t’s summer and Stylus is here to help. We’ve been soundtracking your summer for the past three (2002, 2003, 2004) years with everything from metal to reggae, and a lot of hip-hop in between. This year we’ve got several possible tapes for your listening pleasure that cover a wide variety of music. So, kick back, get a nice glass of lemonade and enjoy the tunes. Like the season, they’re gonna be hot.
I love a good b-side, always have done, but in this age of legal downloads and increased irrelevance for the singles chart I’m worried that the art is rapidly becoming lost. They may no longer literally be hidden on the flipsides of singles, but even so those extra tracks on CD singles and the like offer a vital conduit for bands to experiment, distil their essence, or simply have some fun that wouldn’t be… appropriate… for inclusion on an album. Plus a lot of the time, frankly, bands have no idea what their own best work is, and end up throwing their greatest tunes on b-sides and forgetting them. This year, for the Stylus Summer Jams Mixtapes (or CDR, in my case), I have been mostly listening to b-sides…
1. Reserve Shot Gunman – Bark PsychosisFirst up is the b-side to “A Street Scene” from Hex by Bark Psychosis. Harder and noisier than anything on their mythical debut album, “Reserve Shot Gunman” rises and falls in sinister, wordless crests.
2. (It’s Good) To Be Free – Oasis
3. Tits & Ass: The Great Canadian Weekend – Manitoba
4. Don’t Stand Me Down – The Bluetones
5. Smokin’ – Super Furry Animals
6. Darker – Doves
7. Tulips – Bloc Party
8. A Distant History – Idlewild
9. Broadcast – Electric Soft Parade
10. Standing Here – The Stone Roses
11. Rain – The Beatles
12. What Happens Next? – Orbital
13. Such A Rush – Coldplay
14. Let The Damage Begin – The Verve
15. Flim – Aphex Twin
16. John Cope – Talk Talk
17. Blind – Embrace
The Morse code and hurdy-gurdy coda to Oasis’ “(It’s Good) To be Free” belies the nasty, malevolent nature of the tune – which is much better than anything from their last four albums, and one of the highlights of their really-quite-good b-sides compilation The Masterplan.
Manitoba’s “Tits & Ass…” starts and ends rambunctiously, but pulls itself into melodic simplicity in between. From the Giv’r EP, it pointed towards the elated energy of Up In Flames, but without the jazz.
The Bluetones were wimps, pure and simple, but the flipside of biggest hit “Slight Return” had a slightly menacing edge. “I know all about magic, baby / you see I taught myself” croons the one who sang. Better than anything on their albums.
“Smokin’” by SFA is pretty well-known from the compilation Out Spaced as well as the Ice Hockey Hair EP, but nevertheless its simple but phat groove necessitate its inclusion.
People go on and on about Doves b-sides, but Lost Sides seemed to me to be a waste – too short, too many variations on things previously released, and not enough quality. “Darker”, from the Sea EP, is the exception and highlight. Just get that drum sound.
“Tulips” was released as a single in its own right in the US, but on this side of the pond it was only ever the b-side to “Little Thoughts”. Comfortably sits alongside softer album moments such as “Blue Light” and “This Modern Love”.
Idlewild’s current album is AOR rubbish, a poor man’s REM – “A Distant History” is from the b-side to “You Held The World In Your Arms” and is thus about the last really good song they recorded. The piano to close deserves to be heard. Get your hair cut and lose the denim, Idlewild.
Electric Soft Parade revealed themselves over two albums to be hapless indie chancers seemingly signed by mistake, but they did at least manage this one slice of oddly-composed tenderness, which recalls The Flaming Lips if they’d had a computer as teenagers.
“Standing Here” is The Stone Roses’ best song, simple as that.
“Rain” is the song that started The Beatles off being “weird”, allegedly. Lennon discovers the joys of looping tape backwards and the world is changed.
“What Happens Next?” would have been one of the highlights of Blue Album, had Orbital not consigned it to the b-side of “One Perfect Sunrise”. A shame – its dancefloor energy and lack of tongue-in-cheek silliness would have been more than welcome.
From long before they were massive, “Such A Rush” is Coldplay’s angriest, most frustrated song, a paean against capitalism that predates both the Make Trade Fair campaign and the band’s status as multimillionaire rock stars. Make of that what you will, but the disgust in Chris Martin’s voice as he wails “look at all the people / going after money” is tangible.
