If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears
The Mamas & the Papas
1966, Dunhill

In Wong Kar-Wai’s wonderful 1994 film Chungking Express, Faye Wong plays a counter attendant at a snack bar who is obsessed with the Mamas & the Papas song “California Dreamin’” (found on this album). The song is played incessantly during her scenes in the movie as she blasts it while she works. I’m currently working a day job similar to Faye Wong’s character, except my café is in Toronto, not Hong Kong. It’s dull work, but the Mamas & the Papas get me through it. (My boss, on the other hand, insists on listening to the Top 40 radio station.) Their sunny and sad vocal harmonies make all the mundane aspects of my life feel like they are leading toward a peak, like every transitional moment is part of a montage in an engrossing movie. Sadly, Wong Kar-Wai is not directing my life, but when I listen to this album it’s easy to pretend otherwise. —Anna

Tame Impala
2010, Modular

This is a current Australian band, a fact I feel needs to be pointed out, because their music is so perfectly dreamy and hazy that you might feel like it was some long-lost record from another time when everything was easy, or maybe even a world where it’s always sunny and kids (and adults) gallop around in slow motion in a field of daisies. Some music has the ability to make you feel weird inside, which happened a lot when I was little, and this record totally makes me feel like that. It’s like it has a built-in innocence chip that will make you look at the world with wonder and feel like everything is possible. “Desire Be Desire Go” is one of my favorite songs here, because it’s a li’l bit more rocking, but then it has a really chill chorus, and I can only understand half of what they are singing (it seems really sweet). In another song they sing, “Why won’t you make up your mind? / Give me a sign.” It’s a totally heartbreaking sentiment, but Tame Impala make it seem OK to wait for this person to give me a sign, because I am grooving in this valley of sonic awesomeness. Then there’s “I Don’t Really Mind,” the last song on the record, which has this super awesome instrumental breakdown in the middle that sounds like multiple suns rising from behind a crystal cave in a new universe. Honestly, this record is pretty much perfect, and you will find yourself humming the songs after you’re done listening to it—if you can even figure out a way to turn it off. —Laia

Endless Summer
The Beach Boys
1990, Capitol

This collection of pre-1966 hits feels like a beach party in California. I remember going to Johnny Rockets (a retro chain restaurant) to get a burger and fries, putting “Surfin’ U.S.A.” on the jukebox, and pretending I was back in the ’60s. Even a sadder song like “In My Room,” which is clearly not about the beach, makes you feel like you’re resting after having already been there: “In this room I lock out all my worries and my fears / Do my dreaming and my scheming.” It’s all about creating your own world and finding yourself. The album closes with “Good Vibrations,” one of my all-time favorite Beach Boys songs. Summer really should last forever. —Tara

Blonder and Blonder
The Muffs
1995, Reprise

This album is pure pop-punk perfection that makes me picture a bunch of gorgeous bleach-blond girls in torn fishnets and thrift-store dresses running around southern California having a blast and getting revenge (in a prankster way). Oh, and screaming, randomly, at the top of their lungs. I’m not sure where I got the sunny California thing—I see that according to Wikipedia the band is from there, but I didn’t know that at time. My favorite song on this album, “Oh Nina,” makes a reference to Pasadena, though. (Nina’s from there, obvs, because it rhymes.) But the screaming thing, that’s because singer Kim Shattuck has an amazing yowl, which she showcases on that song. When I discovered the Muffs, I was on a mission to find more women who screamed as well as Kat Bjelland from Babes in Toyland. Mission accomplished. The difference between the Muffs and Babes, though, is that while Babes is pure rage, the Muffs sound bouncy and happy even when Kim is singing about “Agony” or being “Sad Tomorrow,” or threatening that she knows “What You’ve Done.” And sometimes that’s exactly what you need: to get all the bad feelings out while bouncing around to peppy music. It’s the perfect summer punk album. Be warned: repeat listening led to me bleaching my hair. —Stephanie

Give It Back!
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
1997, Bomp!

The Brian Jonestown Massacre was once so close to being a massive, maybe even classic band, but they blew it. The madness that allowed frontman/wannabe cult leader Anton Newcombe to perfectly channel 1960s psychedelia without sounding like a copycat is the same insanity and perfectionism that caused him to berate his bandmates until they quit. (There’s even a Gilmore Girls episode in tribute to their biggest disaster!) Thankfully for rock history, much of the saga is available to watch in one of the best music documentaries ever, Dig!, which also follows their frenemies in the (far less talented) Dandy Warhols. Newcombe is still at it, making album after album of fuzzy folk music and chasing his musical utopia, but none come close to Give It Back!, a near-perfect record that encapsulates what might’ve been, but has an underlying flower child melancholy that soundtracks the band’s downfall perfectly. —Joe

