In Which Summer Music Is Short Sweet And Iconic

So Summer

by Brittany Julious

Winter should really, really, stay where it belongs.

As an avid collector, a lot of albums I own would seem more fitting for the summer. Because of random circumstances, such as when the album was purchased, I refuse to listen to them.

While thinking about the structure of a particular album – the instruments played, the singer’s vocal connotation – I begin to suspect that it might work well during the longer days. A quick push of the play button, and despite whatever you tell yourself, you can’t entirely forgo the lasting impression of inches of snow fall, potholes, ice covered roads, and a gastronomical gas bill.

The only requirement for music in the summer, then, is that it makes sense.

It has to transition seamlessly from the overcrowded sidewalks, to the beach, to the crummy pool and everywhere in between. It should rarely vary, and like the winter, a summer playlist rarely welcomes any thing too new or too timely.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some brilliant recent picks which fit seamlessly into the fabric of summer, especially a summer in the city. But the best summers are the ones when we are young and when the boundary of our concerns involve getting to t-ball practice, winning double dutch competitions, and chasing the ice cream truck down the street.

Those summers, when worries were something for parents and older siblings, are the ones that shaped my summer playlist. Those summers, the lyrics to the songs that dominated the radio still fresh in my memory, collected here as a snapshot of what was once good, what my present is currently like, what I see for the future.

“Connection” – Elastica (mp3)

“Connection” by Elastica is so short, so sweet, and so iconic, that I couldn’t imagine a summer without this song on constant repeat. It more or less has a mind of its own and a spirit that far outlasted the band.

“Miami Ice” – Icy Demons (mp3)

A song about a trip to Miami and eating bananas? So summer.

“Slayer” – Giant Drag (mp3)

Annie Hardy sings about California and I feel like I’ve lived there my entire life, and I’m merely stuck in some temporary Midwestern limbo known as Chicago. Instant connotations of California and summer may seem slightly cliché, yes, but there’s something to be said for aesthetics and Hardy, despite her penchant for ‘80s shoegaze and ‘90s grunge, somehow pulled off a song that, although not quite fitting into either category, blends wispy vocals into an enchanted album closer.

“Tenderness” – General Public (mp3)

This is the happiest song ever composed.

“Groove is in the Heart” – Deee-lite (mp3)

It still blows my mind that a group as interesting as Deee-lite were successful, albeit with a one-hit wonder. The DJ duo Flosstradamus, ever reminiscent of the ‘90s, like to throw this classic into their sets and all the little hipster kids get confused, run towards the bar, and try to purchase vodka red bulls with their fake ids. A scattering of dancers usually remain, those who truly remember and love the song, and a few nerdy kids like myself who’ve probably played this song on those hot summer nights. Picturing themselves on packed and sweaty dance floors, they spent countless hours in their bedroom (I know they did) looking forward to that day when they would finally be out on their own, able to live life true to themselves.

“Summertime” – Will Smith (mp3)

A classic through and through.

“Last Day of Magic” – The Kills (mp3)

If I at all cared about the fact that this song diverged so far left from the Kills’ tried and true formula of ‘60s garage rock mixed with ‘90s grunge, I would hate this song. But I don’t care, not even a little bit, not even at all. It’s that good.

“88” – The Cool Kids (mp3)

There’s something about this song that makes me want to play baseball. When I am alone, I like to pretend that I am swinging a bat and playing a pick-up game with a couple of my friends. Perhaps it’s the sparse beats and simple aesthetic of the song. The song, while decidedly new, harkens back to a golden era of hip hop, one in which I was either not alive, or too young to understand, but filled nonetheless with those horrific box hair cuts, neon colored t-shirts, and fresh kicks that made being young so exciting.

“Our Faces Split the Coast in Half” – Broken Social Scene (mp3)

Indecipherable, like any good summer song, and full of clashing instruments that blend effortlessly.

“Reaching for a Laser Beam” – OFFICE (mp3)

I’m not sure what kind of music OFFICE makes now. Because they’re from Chicago, I should be better informed, but a part of me believes that whatever music they make now, it will not live up to this song, which they listed on their MySpace page, years after it was recorded. The production is decidedly lo-fi and yet the piano and drums are rich, very rich, and welcoming. It’s summer without trying to be summer. You can’t help but feel happier when listening to it, and isn’t that the real point of a summer song?

“Eraser” – No Age (mp3)

Noise pop never sounded lovelier.

“Lovely Allen” – Holy Fuck (mp3)

What’s strange about Holy Fuck is that so much can be said for music that has no vocals. The group’s debut album was dark and more indicative of early no-wave from the LES and Brooklyn of yore. Upon first listen of their latest, LP, one can’t help but grab the album and check the label. Is this really the same group? And are they really making music, making, yes, “lovely” songs that I play in the morning while getting ready for the day, and in my headphones while going to class, and during any other period that seems fit for the summer? Yes, they are.

“Genius of Love” – Tom Tom Club (mp3)

Everyone knows this song. Everyone loves this song. Everyone wishes they knew the words to this song but no one really cares because everyone knows this song and everyone loves this song.

“Calabria 2007” – Enur (mp3)

A reggaeton song from Sweden? At first I shook my head, because it obviously made no sense, but it soon crept into my psyche and I couldn’t escape those trumpets, those damn trumpets, wherever I went. The song is annoying after the tenth, or first time, but eventually, its transformative power (of something that you can’t escape to something that you never want to go away) takes place.

“Parentheses” – The Blow (mp3)

What I consider to be the sweetest song ever written is a little ditty by Portland’s The Blow. Although the rest of their work fails to live up to the potential of “Parentheses” (and although it sounds a little similar to Love is All’s much slower “Felt Tip”), one can’t help but feel a little bit lighter and full of whimsy when listening to it.

“Close to Me” – The Cure (mp3)

Timeless in its simplicity, I have yet to find someone who hasn’t immediately fallen in love with the Cure after listening to “Close to Me.”

“Denise, Denise” – Blondie (Randy and the Rainbows cover) (mp3)

It was difficult to choose one song with a “doobie doo” in it, since that spells summer quite well, doesn’t it? Either way, Blondie’s lovely cover of Randy and the Rainbows’ (Rainbows? Seriously? If that isn’t summer…) “Denise” is so perfect that I’m going to finish writing right now to pop outside, get some ice cream, and sing along to the lyrics, nevermind who hears.

Brittany Julious is the senior contributor to This Recording. She lives in Chicago, and she blogs here and tumbls here.

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