“Let The Damage Begin”, from the Northern Soul period of The Verve’s chequered career, is basically four minutes of Nick McCabe destroying a guitar over a wilfully savage groove. A million miles from Dickie Ashcroft’s egotist AOR solo material.
“Come To Daddy” is Richard D James’ most infamous and easily-recognised work, but the flipside to its hellish miasma is one of the loveliest things he’s ever recorded, meaning it’s one of the loveliest things you’ll ever hear. The way the simple, childlike melody melds with the weird, off-kilter beat is sublime. Please come back properly, Richard.
Spirit Of Eden wasn’t meant to have any singles, but when EMI dropped and sued Talk Talk they also edited “I Believe In You” and attached this as a b-side. I have no idea if it’s a leftover or an outtake or something the band did specially for the purpose, but it’s beautiful and ethereal, and, crucially, contextless.
“Blind” was the highlight of Embrace’s first EP and was meant to be on their debut album, but somehow, sadly, never made it. Sheer guitar chaos with added screaming women, it gave producer Johnny Dollar tinnitus and cost him tens of thousands of pounds in work, and remains among the band’s very best work.
With all the great funk and soul reissues of the past few years, I was tempted to make a mixtape revolving around just that. However, it’s hard to discount all the quality new stuff in that vein. It’s definitely nice to know that folks are keeping the funk alive in the new millennium. The neo-soul types are suggested to take heed.
01. Lee Fields – “Problems” (Soul Fire, 2002)
So it’s been said: Lee Fields sounds a lot like James Brown. This track is no exception. These days, Fields finds himself somewhere between being remembered as an obscure funk artist from the ��70s and an upcoming part of today’s revivalist movement. Either way, he’s pretty convincing.
02. Alicia Keys – “You Don't Know My Name (Columbus Remix)” (Diamond, 2004)
So here’s the first of the token superstars of the mix. I believe this “remix” to actually be a fairly simple A-plus-B mash-up. This is due to the slightly out of tune (and at times off key) sync up between the vocal and the instrumental. It doesn’t really take too much away from the track, but it is noticeable. There’s no question Ms. Keys has worthy enough pipes for this mix, but I found the original versions of her singles to be a tad too glossy for what I had in mind here. This reggae mash-up gave her just the lo-fi makeover I was looking for.
03. Quantic (feat. Spanky Wilson) – “Don't Joke With a Hungry Man” (Ubiquity, 2004)
If only every singer had the audacious sass of Spanky Wilson. And if only every producer had the knack for flipping string progressions and marimba solos like Will Holland (aka Quantic). Spanky and Will are two peas in a pod on this one.
04. The Whitefield Brothers – “Weiya (Serengeti Beat)" (Soul Fire, 2001)
Upon first hearing the six-minute majesty of “Weiya,” most producers’ first thought would be, “Yo, I’mma sample that!” The thunderous tribal beat might just make for the world’s perfect break. Only one way to find out!
05. Joss Stone – “Dirty Man” (S-Curve, 2003)
Ms. Stone isn’t the safest of my choices. And I understand a handful of you will see my inclusion of Joss in this mixtape as blasphemy. I also understand that same handful can eat dookie nuggets, as in proper context, Joss can really shine. This is one of her more tolerable tracks from 2003’s love-it-or-hate-it Soul Sessions.
06. Joseph Henry – “I Feel Right” (Desco, 1998)
More James Brown copycat action, as if you couldn’t get enough.
07. Beyoncé – “Naughty Girl (DJ Food Mash by Luminfire)” (Columbia, 2003; Ninja Tune, 1991)
I found DJ Food’s early ��90s Jazz Brakes series to be a peachy source of instrumentals. This one has a particular soul orientation, and B’s hot buttered verses just add to the seduction of the track. I churned this one out in spring, ��04.
08. Soul Command – “Your Love” (Truth & Soul, 2005)
“Your Love” is a simple ditty without a whole lot going on, but somehow, I’m drawn to the lo-fi, almost Lee Perry-esque production approach. I have a very hard time believing this is a new recording, but I can’t find any info asserting otherwise.
