Juleah: Stoked on Planet Summer
Juleah: Stoked on Planet Summer
When I was a kid, my mom would plan our family vacations. She’d schedule an itinerary so compactly, we had to rush from attraction to attraction without any downtime in between. We wound up more stressed out and tense returning home than we’d been before we left. It’s no wonder that as a “grown up,” I take the opposite approach and plan nothing but getting there and back. Everything else unfolds, offering me what comes. For me, the best way to holiday is to simply relax.
Austria’s Juleah understands this, as her latest release Stoked on Planet Summer may be the best vacation record ever made. Her fourth album, Stoked on Planet Summer is a summery, chill, and delightfully psychedelic album written and produced by Julia Hummer, the band’s namesake guitarist-singer, whose playing ability is both impressive and understated.
Stoked on Planet Summer may be the best vacation record ever made.
Released on July 31st, 2021, Stoked on Planet Summer is warm pop-rock with languid guitar licks. It’s joyful, reticent, ambitious, and surreal. It borders on Dream Pop at times and Juleah’s voice even sounds like Hope Sandoval’s in spots. The album, however, is by no means a snooze-fest. While never approaching frantic, it moves along at a decent clip.
The opening track “Eat Sleep Sun” sets the tone. “How we laze/ No one can compete/ Eat Sleep Sun/ And repeat/ If life granted me a wish/ I’d say/ Stay forever like this”. This song nails what it’s like to be on a beach vacation. Yep! I can almost feel the sun on my skin.
“Why”, the second track, is an introspective piece about a past relationship. It moves at a slower pace than the previous song and features Juleah’s subtle guitar chops.
“Chrysalis” continues the reflection and almost seems like she’s come to the realization that said relationship didn’t work out. She’s come to terms with it and is happy to emerge from her preoccupation with her former lover.
Although the second and third songs don’t appear to fit the summer theme, I would argue that they do. When one relaxes, one reflects on life. If a person is, say, lying on a beach, they probably don’t just think about surfing, hot bodies, and volleyball; they (at least I do) often process feelings.
With a buzzy drone and some Middle-Eastern-sounding hand drums, “Sun Worship” is the trippiest song on the album.
“Fruit Tree and the Fuzzy Bee” showcases Juleah’s guitar prowess. She plays a lazy riff throughout while adding a lead guitar that interacts effectively with the other and creates another layer of psychedelic sheen. Lyrically, it seems to be a stream-of-consciousness song—a simple appreciation of nature.
With a buzzy drone and some Middle-Eastern-sounding hand drums, “Sun Worship” is the trippiest song on the album. Juleah produces a natural effect on her guitar that makes it sound like she’s playing a Middle-Eastern instrument, or perhaps a Spanish guitar.
“El Paisaje Se Mueve”, which translates from Spanish to “The Landscape Moves”, is an upbeat, feel-good instrumental that yet again showcases Juleah’s guitar acumen.
“Planet Summer” plods on a bit, but manages to be warm and sensual. Lyrically, it’s an ocean-side fantasy about never having to leave your perfect summer spot. “We have waited to be here/ The breeze is warm on our skin/ We have no plans to leave/ Not now and never”
“Snake” is another lively, but stress-melting tune, and contains the catchiest riff on the album as well as more wonderfully carefree lyrics “Meander through the sound of light/ Take me with you into the night/ Let us move til the sun comes down/ Like you I wanna roam”.
“Cotton Candy Castles” is an ethereal number with mostly hand drums rather than a full kit throughout. It’s a hypnogogic mediation on flakiness, lyrically suggesting that the subject talks big, but never follows through. “Don’t forget to do what you said/ Your thoughts just pretty cloudy shrouds/ Flying by”.
The closing track “Sweet and Bitter” is another dreamy affair, but a strange one on which to end the album, as it has nothing to do with summer and seems to be a meditation on her feeling uncomfortable being judged as a performer.
Juleah is another artist (see https://psychedelicscene.com/2021/07/29/shining-realm-enter-the-shining-realm/) with whom I had been unfamiliar and who submitted an album that surprised me with its all-around quality.
Stoked on Planet Summer is a concept album. It feels like summer. It’s surf-rock, dream-pop, and psychedelia intertwined to create a mellow, atmospheric, and jubilant state of mind. It sounds like leaving your work behind and being happily excited (but chill) about summer break. It’s a good vibration that may leave you feeling baked—from both the sun and, perhaps, the weed. And THAT is what I call a vacation!