Thursday, August 4, 2011

Six Song Six-Pack - Summery Songs From Summer Albums

As I might have mentioned before, summer in Chicago is a brief and glorious thing and I love it all the more for that. Unlike in the sunbelt, Chicagoans never put harsh winter too far out of our minds and thus treasure our summers all them more. We find ways to move every possible activity we can out-of-doors and pack all the sun we can into about three-and-a-half months. When you combine that "make hay while the sun shines" attitude with increased sunlight,  it's no wonder that summer days can still seem almost endless with possibility.

With that in mind, this six-pack isn't just a summer mix, it's an ode to whole albums that celebrate the season. In a month it'll be Labor Day, so for God's sake people, we've gotta spin this stuff while we can!

I start off with "Ride The Wild Wave" because, it is quite simply a perfect shot across the summery bow. The Oranges Band rely on simple, late 50's dynamics on their instruments to audibly channel bliss. It's the second song on a classic summer album and under-appreciated gem, The World & Everything In It. Despite good press and an energetic live show, the band never really took off much out of Baltimore but the songs here show that they should have. "Ride The Nuclear Wave" and "Drug City" are other highlights but you can't top the airy organ and searing but restrained guitar work on this song. "When you and me met we defined / seventeen and summertime / we had all the time in the world" sings Roman Kuebler and for a few minutes, you feel exactly the same way.

2. "Eye Know" – De La Soul, 3 Feet High And Rising Buy it.

There's something about a lot of Golden Age hip-hop that feels so open and joyful that it always sounds good on a sunny day. But the upbeat sampling and loose, airy feeling put De La Soul's 1989 masterstroke, 3 Feet High And Rising. It's a brilliant album that plays nary a bum note. Indeed even the skits and interludes are brilliant, sadly inspiring thousands of other less... inspired rappers to add them to albums ever since. The content and feel of the album is that of lazy summer days spent amongst friends in your neighborhood making fun of each other, exploring and mostly just enjoying being together throughout the long, hot, gloriously empty days. "Eye Know" samples Sly, Steely Dan and late-period Otis to create a warm sonic blanket full of organ, horns and a skippingly happy beat. Over this, Pos and Dove lay down words of love as sweet and honest as any classic in the American songbook. This is a summer day in a can people, use it carefully.

3. "Grass" - XTC, Skylarking Buy it.

I have to admit that I've long been an XTC agnostic. Every year or so I'd duitifully give Skylarking a shot despite going half a decade without really warming to it. I don't know what made this summer different but, I gotta say I'm finally hearing the album and it's delightful. "Summer's Cauldron" establishes the mood and the rest of the album is a series of lovely, psychedelic meditations on life in the summer. "Earn Enough For Us" and "Big Day" are songs to grow with and "Ballet For A Rainy Day" is a delight which just missed last week's six pack. "Grass" channels both George Harrison's ragas and the Zombies vocally lush pop in sonic landscape while joining "Afternoon Delight" and "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?" as one of rock's most surprisingly explicit songs.

4. "Parties In The U.S.A." - Jonathan Richman, I, Jonathon Buy it.

Jonathan Richman used to front one of the classic cult bands, The Modern Lovers. They fused the proto-punk and nerdy cool sensibilities that have come to define indie rock. His solo career has been long and interesting but one of its undeniable gems is 1992's I, Jonathon. It's an album built mostly around Richman on solo acoustic or very clean electric guitar. The lead track is a loving vamp about the titular subject that rides an infectious "Louie, Louie" guitar riff for all its worth. Richman delivers a lovesong to the great American institution that thrives every summer - the house party. You can practically smell the burgers hear the muffled conversation when you hear him sing "could there be all these parties down some little lane / With potato chips sitting there and guitar playing? / We need more parties in the U.S.A." 

The rest of the album follows suit with the shaggy dog fun of "I Was Dancing In A Lesbian Bar", seasonal ode "That Summer Feeling" and gorgeous album closer "Twilight In Boston". Throw this on Friday night, invite the friends over and crack some beers, you'll thank me.

5. "Ana" - Pixies, Bossanova Buy it.

She's my fave
Undressing in the sun
Return to sea by
Forgetting everyone
Eleven high
Ride the wave

It's a haunting, acrostic evocation of hazy summer heat and the girls on the beach that's perfectly suited to its album. Bossanova is not universally beloved by Pixies fans, but I've always seen it as a step sideways rather than backwards after the twin titans of Surfer Rosa and Doolittle. It's a weird, spooky, space-surf adventure that's well worth a trip down rabbit hole of Frank Black's mind. Put it on some summer night and enjoy the ride.

6. "It’s You" – Spider Bags, In Celebration Of Hunger Buy it.

North Carolina-cum-Jersey boys, the Spider Bags are a lot more than just a Wire reference. They make brand of southern fried rock that is a drunken, lovesick mixture of the Meat Puppets and the Replacements that stands out among the hordes of buzz bands flooding the internet. Their 2007 debut, In Celebration Of Hunger is the perfect soundtrack to a long, hot, wasted summer that we've all lived at one point.  "It's You" sounds nothing more than like listening to your stoner neighbors pick out a tune on the back porch, variable beat and corny asides intact. But the song's got an irresistibly sweet melody and lines like "she got a dog named after Ike Turner / she called him Good Songwriter, Bad Husband", so the you can't help but join in on the choruses. Whether tying one on or sleeping one off, no one's better at commiserating about "this life of shit" than the Spider Bags.

Bonus Track:
Waking Up Drunk [Spider Bags] - Titus Andronicus 
Although far more histrionic, Titus Andronicus are loving fans of the 'Bags, as seen by this cover of another Celebration standout.
You can grab the rest of the Daytrotter Session here.

No comments:

Post a Comment