Music was all around us – carrying thinly through the still, humid air – bright sun blazing down as we splashed in the Platte River. Clear, insistent beats oscillating in cool, dimly-lit bars and basements. All the windows down – wind surging through the car – furry melodies, whipping, aswirl, as we’d tear down country roads sending up diaphanous, starlit walls of dust in the twinkling night.
Happy songs, sad songs, and love songs – summertime rules, and summer tunes work to lift us up, to even us out, and to send us into quiet contemplation. For me, the formative summers of the early- and mid-1980s are easy to revisit through the time machine of music.
I am always on the lookout for something new, and still love those songs that gave my young summer world its shape. Here is a sample of a few new and a few old songs for summer.
I love Drew Citron’s voice and her guitar power pop band Beverly. They recently released one of my favorite records of the year, The Blue Swell. This dreamy music is mostly light and it shimmers around the edges, but there is heft and darkness to be found at its core. Strong lyrically and melodically, Beverly provides great hooks and beats with this superior summer music.
All Songs Considered does it again – the weekly NPR show is great for turning me on to new music and artists. Recently they featured the terrific summer song linked directly below by Esmé Patterson, a musician from Portland, OR. This tune put me in the mind of some of my friends’ and my favorites from college summers in the early- and mid-1980s, like Oh-OK, R.E.M., and Let’s Active. Enter the time machine here:
Feel Right by Esmé Patterson from We Were Wild (2016 Grand Jury).
Here they come … celebrating fifty years, the trippy, fun 1960s television phenoms The Monkees are back! Good Times is their new album and it features each of the ‘prefab’ four (yes, even the late Davy Jones is represented with some vocals.) The album includes songs written by Harry Nilsson, Neil Diamond, Paul Weller, and many others. This bubbly track was written for the boys by XTC’s Andy Partridge.
You Bring the Summer by The Monkees from Good Times (2016 Rhino).
The marvelous shapeshifterKristin Welchez shed her post-punk Dum Dum Girls persona, Dee Dee, and has embraced synth-pop. She now performs as Kristin Kontrol, and this tune would not have been out of place pulsing from the basement ‘boom box’ in 1984. Her new album was released last week.
(Don’t) Wannabe by Kristin Kontrol from X-Communicate (2016 Sub Pop).
My favorite record of 2015 came from the Montreal quartet No Joy. They are back mid-July with more of their killer, summer sounds. Here is a ripping tune that picks up where they left off:
A Thorn In Garland’s Side by No Joy from the forthcoming EP Drool Sucker (due 15 July 2016 Topshelf Records).
What would the Romantic, minor key and chord geniuses Claude Debussy and Erik Satie have made of Radiohead? The Oxford lads delivered another masterpiece recently called A Moon Shaped Pool. Below are two links. First, a live version of a song that is perfect for a sultry evening on the patio. Share it with someone you can sit and be quiet with, and have a glass of something cold and strong. The second song is perfect listening for floating alone in the pool at the blinding, blistering end of a summer afternoon.
Here are a few ‘summery’ songs from the early-80s vault.
They were sublime….from Georgia,Oh-OK:
They were sparkling….from North Carolina, Let’s Active:
Irreplaceable, masterful – Prince:
Take Me With U by Prince and The Revolution (w/ Apollonia) from Purple Rain (1984 Warner Bros.).
Fall in love… – The Psychedelic Furs:
She Is Mine by The Psychedelic Furs from Talk Talk Talk (1981 Columbia).