The Current

Great Music Lives Here ®
Listener-Supported Music
Donate Now
Discover Music

First Listen: Har Mar Superstar, 'Best Summer Ever'

Har Mar Superstar's new album, Best Summer Ever, releases April 15, 2016.
Har Mar Superstar's new album, Best Summer Ever, releases April 15, 2016.Rickett & Sones
  Play Now [2:31]

by Andrea Swensson

April 11, 2016

Har Mar Superstar - I Hope
by MPR
Har Mar Superstar - Youth Without Love
by MPR
Har Mar Superstar - It Was Only Dancing (Sex)
by MPR
Har Mar Superstar - Famous Last Words
by MPR
Har Mar Superstar - My Radiator
by MPR
Har Mar Superstar - Anybody's Game
by MPR
Har Mar Superstar - How Did I Get Through the Day
by MPR
Har Mar Superstar - Don't Fake Your Love
by MPR
Har Mar Superstar - Confidence
by MPR

Har Mar Superstar's last album, Bye Bye 17, was a big album, both in terms of reception and sound. It was the first time the musician known off stage as Sean Tillmann dove head-first into old-school, Motown-era soul, and his songwriting and execution proved that he wasn't simply trying the genre on as another costume – it allowed him to bring his skill for crafting hooks and crooning classic melodies to the very center of his art. After decades of releasing music and stripping down on stage with his tongue planted firmly in cheek, Tillmann showed us that he wasn't joking anymore. And it was seriously enjoyable.

Tillmann's new work, Best Summer Ever, continues this exploration of his identity as a melodic and lyrical craftsmen. Whereas earlier Har Mar Superstar records sold Tillmann as the life of the party, these synth-driven pop songs find Tillmann alone at a Casio keyboard, sorting through his thoughts and feelings. The party's long been over, and there might be another rager tomorrow, but for right now we're alone with the artist as he empties the ashtrays, sifts through his record collection, and pops an old copy of Top Gun into the VCR.

"I knew I didn't want it to be Bye Bye 17, part two," Tillmann told me while in the studio this week. "Once Julian Casablancas [of the Strokes, who produced Best Summer Ever and released it on his Cult Records] and I picked out the tracks that would make it onto the record, we decided to produce it like it was my greatest hits from 1950 to 1985."

True to his album's vision, Tillmann romps through '50s bubblegum pop, '60s soul, and retro synth-pop, all while managing to put his own lo-fi, vocal-forward spin on each style. The record sounds surprisingly cohesive despite these wandering influences and curiosities, and the endeavor finds Tillmann's voice sounding deeper, rawer, and more vulnerable than ever.

Har Mar Superstar
Best Summer Ever album art
Courtesy of Cult Records