may be taking classes this summer at my University, but that doesn’t mean I’m not spending each and every night dancing into the wee hours of the morning. In my room. Alone. This will be my soundtrack.
01. !!!- “Intensify (Sunracapellectrohshit Mix)”
The B-Side off of the heralded new single from this group. The stuttery breakdowns belie the fact that they may have been listening to some Prefuse 73, but the handclaps tell me they’ve been listening to old school techno, as well. The aforementioned stuttered breakdown portion allowed me to mix this song neatly into…
02. Metro Area- “Miura”
As far as I am concerned this is one of the most slept-on releases of 2002. This group achieves the rare balance between an incredible simplicity of elements and the implicit knowledge that if one more sound entered into the mix that the whole thing might come crashing down at any moment. One person that you have to thank for this track is the remixer of…
03. The Rapture- “House of Jealous Lovers (Morgan Geist Mix)”
And he doesn’t disappoint on this apparently vinyl-only gem of a remix. The song becomes, at once, more streamlined and wilder. Geist takes the elements and allows them to breathe within a very confined space- squalls of sax are present but fade away beautifully. Little energy is taken away from the blinding original and it’s a good thing considering I mixed this into the insane bleeps and bloops of fellow DFA Records labelmates…
04. The Juan Maclean- “By The Time I Get To Venus”
One of the lesser talked about bands on the label, but by no means any less talented. Perhaps it’s a lack of gimmick. The Rapture has the sax and the wailing singer, LCD Soundsystem has the irony laden spoken word artist, and the Juan Maclean has…hard edged electro? The hard edge is for a reason, though, because little else would work before…
05. Out Hud- “Dad, There's A Little Phrase Called Too Much Information”
A mix between the two that I am privately rejoicing over, incidentally. While I don’t particularly enjoy the fuzzed out guitars of this group and the semi-frequent destruction of perfectly nice grooves, this song had to find a place on this mix- especially since it definitely ends on a softer edge, which led nicely into the very cushiony beat of…
06. LCD Soundsystem- “Beat Connection”
Another vastly underrated B-Side, in my opinion. Especially since it’s a far more spare take on the same set of issues that are dealt with in “Losing My Edge”. And if you think it doesn’t have groove, then perhaps I can send you a copy of this mix and its intense mixing with the beginning of the climax of this mix in the form of…
07. The Rapture- “I Need Your Love”
From the forthcoming, Echoes LP by the group and the closest that they have come to what I want them to be: heavily indebted to micro-house and still unafraid to use the guitar as a deadly weapon. In my mix, I used the heavy bass from “Beat Connection” to boost the intensity of “I Need Your Love”. Guys, there’s nothing wrong with a little oomph…a little over the top…a little…
08. Electric Six- “Danger! High Voltage! (Thin White Duke Remix)”
Because you know it had to be on here. The Thin White Duke has turned in a number of fantastic remixes recently and it’s obvious why: he’s Jacques Lu Cont, aka Les Rythmes Digitales, one of the foremost eighties fetishists working in electronic music today. But this isn’t only remixes on this disc. We also have originals, like…
09. Zongamin- “Painless”
Perhaps the one song that, in my opinion, simply marks time on this mix. It works well as bookends, but there is something missing from this song that many of the other songs on here have. I think it’s something that is illustrated very well by…
10. Le Tigre- “Deceptacon (DFA Mix)”
In this mix, it becomes clear that the trick is taking elements that are defiantly out-of-control and melding them to a beat. A certain commodification of the unruly, in service of keeping the beat going on and on. I’m sure that one of the groups well aware of this is…
11. Fischerspooner- “Emerge (DFA Mix)”
And could it end with anyone else? For good or bad, this group has done more to popularize this type of music than any other in the past few years. And while the haters may hate, I’ll just be dancing alone in my room. Not because of shame, mind you, but because I can’t find anyone who can keep up.
I am a crummy, heart-broken sod. So shoot me. Barring a sudden extrovertedness on my part, and a bit of luck and good timing, my summer will consist of lots of pity moping, restive nights, and fantastical fantasies of coy smiles, light touching, dark hair and late-night whispers in the cool summer air -- all because of a cataclysmic encounter with one of the few -- no, the only -- person I could ever envisage myself with. Pause. So, like most music geeks, when I'm dejected I run to my record shelf. This list is compiled from that Scandinavian built contraption. No mp3s were used.
01. Spain – “Born to Love Her”
Josh Haden's breathy lyric perfectly sums up my feelings towards The Girl: "She makes me wait / She's wasting time / And tempting fate / Why can't she see / That her search is in vain / I was born to love her." Sappy, yet honest.