09. Jamie Lidell – "Multiply" (Warp, 2005)
Admittedly, this one was an extreme last-minute installment, since I compiled the majority of the tape last week and caught my first listen of Multiply last Friday. I have faint memories of Jamie's Muddlin Gear being one of the least accessible and most forgettable albums of 2000. Who would have thought that same puffy-faced German would step up in 2005 with one of the year's best records? And those pipes? Who knew he had those things tucked away? One quick skim through the album's title track, and you'll believe the hype. Giddy up, folks. Warp is back.
01. Amerie – “1 Thing (Poets of Rhythm Mash by Luminfire)” (Sony Urban/Columbia, 2005; Quannum, 2001)
I’ll assume at this point most everyone is sick of “1 Thing.” I’m almost there. However, I can still recognize it as the best R&B; song of the year so far, hands down. So why not butcher it? I figured that was perhaps nobler than just using the original. I’ve learned “1 Thing” makes for an incredibly tough remix. I’m not quite sure what key the song is even in, but hopefully this will work well enough. See what you think. I made this on a much sleep-deprived June 2, 2005.
02. Radio City (feat. Bajka) – “The Hop” (Ubiquity, 2005)
The soft, effortless boom-bap presented in “The Hop” glides alongside reggae-esque guitar plucks and Bajka’s self-assured, street-savvy chant. The grapevine insists that Radio City’s full length will eventually drop on Ubiquity, so keep an eye out.
03. Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings – “You're Gonna Get It” (Daptone, 2005)
Of all the artists on this mix, Sharon Jones has to be my favorite. She gracefully channels all the paramount female household names in funk and soul. This love-makin’ ballad is easily one of her best tunes. Don’t sleep on it.
04. Daktaris – “Voodoo Soul Stew” (Desco, 1998)
Daktaris may indeed fall more along the Afro-beat side of things, but the brazen horn blasts of this West African groove would make it irresistible to most any funk devotee.
05. The Quantic Soul Orchestra (feat. Alice Russell) – “Feeling Good” (Ubiquity, 2005)
This is a hard track to mess up. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard a particular version that made me cringe. And there are a lot of versions. Through the years, plenty of performers have put their spin on the Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse classic. But this version by UK producer Will Holland’s Quantic Soul Orchestra—with a little help from his fellow countrywoman and upcoming blue-eyed soul diva/songsmith Alice Russell—is easily one of the best I’ve come across.
06. Greyboy (feat. Sharon Jones) – “Got to Be a Love (Paul Nice Remix)” (Ubiquity, 2004)
Mrs. Jones’ second appearance may not be as striking as her first, but it’s certainly nice to see she can do as much justice to a hip-hop beat as a live soul jam via The Dap-Kings. Luckily, if you’ve got Greyboy’s full length Soul Mosaic, this Paul Nice remix is included as a bonus track.
07. The New Mastersounds (feat. Sam Bell) – “The Tin Drum” (3 on the B, 2005)
For whatever reason, I tried to steer clear from instrumental tracks for this endeavor. But something about the Africa-meets-Cuba-meets-Memphis groove of this one just hooks me like a fish. I couldn’t resist throwing it on.
08. Naomi Davis – “Promised Land” (Daptone, 2002)
Backed by Daptone regulars Sugarman & Co., “Promised Land” sees the low registry croon of Naomi Davis against a burning upbeat groove. This isn’t exactly the label’s finest moment on wax, but it’ll do the trick as a nice closer.
The music I associate with summer has always depended solely on whatever music I happened to be obsessed with at the time. There was a Clouds Taste Metallic summer, there was a Skylarking summer, and, most recently, there was a Pretty Toney Album summer. I could have compiled a bunch of these personal favorites for my Summer Jam Mixtape, but I opted to paint with a wider, less self-absorbed brush. Since all of my summers thus far have been spent in blissful suburbia, I present here an ideal mix tape for a day in the life of a suburban teenager. Side A is meant to be played during the daytime, and Side B is for all the wild shit that goes down after dark when somebody’s mom and dad are out of town.
Side A: On the Way to the Mall
1. The Gourds – “Gin and Juice”
Until I was tipped off by a friend while working on this little project, I, like everyone else I know, thought this song was by Phish, which only makes the hundreds upon hundreds of “Phish is so funny!” comments I’ve heard all the more ridiculous. Snoop’s video of this song perfectly parallels the imagery I’m trying to create here—there’s no better way to kick off the suburban day than with this song.
