make it to morning kickball, but if you ever find yourself stumbling from the Red Barn back to your campside and the sun is coming over the horizon, toss down a Red Bull and head over to kickball for an hour. You’ll be happy that you did!