02. Everything But the Girl – “Get Me”
Every line in this song can be related to my current situation. Thorn's vocal is absolutely breathtaking; the way she just squeezes out the word "get" near the songs end is so painfully beautiful. Favorite lyric: “Shower me with affection and I'll return in kind / I have no hidden motive / I am blind."
03. Rivulets – “Four Weeks”
The opening verse, "Hey Mr. Pharmacist / Could you pass me a cigarette? / 'Cause I'm dying here / And I just want to get it over with / She says I'm desperate / Desperate for you" says it all.
04. Aarktica – “Ocean”
It’s like riding on a soft cirrus cloud through the pearly gates, building from simple guitar picking to a majestic crescendo with DeRosa and Lorraine Lelis exchanging vows while the angels play violin above them.
05. Interpol - “Specialist”
This is probably my favorite Interpol song. So foreboding ("Why don't you come into my barrio we'll see if you can float,"), so caustic ("You make me lose my buttons, oh yeah, you make me spit,"), and so sweet ("If I get there early will it be the right time? / Our heaven is just waiting so put your hand into mine"): I love it.
06. Juliana Hatfield - “Universal Heart-Beat”
A more sanguine track than the previous, it contains a hyper-energetic refrain with Hatfield screaming out, "A heart / A heart that hurts / Is a heart / A heart that works!"
07. Catherine Wheel - “Black Metallic”
Seven minutes of sonic-ecstasy. The golden moment comes 3/4s the way through, where the guitar wailing ceases and its simply Dickinson whispering, "Your skin is black metallic..." over the sedated drums, only to erupt again into a final haze of burnished noise.
08. Julee Cruise - “Mysteries of Love”
A sort of transition between the two sides, with Cruise's "like the wind' voice delivering Lynch's vaguely succinct lyrics (“Sometimes a wind blows / And you and I float in love / And kiss forever") over Badalamenti's floating synths.
09. The Teardrop Explodes - “When I Dream”
An ode to reverie. Cope never sounded so enamored as when he chants "I go ba ba ba ba...oh oh!"
10. Bobby Vinton - “Blue on Blue”
I just had to include a tune by the King of Croon. Contains the lyrical inspiration (or plagiarizing fodder) for Moz's "two lovers entwined" "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" line: "I walk along the street we used to walk / Two by two, lovers pass / And as they're passing by / I could die."
11. Mazzy Star - “She's My Baby”
Mazzy at their most rock. Sandoval begins using the adjective "my" but by the end of the song she has settled with the heartache of "your." I could learn a lot here.
12. Lush - “Nothing Natural”
The swooning, assailing guitars overlap Anderson's hardly audible encomia: "Before I met you I was blind / Pills and liquid filled my mind / Beneath your outline I was new / Overflowing with your tune / And don't you know you're beautiful?"
13. Lotion – “Paas”
This is one of the few tracks off Full Isaac where Zajkowski's vocals are given prominence. Favorite line: "On [my] back you'll find a sweet long scar / I made it with my belt."
14. Ed's Redeeming Qualities - “The Boy I Work With”
This song kills me every time. Carrie Bradley sings of a boy she works with who tells her of his sadistic killing of pigeons and rats. The same boy tells her he'll take care of her, to which she replies, "somehow I believe him." Her unwavering trust just breaks my heart.
15. L'altra - “Moth in Rain”
A slow-core ballad with Lindsay Anderson sounding downright exhausted singing of anticipation and yearning: "Like dominos I fall / Like you want me to. / I'll wait for you / ... / But in the meantime / I'll have a drink / Will you wait for me?"
16. Todd Rundgren - “It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference”
After the first time I heard this song, (thanks Bruce!) I played it at least once a day for two weeks. Rundgren's vocal is full of so much regret and certainty.
17. Curve - “Sandpit”
Adding a bit of bitterness and pessimism to the mix, Halliday lets fire (which she does along the same lines on every track of the album): "You swallowed my pride / Gutted me from the inside / Left me in a pool of doubt / Now I don't think I can get out."
18. Morrissey - “I Know Very Well How I Got My Name”
This is me trying to find some sort of closure and acceptance; epitomized in Moz’s lines: "You think you were my first love / You think you were my first love / But you're wrong / You were the only one... / Who has come and gone."
01. Audio Bullys- “The Things”
This summer’s best single so far, a dark party tune, just what we need. Sun out? Hell no. “Ghost Town” on amphets. House? UK garage? Big beat? Wake up man, get off the step, it’s 2 AM, you’re fucked, she’s gone, sort it out.
02. Spiritualized- “I Think I’m in Love” (Chemical Brothers Remix)
Pulse and pulse and pulse and pulse. The original is magnificent, that six-beat falling bassline, that cloud-drop of drums after 2 minutes; this goes, this road is fast, way too fast, for two years Tom & Ed could do no wrong, no wrong at all. How right this is.