2. Dispatch – “The General”
In my entire life I have met exactly two people that like Creed, and about fifty million who adore Dispatch. Yet somehow when I was in high school Creed dominated the charts while Dispatch probably never even cracked the Billboard 200. How is this possible? I guess I need to get out of the Northeast more.
3. Don McLean – “American Pie”
Once, on a long ride back to school once with some fellow suburbanites from separate towns who barely knew each other, this song came on the radio. Somehow, all four of them knew every single word, even though “American Pie” is almost nine minutes long, so including this wasn’t really my decision.
4. Dashboard Confessional – “Hands Down”
This song is included because it reminds me of the best day I can ever remember. I was at an amusement park with this girl I’d had a crush on for, like, nineteen months, and we rode the Ferris wheel together. At the very top I finally got up the nerve to tell her how much I loved her and she said, “Aww, that’s so sweet, Ross” and kissed me on the lips right there. And I knew that she meant it.
5. Jurassic 5 – “Concrete Schoolyard”
Yo, have you heard this shit? It’s rap music, but it’s not meant to be played at parties. Well, you can play it at parties if you’re feeling really chill, but you can also play it when you’re driving your car and stuff, and it won’t give you a searing headache. I just love J5’s beats, and they rap about basketball and stuff.
6. Jimmy Eat World – “Sweetness”
What an incredible song. “Sweetness” is far and away the epochal suburban rock song of this millennium. Any time I hear a song like this that is so perfect and essential, I wonder if, at the time, the artist at hand truly understood the gravity of what they were creating. Did Jimmy Eat World realize that they were recording the greatest song ever for blasting out your windows and screaming along with while pulling out of a 7-Eleven parking lot?
7. Led Zeppelin – “Black Dog”
Perhaps no band casts a larger shadow over the suburban musical landscape than the almighty Led Zeppelin. If you listened exclusively to Dave Matthews and various Puff Daddy offshoots for the first sixteen years of your life, there’s no quicker way to validate your tastes than to buy Zeppelin’s first four albums. Almost all of their classic rock radio staples would work here, but, thanks to its timeless opening line, no other song can claim to have played such a crucial role in as many doomed high school hook-ups as “Black Dog.”
8. Blue Öyster Cult – “Don’t Fear the Reaper”
Hey, guys, this is the song they play in that HILARIOUS Saturday Night Live skit with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken where he says “I’ve got a fever and the only cure is more cowbell,” and Ferrell just bangs away. Man, this will never, ever, ever get old!
Side B: Where the Party At?
9. Geto Boys – “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta”
Obviously, a more appropriate title for this song would be “Damn It Feels Good to Be a White Kid Buying Pabst Blue Ribbon with a Fake ID,” but I suppose that was never really the Geto Boys’ shtick.
10. Jagged Edge – “Where the Party At?”
Not only does the title represent the ultimate existential quandary of ninety-nine percent of all teenage suburbanites, but the song itself is the apotheosis of suburban party music. Does the kid whose parents aren’t home tonight run this mutha for ya? Hell yeah.
11. Juvenile – “In My Life”
Put simply, this is possibly the funniest song of the last twenty years. And what’s a suburban party without a contribution from the mind of Mannie Fresh?
12. Bon Jovi – “Livin’ on a Prayer”
Anyone who thinks that Nirvana killed hair metal for good is kidding themselves. Maybe this appeared to be true in 1992, but I’ve got some bad news for you Generation Xers out there: Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and their peers are all vastly more popular amongst baby boomlets than Nirvana could ever hope to be. Play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at a party and you risk getting clawed to death by sorostitues. Play “Livin’ on a Prayer” and dozens of strangers will come together in a display of musical friendship and fraternity that goes unseen outside of black Baptist churches.
13. Petey Pablo – “Raise Up”
Suburbanites’ interest in hip-hop (outside of Biggie and Tupac, R.I.P.) seems to stem primarily from artists whose foremost vocal influences are people trying to shout their way out of a burning building, and Southern hip-hop has this market cornered. All credit goes to Master P for kicking things off in a big way with “Make ’Em Say Ugh,” but “Raise Up” adds a fun, aeronautically exhibitionist element with its memorable chorus.
