Miley Cyrus Just Might Surprise You With the Breadth of Sounds on Her New Endless Summer Vacation LP

While I admit I haven’t been following every twist and turn of the career of Miley Cyrus, I have kept an open ear and open mind regarding her evolution as an adult and bona-fide recording artist, someone not to be dismissed outright because of preconceived notions about who she is and where she comes from. I am by no stretch of the imagination a world authority on Miley, but I do like what she does — and, yes, I also liked her big No. 1 smash hit from 2013, “Wrecking Ball.”

Thus, I was thus very happy to learn about her new album Endless Summer Vacation being something of a rock-oriented record. When AP editor Mike Mettler suggested I consider reviewing it on vinyl to see if I actually liked it on its own merits and whether it was worth of our attention, I jumped at the opportunity.

First, some history. My awareness of Miley Cyrus as an artist of note — and one whose music I might eventually enjoy — began during that “controversial” moment at the MTV Video Music Awards some 10 years back in 2013 where she happened to twerk on camera. It was a moment alongside “Blurred Lines” singer Robin Thicke that seemed to fit in perfectly with the times, but it apparently shocked her core audience at the time.

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The ridiculous press and public fallout after that moment made me realize it was probably a calculated-but-brilliant PR move by Miley and her team. As I learned more about her past — I only vaguely knew of Disney’s Hannah Montana phenomenon as a kids’ programming entity — I came to realize this was more of a defining moment for an artist drawing a line in the sand, blowing up the past, and starting her career anew — essentially coinciding with her next-gen breakout fourth album, September 2013’s Bangerz.

Interestingly enough, The Flaming Lips (one of my favorite bands) perhaps also recognized this was Miley’s moment, and they had much in common. I was pretty thrilled when The Lips invited Miley to perform with them. In short order, they were making wild videos together, releasing a digital-only album in August 2015 under the moniker Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, and then going out on tour and making a fabulous joint appearance on Saturday Night Live. Miley also had a guest vocal spot on The Lips’ fascinating-brilliant deconstruction of The Beatles’ landmark Sgt. Pepper album, October 2014’s With a Little Help from My Fwends.

It’s been an impressive trajectory for Miley, especially when you get past the tabloid headlines and stop to think about it. All this from the former child star who came out of one of the Disney Channel’s most commercially successful franchises, no less.

And now, we have an Endless Summer Vacation of hers in hand to delve into accordingly. The pressing stats are these. The LP was mastered at RTI, and the lacquers were cut at Sterling Sound by JN-H, a.k.a. Joe Nino-Hernes. There are numerous color variants already available (including white, red, and crystal clear), but the standard SRP is $31.99.

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And so, what do I think about this LP? Well, I do indeed like Miley’s new album. In fact, I like it quite a lot. I like the song structures here, because they feel fairly organic and thoughtful. There is a strong sense of composition, and the hooks are strong and catchy. The standard weight (probably 140g) black-vinyl pressing I purchased at Amoeba is well-centered — though I did experience a couple moments of surface noise, most annoyingly on the quiet intro to “You.”

Broken into “AM” and “PM” sides, there is a definite vibe to Endless Summer Vacation that I can appreciate. Of course, the opening track and mega-hit single “Flowers” — which, as of this posting, has been the No. 1 single in the U.S. for the past eight weeks and counting — is an infectious rump-shaker with a positive lyrical statement of self-love and emotional independence.

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But a great album typically needs a great one-two-three punch to achieve full lift-off, and the second track, “Jaded,” is nice choice sequencing-wise, because it keeps up the energy but also shows more of Miley’s musical colors, as I can hear the influence of her time with The Flaming Lips coming through around the edges. The third track on the AM side, “Rose Colored Lenses,” is also a sweet tune that features guitars and some fun, vintage ’70s-sounding synth textures plus cool noodly lead-guitar soloing toward the end (which, again, reminds me at times of her connection with The Lips). In short — three songs in, this Endless Summer Vacation has indeed achieved lift off!

Production-wise, I’m digging this new Miley music is because it is not relying entirely on obviously sampled drum sounds (although I’m sure there are plenty of samples happening here). But on many of the tracks, it feels like they are working with live drums — something you don’t hear so much on mainstream pop music these days.

The vinyl edition of Endless Summer Vacation treats certain songs with acoustic guitars rather nicely, such as on the wonderful “Thousand Miles,” featuring a guest backing vocal from the great Brandi Carlile. This song is about as close to having a vaguely country vibe to it as this album gets including a neat, stripped-back, burbly (yes, burbly) guitar-and-harmonica break that feels almost like they took a sample from a track by The Band (or some other slice of prime Americana). It’s a nice touch that makes the song feel more unique.

