Last Day of Summer
Atlanta’s Summer Walker established herself as one of R&B’s leading truth tellers with her debut mixtape, Last Day of Summer, a low-lit yet potent collection of sketches and songs that frame her formidable alto in woozy synths and tense trap snares. Walker is a self-taught guitarist and songwriter, learning from online tutorials in her time off from her gigs as a dancer and house cleaner in Atlanta. Being an autodidact helped her forge her own path; Last Day of Summer revitalized the R&B world when it came out in late 2018, its emotionalism and depictions of female resilience bolstered by realistic lyrics and a from-the-heart vocal delivery. “I don’t really have a lot of friends, so I put it to paper,” Walker told Apple Music around the time of Last Day’s release. “I kind of counsel myself with music.” Her use of music as a vehicle for catharsis and pursuing her truth is apparent from the glittery opener, “BP”: “It’s clear to me you think that we are all the same/That I’ll be impressed by your house on the hills/And the fame you claim,” she says to a suitor who’s trying to impress her with his riches and not his character, and over the rest of the track she makes it clear that “a heart of gold” is far more important than any presents made up of the precious metal. “Karma,” meanwhile, is an exacting takedown of a rogue, with Walker adapting a singsong cadence as she thrills in the idea of doling out divine justice. Not all the men are bad news: On the languorous “CPR,” Walker praises a lover for lifting her out of depression’s muck with the simply stated “how you fix my heart, oh darling.” But Last Day of Summer shows that a good portion of Walker’s strength lies in her ability to quickly see, and call out, the sorts of transgressions that would leave others weak.