14. Darude – “Sandstorm”
Apparently there are people out there who don’t like techno. What are they thinking? Haven’t they heard “Blue” by Eiffel 65? Or “Call On Me” by Eric Prydz? “Sandstorm” brought a completely new sound to suburban dancefloors/basements when it came out, and it was awesome. In fact, I’m going to go so far as saying that electronic music is going to get huge really, really soon.
15. Usher – “Yeah”
(In Dave Chapelle voice) WWWWWHHHAAAT! OKAAAAAAYYYYY! YYEEAAAAAYYYAAAHH! Hahahahahahaha!
16. Billy Joel – “Piano Man”
Oh, man, this is such a good song. Don’t tell me you don’t like “Piano Man.” Billy Joel creates such amazing imagery with his words. And while it’s a shame that the party’s over, there’s no other song that I’d rather end this night with. So let’s huddle up, put our arms around each other, sway back and forth, and belt this out like it’s senior prom all over again. I love you guys.
John M. Cunningham
Unlike some writers' tapes, mine is less an opportunity to dazzle you with my impeccable taste and more a snapshot of a specific moment in time. During the summer of 1991, I was twelve years old, in between seventh and eighth grades. Highlights included joining my first Little League team (although my lack of previous experience meant I was shunted to right field for most of the season); lazing around in air conditioning, watching Diff'rent Strokes reruns and making salami sandwiches; and, in August, taking a family road trip to Washington, D.C. I had a Walkman on that vacation and would listen in the car to homemade mixes of new songs I'd taped off the radio; though I fear the original tapes are long lost (I've instructed my parents to be vigilant, just in case they're in the basement somewhere), the following is a good approximation of what one of them sounded like. Better sequenced, too!
1. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, "Summertime"
I mean, of course. But fourteen years later, it's still fresh—that slithering Kool & the Gang sample is much closer to G-funk than most pop-rap of the time—and still redolent of those warm, laid-back summer daze. The video's perfect, too: it's just Will goofily guiding the camera past barbecue grills, with lots of slow-motion shots of cars with tops down and girls skipping rope around open hydrants.
2. Monie Love, "It's a Shame (My Sister)"
One of the first female hip-hop artists to find chart success, Monie Love spins the original Spinners hit—stripped down to a simple, funky guitar lick and throwback soul hook—into a tuff-love shout-out. She's all up in your business, but you know it's cuz she cares.
3. Lenny Kravitz, "It Ain't Over Til It's Over"
Kravitz gets so much hate for his rock-star buffoonery, it's easy to ignore the fact that this, his first single, is actually quite good. In fact, the soft, untrained croon over an odd, ambitious arrangement—essentially, a light disco beat with cheesecake strings and a fake sitar—conjures up the far-more-revered Shuggie Otis.
4. Color Me Badd, "I Wanna Sex You Up"
Not nearly as solid, and frankly embarrassing at times, but I really couldn't imagine making a summer '91 mix and leaving off this froggy-voiced, multiracial come-on notable for sparking junior-high tittering everywhere.
5. C&C; Music Factory, "Things That Make You Go Hmmm...."
You have to love a catchphrase that's lasted in spite of the fact that nobody has ever actually said it. For all the talk about C+C fusing hip-hop and house (as they joyously do on "Gonna Make You Sweat"), this song has all the marks of "Bust a Move" Pt. 2, from the dorky party funk right down to the cautionary tale in four scenarios. No surprise, then, that it also totally works.
6. Jesus Jones, "Right Here, Right Now"
I axed the Scorpions' "Wind of Change" from a first draft of this mix, partially because the whistling got on my nerves, but also because one rock song about the fall of Communism was enough! Kind of neat, though, when you realize that both peaked right as the Soviet Union was collapsing in August.
7. Roxette, "Joyride"
Roxette was always somewhat ridiculous, starting with its singer's spiky and sculpted Annie Lennox/Brigitte Nielsen look, and the lyrics here are no exception ("Hello! You fool! I love you!")—but the sheer commitment to the song, bolstered by a soaring guitar lead and the screeched "Rox-ette!" in the coda, wins me over.
8. EMF, "Unbelievable"
For better or for worse, this was the pinnacle of the Madchester sound in the U.S., reaching #1 on a blend of dance beats and shouts, busy cowbell, and the "hard rock" preset on my Casio. Me, I liked imitating James Atkins' accent while replacing the mush-mouthed "your purple prose gives you away" with "your Hans and Franz impression blows me away." Did I mention I was twelve?