Celebrity Skin
1998, Geffen

In the four years since she became arguably the most famous widow in the world, Courtney Love went through a physical and musical transformation, trading in her torn-up babydoll dresses for designer gowns, and infusing her band’s sound with a touch of the same California glow. This is one of those perfect post-everything albums that manage to fuse sadness and anger with optimism and personal strength. Courtney is still in pain here, but she’s also smart enough to know what her new image affords her, and she finds a way to control both the pain and her image with beautiful songs that combine a knowing cynicism with a newfound hope. It’s a document of a broken heart being mended, of someone entering the next phase of who they are. The sense of loss that permeates this record is coated with the sparkle glaze of things worth holding on to. It’s as if, in all of the darkness, Courtney decided the most logical thing to do would be to turn to the sun. —Pixie

To the Principles, for the Children
YaHoWa 13
1974, Self-released

YaHoWa 13 is a psychedelic band made up of members of the Source Family, a religious cult/commune that lived in the Hollywood Hills in the 1970s and was led by Father Yod. Their music is totally improvised and was recorded in the family’s garage after their early-morning meditation routines. I know by this description you are already super-stoked to listen to it, and you should be, because it is totally crazy and amazing. Father Yod’s voice sounds really out of control at first, and you might be like OMG I CAN’T HANDLE THIS, but then you fall into the nice grooves of the music and relax. There’s a part where he sings “everything that talks to you is true if you want it to,” and the way his voice goes up and down is addictive and oddly comforting. It only gets REALLY weird towards the end, when there is a chorus of children singing, because that is always really creepy, especially when they are singing some weird hymn that just makes you think: INDOCTRINATION! But you get over it, and before you realize it you have listened to the record like five times already. It’s a weird experience, yes, but it’s soothing, and I find it really great when I have to write or do things where I need to concentrate—I could really just “tune out” and get in my brain and everything made more sense. What? Oh god, what’s going on? —Laia

Hit After Hit
Sonny and the Sunsets
2011, Fat Possum

I live in a city where it’s freezing nearly 85% of the time, and this record has been a bit of a savior for me over the past year or so, because whenever I put it on, it instantly feels like summer. Even while covered in a million blankets and shivering on the couch, I could close my eyes and picture myself dancing at a beach party, swinging around to Sonny Smith’s fun (and funny) pop songs about the weather, the sea, thugs, and home. The record feels a bit like the evolution of summer itself—starting out with songs about romance, confusion, and homesickness, and gradually winding up with a dreamy instrumental that conjures images of skipping stones on the water’s surface while sighing over a lost love. Now that summer is finally here in my frozen part of the world, I look forward to actually listening to Hit After Hit in its element, digging my toes in the sand and bobbing with the waves. —Pixie

The Only Place
Best Coast
2012, Mexican Summer

If Best Coast’s debut album, Crazy for You, was a breakup record, The Only Place is a love letter—to California. There isn’t really a huge difference, all things considered; there were odes to her home state on the last album, and a few on this one as well. The opening track is so warm and unabashed in its affection for the place, it’s as if singer/songwriter/band leader Bethany Cosentino, exhausted from her success of the past two years, wants nothing more than to stay home and just chill. If you liked her debut album, you’ll like this one. If you’ve never listened to Best Coast, they make hummable pop songs that are easy to listen to, and this album is a good start. —Anna

Our Endless Numbered Days
Iron & Wine
2004, Sub Pop

This is one of my favorite albums, and it is always soothing to listen to. I play it in times of distress, when I need to calm down, or when I can’t sleep, because Sam Beam’s voice is like honey. His music aches with nostalgia, understanding what is to be human and capturing everything from regret and sadness to fortune and bliss, and his fever dream is one I want to be a part of. —Tara

2012, 4AD

Grimes is my everything right now. Ever since I watched the AMAZING video for “Oblivion”—thanks, Hazel!—over and over and over again, I have been OBSESSED. Grimes’s high-pitched singing–although it might be a little weird at first–eventually settles into an almost soothing lullaby combined with the sickkk beats (that she does all herself!). It’s just what your brain and your body want right at this moment in time. I mean, it could also be this moment in another time, because there is something otherworldly about her music. The whole thing flows together so seamlessly that it is almost impossible to listen to one song and not want to listen to the song that comes after. “Circumambient” is hazy and romantic, but with a robotic tempo perfect for low-impact aerobics. “Be a Body” is party-ready, especially if all your friends like Grimes, and then you’re all singing the “ooh oohs” in unison, which sounds like my idea of a really good time. Then you get to this li’l ballad called “Skin” where she sings, “I hate that you’re leaving, so why don’t you talk to me / You act like nothing happened, but it meant the world to me,” and you just wanna curl up in a ball and listen to it on repeat, because it is. So. Real. Grimes, guys. GRIMES GRIMES GRIMES. —Laia

The Tarnished Gold
Beachwood Sparks
2012, Sub Pop

This album is so good. I realize that last sentence doesn’t tell you much, but let’s talk about this one. I wasn’t that familiar with Beachwood Sparks’s stuff before listening to Tarnished Gold; I was making my way through NPR’s First Listen, as I do every Monday morning. The hook on “Forget the Song” caught me completely off-guard—like, I had to stop everything else that I was doing just so I could focus on the music. The rest of the album is pretty mellow, though “Earl Jean” and “The Orange Grass Special” are immensely catchy. When the album finished, I started it again from the beginning. It is laid-back and relaxing and everything you want to listen to on warm lazy days. —Anna