Miley brings a rich whiskey strength to her vocal on “You” that is compelling. The song plays off a Bowie-meets-Kate Bush chord structure. The melodies and instrumentation all surf over a big fat low-end presence, with a kick that feels like one of those big marching band parade drums — but with a loose drum head! — for a distinctive resonance. The vocals are a bit overcompressed for my tastes — personally, I think Miley has vocal chops that rarely, if ever, need any effects on her voice — but at least there is no Auto-Tune going on here, at least as far as I can tell. To my mind, this is most likely to be one song in concert where everyone in the audience breaks out their cellphones and activates their flashlights to sway along on the choruses.

“Island” is probably my least-favorite track on the album, with its Jimmy Buffett-leaning, Caribbeanesque vibe and some less appealing drum samples that are overly bright. I can imagine some fortysomething execs swinging to this track at their suburban chain restaurant of choice on a Saturday night.

I also had higher hopes for “Muddy Feet,” which features backing vocals from the great Sia. I only say this because both singers have such great voices that it feels like they are not given their respective due here. Instead, this track falls back on more predictable constructs for the TikTok crowd (i.e., millennial whoop-flavored chorus, old school drum machine programming, faux-angry lyrics, and borderline auto-manipulated vocals). At times, “Muddy Feet” comes across like those awkward moments when Michael Jackson was trying to sound gritty and not quite pulling it off so believably. (Again, this is just my perspective on it, as you may find this track perfectly wonderful.)

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But other than those nits, the rest of the album is solid. “Handstand” is a perky, sometimes glitchy synth-driven tune with some cool breaks and vague echoes of Violator-era Depeche Mode to wrap up the AM side, and set up the PM side. There, the nighttime dance-club vibe continues on “River,” which feels like what might happen if Stevie Nicks and Madonna collaborated.

“Violet Chemistry” has a neat twitchy feel, again with rich keyboard pads and some fun breakdowns at the bridge. Ultimately, it comes down to those hooks, and the “stay awhile” line grows on you with each listen.

After the aforementioned “Muddy Feet,” “Wildcard” is a breath of fresh air, percolating off a swinging march-tempo snare-drum beat for the verse before leading into a half-time chorus. Again, I would have liked to have heard this song with less of the production effects on Miley’s otherwise strong vocals.

After “Island,” “Wonder Woman” wraps up the album — a lovely solo piano-driven power ballad that acts as like a palate-cleansing sorbet one might enjoy between courses at a fine French restaurant. And change it up she does. Amazingly, here, Miley sounds almost like 1970s folk-pop wonder Melanie (“Lay Down (Candles in the Rain),” “Brand New Key”). It’s a fine song with some nice changes — and no doubt poignant lyrics, as you can imagine just from the title.

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Sonics-wise, the mix on Endless Summer Vacation has that modern, admittedly somewhat digitally compressed vibe going on, so be clear about that going into things as you drop the needle. However, it is not to the point where there are overly harsh edges masking the music, so kudos to Randy Merrill at Sterling Sound for finding the balance that makes sure Summer plays well on the turntable.

Now, you might wonder how I approached this review in order to address the sonics, especially not having listened to a lot of Miley’s earlier albums. Well, I flipped my usual approach to reviews by listening to the streaming versions first, figuring I’d want to get a sense of what most people are hearing out there in the pop music universe. To do so, I listened to the hi-res streams on Qobuz and Tidal, both of which were at 24-bit/44.1kHz.

Both were a bit on the bright side for my tastes — but, as it turned out, I liked the sound of the Tidal MQA stream better than the Qobuz, in this case. Why? Well, when you are listening to a modern — inevitably digitally constructed — pop record, it’s important to handle the files with kid gloves (at least from my listening experiences), as it is very easy for the recording to start getting that extra-crunchy harsh sound that will actually hurt my ears (one reason I can’t listen on Spotify). The Tidal version sounded pretty good, all things considered. It was still a bit crunchy, but ultimately I could still enjoy the album. It would probably sound great streaming off either service in the car from my iPhone, but this effort served my purposes as a fine reference point for listening to Endless Summer Vacation on vinyl.

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Overall, those crunchy harsher highs are a bit more restrained on the LP, but there are plenty of fat, round lows. When you turn up the volume, there is still quite a bit of musical punch. The stereo separation is not too great, which doesn’t surprise me given this is music that ultimately has to play nice with all those popular single-speaker Bluetooth systems out there. There is separation going on that is distinct at points, but most of the focus for the music hits you dead-center between the eyes in what some might consider slightly expansive mono. It’s not bad, but it is what it is.