9. Boyz II Men, "Motownphilly"
Part of the reason why Color Me Badd was such a joke was that there was something too calculated about their rise. Boyz II Men, on the other hand, tackled the same doo-wop/hip-hop hybrid while making it clear that they were just pals from Philly who'd still be harmonizing on the street corner if they hadn't been noticed. They also oozed charm. Maybe my favorite of these songs at the time.
10. Another Bad Creation, "Playground"
More classic new jack swing. Although, man, did they always sound this young?
11. LL Cool J, "Mama Said Knock You Out"
And then the jungle-gym hollering mutates into ringside chanting, with one of the only songs on the radio in 1991 that bore any resemblance to Public Enemy. LL Cool J makes it personal not political, but that monochromatic track and his fiercely spit-out rap pack just as strong a punch. I jumped around on sofa cushions to this one.
12. Black Box, "Strike It Up"
I was too young to appreciate the significance of house music filtering into worldwide pop in the early '90s, but I knew I liked Black Box, who married Martha Wash's disco-diva vocals to Italian club beats for a breed of energetic dance-pop that's now virtually absent from the U.S. charts. The saxes here, simultaneously muscular and drowsy, are a nice touch.
13. The KLF, "3 A.M. Eternal"
It also wasn't until two years ago that I discovered that the KLF was as much a conceptual art project as it was a pop act, though I at least knew (via "Justified and Ancient") they had a sense of humor. Anyway, it wouldn't have mattered one way or the other, since "3 A.M. Eternal" was still such a darkly bewitching song.
14. Seal, "Crazy"
After his 1994 sophomore album, with lush adult-contempo hit "Kiss From a Rose," you forget sometimes that Seal's first single was so club-oriented, with the sort of burbling sequenced synths and tribal breakdowns I'd hear three years later on a friend's William Orbit album. (It also competed with "Mama Said Knock You Out" for best artsy B&W; video of the summer.)
15. Tara Kemp, "Piece of My Heart"
I have a soft spot for people like Tara Kemp, who enjoyed two top-ten hits in 1991 (this and "Hold You Tight"), both presumably bumped in clubs and blasted from cars all summer, but who doesn't even merit a one-line bio on AMG. I totally own this CD.
16. Amy Grant, "Every Heartbeat"
Would it even be possible for Amy Grant, full of sweet-cheeked virtue, armed with spirited horns, and free of any hip-hop influence whatsoever, to succeed in 2005? It's those qualities that make this song one of the most dated-sounding on the mix but also one of the most fascinating.
17. Paula Abdul, "Rush Rush"
So here's where I take things down and let the slow jams ride us out. "Rush Rush" was Paula's first hit ballad, after the four successive upbeat singles from Forever Your Girl. Marked by her typically understated voice and a surprising violin solo, it's quite lovely.
18. Bryan Adams, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You"
This, of course, was the monster of the summer of '91, #1 for a miraculous seven straight weeks starting in July, and even longer in the U.K. Its reputation has fared about as well as most power ballads of its day, but there's a satisfying fist-pumping aspect to it that I've learned makes it an ideal karaoke choice. Also, have you heard the non-radio edit? Whoa. We're talking some serious rippling stars-and-stripes, soaring eagle shit.
19. Luther Vandross, "Power of Love/Love Power"
Most people would end on that note, but there's room at the end of our C90, and I can think of no better man to lead us out than the inspirational Mr. Luther Vandross. Take it away.
Michael F. Gill
1. The season between spring and autumn comprising in the northern hemisphere usually the months of June, July, and August or as reckoned astronomically extending from the June solstice to the September equinox.
2. Where it becomes so warm your body forgets what it was like to be cold and sends you off to seek other heated bodies.
01. Lizzy Mercier Descloux - Funky Stuff
Why not start off with the most fun and energetic cover I've ever heard? Please, almighty God, replenish the earth's supply of overly exuberant girls and have them take over the world.
02. Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
From one wide-eyed lady to another, then. Even though I've heard this hundreds of times, the amount of unbridled joy in that guitar riff lives on to soundtrack yet another seaside volleyball match. Someday I'll write a thesis on how French House producers’ main goal was to create music that could sound as perfectly summery, carefree, and perky as "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."