Surrealistic Pillow
Jefferson Airplane
1967, RCA

Grace Slick’s voice powers an album that is as startlingly intense as it is laconic and hazy. “Somebody to Love” rings with an urgency that is both vulnerable and fierce, and “White Rabbit” captures the drugged-out atmosphere of the ’60s by imagining Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole, ending with the beseeching but somehow threatening demand to “feed your head.” It is pretty essential that you watch this performance of the song. —Tara

The Astrud Gilberto Album
Astrud Gilberto
1965, Verve

Astrud Gilberto is the queen of samba, a genre of Brazilian dance music. Have you ever heard the song “The Girl from Ipanema”? That’s Astrud Gilberto singing. Her music has been featured in movies and TV shows, including Juno, Mad Men, Girl, Interrupted and many more, so chances are, you’ve heard her music. If not, this album is the best place to start. Gilberto’s relaxing, tropical-infused love songs make the perfect summer soundtrack. —Hazel

Life Sux
2011, Ghost Ramp

The first thing I will tell you about Wavves is that they wrote a song called “I wanna meet Dave Grohl” and that it literally became my everything last fall when this EP came out. I mean the song doesn’t really have anything to do with Dave, aka my forever crush (15 years and going strong!), other than the chorus, but whatever, my heart always wished it would have a song to yell I WANNA MEET DAVE GROHL with and now I do. But the song is perfectly upbeat and the thing is that Wavves makes you wanna jump around dancing and also freak out near a beach as soon/much as possible. I am sure there are a bunch of people that you might want to dedicate “Bug,” the opening track, to, with its chorus of “You’re no fun / You’re no fun / You’re no fun,” except the song is so cheerful that it’s possible they wouldn’t even notice you are telling them how lame they are. Then there’s “Poor Lenore,” which is probably my other favorite song on Life Sux. It’s kinda slow and there’s a dirty bass rolling through the song and when it reaches the chorus you are feeling a bunch of feelings inside, although I am not sure what feelings exactly, but you are FEELING them. You’ll want to hear it over and over again, and you can, because this EP is only 20 minutes long. Take it to the beach or the country or the city. Life Sux will make your travels better, funner, and more productive. —Laia

Electric Ladyland
Jimi Hendrix
1968, Reprise

Electric Ladyland is one of the most influential rock albums of the 1960s, and always a thrill to listen to. It opens with “…And the Gods Made Love,” an experimental instrumental track that sets up what’s to come, which is a twisted and strange journey. Jimi sings of the moon turning a “fire red,” “Jupiter’s sulphur mines,” and floating “in liquid gardens”—his voice is electrifying, and his guitar is…sensual. “Voodoo Chile” is the longest song on the album, but you still don’t want it to end! —Tara

Los Angeles
1980, Slash

I love this album so much, you don’t even KNOW. I would go as far as to say that I think X is the greatest American punk band. In a scene that was sometimes more concerned with breaking shit and looking rebellious, this California band was all about the music. The album is dominated by bitter punk songs with poetic lyrics and a rockabilly edge. Fronted by John Doe and Exene Cervenka (stage names, of course), X paints the world and the city of Los Angeles as a mess of capitalism, rape, and racism. (Ironically, the band was actually awarded a certificate of recognition for their contribution to the city’s art and culture!) I recommend this to anyone who wants to listen to something AWESOME. —Hazel

Last Splash
The Breeders
1993, 4AD/Elektra

The Breeders are 100% pure pop awesomeness, but their lyrics and dirty guitars hint at something grittier and less precious than Kim and Kelley Deal’s harmonies would suggest. I don’t even know if I can pick out a favorite song, because they are all so good, and even though this record is pretty old, I am still discovering new things about it that I like. The songs on Last Splash are a perfect combination of crazy and mellow, and even “Drivin’ on 9,” with its kinda-country twinge, is like a little treasure at the end of the record. I am tempted to just go through each track one by one and tell you why each one is amazing, but I won’t because there’s not enough space for that. But you should definitely know that “Cannonball” is essential to put on a party mix, because everyone can yell, “WANT YOU! KOO KOO! CANNONBALL!” And then you can shake your head like a madman in the next guitar part (OK, maybe that’s just what I do), and then dance around because the song is total happiness. Also, “Invisible Man” and “Divine Hammer” exist in that weird mellow-happy-melancholy state that makes you feel like you heard them in a past life and they meant something to you and now you just have the feelings left in your heart, but not the reasons. Right now, though, I am grooving on “Do You Love Me Now?” and “Mad Lucas,” which are totally sad songs, but they are the kind of sad that doesn’t make you want to kill yourself. Listen to this record now. —Laia ♦