All things considered, Endless Summer Vacation is a solid release, and I especially applaud the little details that come with the vinyl edition, like the foldout poster of Miley herself with the lyrics and credits on the other side, plus a full-color booklet featuring many artful photos. It reminds me of how albums were when I was a kid growing up, since I always looked forward to whatever bonuses would be included in the package.

Miley Cyrus is listed as the executive producer, so additional kudos to her for making sure Endless Summer Vacation works as an end-to-end album, not just a random assemblage of single tracks. Bottom line: This is a fun album. If you are looking for some current pop with substance, then Endless Summer Vacation is certainly worth checking out on vinyl.

(Mark Smotroff is an avid vinyl collector who has also worked in marketing communications for decades. He has reviewed music for AudiophileReview.com, among others, and you can see more of his impressive C.V. at LinkedIn.)

Music Direct Buy It Now

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MILEY CYRUS
ENDLESS SUMMER VACATION

140g 1LP (Columbia)

AM Side (Side A)
1. Flowers
2. Jaded
3. Rose Colored Lenses
4. Thousand Miles (Feat. Brandi Carlile)
5. You
6. Handstand

PM Side (Side B)
1. River
2. Violet Chemistry
3. Muddy Feet (Feat. Sia)
4. Wildcard
5. Island
6. Wonder Woman

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COMMENTS
Chemguy's picture

When you say things like the stereo separation is not too great and there’s a digitally compressed vibe, you can’t really expect the majority of AnalogPlanet readers to be excited about inferior digitized music slapped onto vinyl, can you?

Recommending this type of slapdash production on a site like this misses the point of our presence here, no?

Great review of a recording that isn’t worthy of AnalogPkanet’s electrons. IMO, of course.

Tom L's picture

I guess I'm just an old fogey, but I can't work up any interest in this digital, disposable, dismissible crap. If you read the review closely you can tell why.

brenro12's picture

Seriously?

xtcfan80's picture

Buy MILEY a drink?...YES.....Listen to her "music".....NO

ClarkBacko's picture

I like his album. The sound is pliable and chewy, and the lyrics are unpretentious, both to our benefit and to our detriment, depending on the turn of phrase.pizza tower They cut to the quick but this subjects them to cliché. The “Jaded” ex is lonely, and she “hates it,” and the T-shirt she kept is “faded.” “Island,” the gooey retro pop ballad that Backyard Sessions frames as an analogy grasping at the isolating experience of fame, loses sight of that message the better the tropical groove and the evocative chorus — “Am I stranded on an island / or have I landed in paradise?” — mesh, and you wonder whether or not we’re really talking about pouting on private beaches

StevenJayW's picture

A quick look through the comments highlights exactly why chart based pop using electronics has no place on this site for tunnel vision analog purists and anti-tech luddites.

First of all, if all digital music sounds bright and ‘wrong’ I’d check your equipment.
As for making yet further excuses for choice of drum sounds or vocal processing is used, these are stylistic and artistic choices, they do not degrade audio quality - it’s just you don’t like the sound so you instantly equate that with sound degradation.
Luckily auto tune was not undetectable on this album, phew!
If it wasn’t what would the outcome be? Substandard audio? Substandard vinyl?
I despair.

The lack of stereo separation on this record is also being called into question, what are we expecting here? this is a straight forward pop record, not an album of Jamaican dub remixes in 5:1. (Ask your kids).
If you don’t like a sound or a band, walk away, rather than make accusations of the substandard sound all the time.
For so called audiophiles and fans of music, there is very little evidence here of technical know-how or being prepared to accept artists outside of your very limited recorded music time zone or rawk ‘n rawl, jazz genres.
I’m not a Miley fan, but at least I understand more about the production on what I have heard on this record.

As for digital pop music being available on vinyl, digital sourced audio on vinyl doesn’t cause any degradation in quality, you really need to think again about what you think you know about basic audio concepts.
Again, if digital, computers, synths etc are considered evil here, just stick to your classics as you really can’t cope with modern recordings at all it seems.

likeshigh's picture

I was blown away by Miley Cyrus's new album, "Endless Summer Vacation"! From start to finish, it's an exhilarating journey through a diverse range of sounds and styles. Miley's versatility as an artist shines through in every track, showcasing her ability to seamlessly transition from pop anthems to heartfelt ballads and everything in between. To grow on TikTok, sometimes To Buy TikTok services for your video

What's truly remarkable is how she fearlessly experiments with different genres, pushing boundaries and creating a truly unique listening experience. Her infectious energy of the upbeat tracks or the raw emotion conveyed in the slower melodies, each song feels like a glimpse into Miley's soul.

philipt greene's picture

Miley Cyrus's new LP, "Endless Summer Vacation," showcases her versatility with a diverse range of sounds. This album might surprise fans with its breadth and depth, reflecting Miley's growth as an artist. Temperatur Lago Maggiore

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