03. Crush – Jellyhead
I heard this ridiculously infectious piece of Europop only one time in 1996, but that was enough for it to be stuck in my head up until last year when I finally was able to track it down when one of the members re-emerged in the group Portobella. Surely the big rave piano breakdown in the middle was already sounding dated by the mid 90’s, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t surprisingly revitalize the entire song.
04. Trans X - Living On Video
Cool Detachment vs. Hot Summer Fun (Round 1). An anonymous female vocal drawls coldly like Gina X in order to try to bring some noir-ish credibility to an army of cartoonish Hi-NRG synths. She loses, stupid fun wins.
05. Kano - Now Baby Now
Even if it was directly ripped off for Felix Da Housecat's "Glitz Rock," the original version by Kano still stands as tall as a glass of water. The melodies may tickle you with insistence, and the rhythms gently push you down a couple of stairs, yet it all feels normal, comfortable, and quietly enveloping. Think of it as the dance floor equivalent of a healthy nervous tic.
06. Divine - Shoot Your Shot
Yes, it's John Waters' "Godzilla of Drag Queens" getting some help by NYC disco maven Bobby Orlando for some candy-flossed club action. Listening to any given Bobby O song is like eating one of those "energy" bars you see in the supermarket: they don't provide any lasting rewards, but boy does it hit the spot when you are consuming it. [Note: crappier Bobby O songs are like asparagus flavored energy bars.)
07. Morane - Living On A Traffic Island
Cool Detachment vs. Hot Summer Fun (Round 2). Another anonymous female gets very excited and agitated over live funk bass/guitar and slinky house grooves courtesy of Perlon's Markus Nikolai. Markus has apparently locked our singer in a grid-locked island of cars, but that won't stop her from using all that pent-up frustration into enjoying the summer air.
08. Mint Royale - Don't Falter
I'm still hoping that one of these days ex-Kenickie singer Lauren Laverne dusts off her guitar and makes another record, but until then I have to savor her random guest appearance on tracks like this. Here the normally big-beat happy Mint Royale are reworked into Cardigans style bliss-pop. Bless!
09. Ottawan - D.I.S.C.O.
She is D: Delirious!
She is I: Incredible!
She is S: Superficial!
She is C: Complicated!
She is O: oh, oh, oh!
We should have seen Daft Punk coming after Thomas Bangalter's father wrote this cheesy little ode to the discothèque. If I ever have kids, I'll be playing them this.
10. Le Knight Club - Nymphae Song
Keeping on the Daft Punk disco trip, here's the side group of DP's Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo laying down some no nonsense filter disco-funk. Just like pre-2005 Daft Punk, he's able to find that one incredible loop and work it for the entire song.
11. Cloud One - Disco Juice
It’s time to turn up the humidity a bit here with a track here from Harlem's all-star disco team of Patrick Adams and Peter Brown. It's a perfect segue from Le Knight Club because it also mines the similar "play one genius riff and find a way to keep it going for seven minutes" idea.
12. Bomb The Bass - Bug Powder Dust (La Funk Mob Remix)
This mixtape is stuck in France! Here's one of Cassius' aliases remixing Bomb The Bass into (what else?) summertime hip-hop. Jason Warfield is rapping about Naked Lunch and William Burroughs but he sounds so relaxed he might as well be popping open the Bacardi.
13. Andre Kraml - Safari
"I met a girl in a dream, she was seven feet high / I asked her whatcha' doing here acting so fly?"
The bizarre vocalist Schad Privat leads you on a laid-back microhouse jam to the tropics! It even dissolves into ridiculous elephant trumpeting halfway through. Apparently Michael Mayer played this once every hour during a long Sonar beach party set. I’d believe it.
14. Lucien-N-Luciano - Madre, Mother & Mere
Lucien Nicolet’s Latin interjections into microhouse are one of my favorite things to hear at the moment. This is him at his most festive and seductive, with digital mandolins, light Spanish guitars, vocodered vocals, and his trademark voluptuous drum rhythms. Who’s ready to strip down and move to Chile with me?
15. Beanie Sigel - Don't Stop
A nicely chilled out Neptunes production with Snoop Dogg on the hook, “Don’t Stop” Is that last moment on the lounge chair before the evening beckons. It also segues from Luciano in such a natural way you have to wonder if the producers are listening in to each other.
