07.20.14 PLAYLIST : Summer
This week’s playlist:
The inclusion of “Born at the Right Time” in last week’s playlist put me in mind of Paul Simon’s album The Rhythm of the Saints, which has forever been a soundtrack of summer for me. So it got me thinking of some other songs that have accompanied me through summers past, through this summer, and will probably accompany me through summers future. I tried to avoid obvious summer songs (like “Summertime,” for example – though maybe that belongs to a playlist for a different day).
“Empty Threat” & “Swim Club” & “Down by the Seaside”
Sometimes a song reminds you of summer lyrically and sometimes sonically. For these three songs, it’s both (actually, that might be true of all these songs). “Empty Threat” and “Swim Club” both feel like they’re dripping with humidity, except when a surprise breeze or the cool shade of a grove of trees offers some respite. “Down by the Seaside” (not a whole lot of Led Zeppelin’s music feels summery) is the best example of this, with the extended bridge offering a very different feel from the rest of the song – which to me feels almost blindingly sunshine bright. The bridge, on the other hand, is the rapid massing of thunderheads and the late afternoon storm that eventually clears the day away.
Probably every song on Lorde’s remarkable debut could be a summer song. But this one, particularly, proves that Summer, structurally not that different from the rest of the year for most working adults, is really for the kids/teens and their blissful ignorance. It’s impressive that a sixteen year-old (Lorde’s age when she released Pure Heroin) is self-aware enough to realize this.
“Words in the Fire” & “Where it Begins”
These two tunes are deserving of a summer evening. “Words in the Fire,” especially, is a rare beauty of a song.
If there’s a song on this list that evokes the breeziness of summer – not the stifling heat of the South or the Midwest, but the warmth and ease of California, or the New England Coast, or the perpetual summer of the Caribbean – it’s Joni Mitchell’s. From the opening line, “The wind is in from Africa,” you’re transported to a seaside locale and remain there.
I once posed the question on Facebook (in spring, by the way) “What are some of your favorite summer albums?” A friend of mine replied with Vampire Weekend’s debut album – which had been released a few months before, in January. But she was right. From the get-go, that entire album feels summery. Once again, a record made by kids (relatively); Vampire Weekend were in their early twenties when this first came out – do they know something that we don’t; or do we adults know too much, which prevents us from making music like this?
“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” & “Blowing Down”
There are plenty of songs off Digable Planet’s album Blowout Comb that evoke summer in the city. “Graffiti,” “The Art of Easing” and “For Corners” – especially “For Corners” – all come to mind. But the line, “This is the place to be/I see baseball caps hear bass by Warren G” from “Blowing Down” just feels like a warm summer night on a city street-corner. And there might be no better feeling than lowering the windows, opening the sunroof or dropping the top, and belting “Don’t you worry ’bout a thing” along with Stevie. This is how you rediscover that feeling of summer as a kid/teenager, when the sun is warm, the pool water is cool, and there really isn’t a worry in the world.