16. Amerie - One Thing (Siik Remix)
I still have no idea who did this or where it came from, but this cool, jazzy rework is this perfect thing to end a summer night. It’s amazing how the emotional affect of Amerie vocals now sounds more casual and low-key when they are stripped of their original frantic backing.
I tend to stay up later during the summer. The night is the most pleasant time of the day, of course, and since I’m only now leaving school summer still carries for me the sense of lessened responsibilities. My listening changes too; whereas during the day or when I’m working I often need shorter songs that provide quicker gratification, it’s during the humid summer nights I’m more likely to stretch out and not mind those tracks that take a good long time getting where they’re going. This, for me, is the perfect soundtrack to setting up a chair, a bucket of ice and some beer on the roof/patio and the back of my building, kicking back with a good book and watching people walk home from the bars.
01. Minotaur Shock – “Motoring Britain” (6:15)
This was one of those little surprises that I only barely kept that then, months later, sprung up from my playlist and caused me to discover that I actually really loved it. That incredibly satisfying plucked guitar at the center of it all slowly ripples out into the night and the backing beats slowly become more frenetic, culminating in the my favourite use of a music box in a song ever (even including Bjork’s “Frosti”).
02. Steely Dan – “Deacon Blues” (7:35)
Steely Dan are a band I can only appreciate every so often and only in some circumstances, kind of like a really rich dessert. And their very finest track is probably this extended meditation on loser-dom, starring a true Steely Dan hero—even when he makes love it’s “languid and bittersweet.” The chorus is killer, the studio craft is (do you even have to ask?) immaculate, and if you’re not moved even a little by the end, well, don’t heckle; I bring water balloons up here, too.
03. Mogwai – “Burn Girl Prom Queen” (8:33)
It would feel almost obscene to have something cheery after “Deacon Blues,” and Mogwai’s EP track “Burn Girl Prom Queen” is nothing more than a long, slow descent with added sad horns and funeral drumming. It’s also absolutely gorgeous, the horns calling out into the dark as Mogwai slowly and quietly march forward behind them.
04. Bob Dylan – “Desolation Row” (11:21)
I love this song, but the structure is repetitive (sonically if not lyrically) that normally after five or six minutes I’ll skip ahead to the next track. Not so late at night during the summer. Out in the air in the middle of the night Dylan’s epic fable (maybe it was something else once, but it’s in the realm of myth now) regains the inexorability that, coupled with the loveliness of the lead guitar, drew me to it in the first place. Even though I can’t claim the same kind of attachment some can—my favourite verse is still the one they quoted in Watchmen.
The Radio Dept. – “Why Won’t You Talk About It?” (3:09)
To quote from the back of Hefner’s The Fidelity Wars: “A little pepper with your sugar every once in a while, just to keep things vigorous?”
01. Eluvium – “New Animals From The Air” (10:47)
A bit obvious, I know, but the impact of this is still unrivaled. I’d love to blast it out of some nice speakers and cause some weary revelers to go “what is that incredible noise?” But really I know they’d just be tired, hot, drunk and annoyed. Their loss—this is one of the most uplifting things I’ve ever heard.
02. Monster Movie – “Letting You Know” (3:59)
This is one of those mysterious little MP3s that I can’t remember where I got, I know very little if anything about the band, and even though I love “Letting You Know” I have no real desire to find out more. It exists best for me as a small, perfectly-formed gem, undisturbed by anything else the band may have done. Stiff, machine-drum stomp, a quit wash of post-MBV guitars and keys, and at the end one of the most lambent vocals I’ve ever heard. I think I recall hearing she was a guest vocalist when I downloaded this, which is just another reason to be thankful for what I’ve got.
03. Dirty Three – “I Offered It Up To The Stars And The Night Sky” (13:41)
This is a great song that I almost never have the time to listen to in my daily life, or at least it feels that way. From the twining, multi-layered violins of the prologue to the lonely strength of the climax, this is that rare instrumental that lives up to its title. It’s one of the most moving songs I’ve ever heard, and I wish I listened to it more often. There is nothing more perfect than staring at the stars while listening to this.
04. Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions – “Clear Day” (6:11)
Sandoval’s album with the Warm Inventions, Bavarian Fruit Bread, is basically an hour-long lullaby, and after all the dust the Dirty Three have kicked up, she’s the perfect choice to quiet things down and send us to bed, with a beautifully fuzzed-up harmonica and a promise to kiss all your troubles away.
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-06-13