03. The Make-Up- “White Belt”
Aaow! I am- an- air- time- man baby. Nothing but a riff, a riff that hits on organ and guitar, a funky break, a shout, save yourself and fuck the rest, I’ve got my belt on tight it’s white ah ah ah ah wella wella wella ugn tell me more tell me more did she…?
04. Manitoba- “Tits & Ass; The Great Canadian Weekend”
And then he drops this in and it’s his and it’s only a flip and it’s some garage thing only not, not like he winds up his organ and cranks it out, not like he pastes hyperactive textures over your every inch, but yeah, tits & ass my man tits & ass.
05. The Staple Singers- “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)”
Oh, this might just be my favourite song. Get that fade-out, get what he’s doing with that guitar for like half a bar. They’re a family man and they’ve got God and Stax behind them and that makes them invincible.
06. King Tubby- “Dub from the Roots”
Starts like a piece of early 90s techno and then drops bass and horns upside your head and roots down loots down fucking buddy shoots down to the bottom end fast and how.
07. Lambchop- “Up with People”
Oh yeah oh yeah oh yeah, sack that; this might be my favourite song. How joyous? “We are doing / and we are screwing / up our lives today…” and that’s the most wonderful thing anybody ever sung, and that groove is liquid, it’s the calm sea, a slow river, and those chords that start after that moment’s pause…
08. The Clash- “Hateful”
Anyone, and I mean anyone who does that double-clap thing at the end of the bar, they get a kiss. They get a big kiss. Joe’s gone. This is all we can do, stick this on and double-clap and dance.
09.Blue States- “Elios Therepia”
Some kind of crazy snare thing going on, some kind of Spanish feel, very cool, you might call this organic chill-out if you were a wanker.
10. Beulah- “What Will You Do When Your Suntan Fades?”
Look, they’re all dead ok and it makes fuck-all difference what you record it on so you might as well just write some decent tunes, yeah? This is one. It’s too hot. I feel lazy.
11. The Bees- “A Minha Menina”
It’s Spanish. It’s the summeriest thing ever. It’s about dreaming about a beautiful girl. It has harmonies. They’re from the Isle Of Wight, which is a shithole. How do they do it? Bless them. Bless them and buy them Pimms.
12. The Chemical Brothers- “Get Up On It Like This”
For two years Tom & Ed could- you know, I told you already. This comes off one of the greatest albums ever recorded. It fucking wallops your floor. Bass like a car crash. Sting like a bee.
13. Delakota- “The Rock”
This tune has the most perfect sound running through it, a sped-up sampled guitar trill, looped to heaven. It’s a sun-kissed beach, a perfect breeze. The most perfect sound ever. I really, really mean this. I can’t describe it. Find this tune now.
14. Four Tet- “Hilarious Movie of the 90s”
It’s the most beautiful slip in the world but the machine is fucked and it only plays like three times and the machine’s trying to sort itself out but it’s chuddering and chuddering and chuddering on. Crickets outside your window; ssshhhss…
15. Theboylucas- “The Sky Is All Air”
There’s a gentle wind and it rustles the trees and you think there’s a rhythm to it, and sometimes there is… This, late, late, late at night, on headphones, sends you, really sends you. This is pale blue and eddied away.
16. Mercury Rev- “Sudden Ray of Hope”
Back when they were good, back when they were a fucked-up pop band given to moments of sublime skronk, singing about a can of coke, wow, this is so cool. Wow. I love to feel it roll down my throat.
17. Orbital- “The Girl with the Sun in her Hair”
Recorded with solar power and dedicated to a lost friend, this is extraordinarily beautiful, a heartbeat to start and then a skip of drums and slowly unfolding layers of sunlight and melody… Summer? This is the perfect beginning and the perfect ending.
Ed Howard takes the chance to make a mix-tape exactly right for summer- a group of songs that make him smile.
01. The Poets of Rhythm feat. Lyrics Born – “I Changed My Mind”
Is there a more perfect opener? There was a time when I opened all mixes, regardless of theme or recipient, with this song, and once you’ve heard its rollicking bass-heavy dance groove coupled with Lyrics Born’s slippery verses, I’m sure you’ll understand why. It’s simply the quintessential score to any summer fling, and I probably should’ve just looped this for 90 minutes and called it a day.
02. Atmosphere – “Guns & Cigarettes”
There are those who look down on so-called backpacker rap as lame or too “white,” but really, when was the last time the mainstream produced such a casually addictive sing-a-long? Slug calmly slurs rapid-fire rhymes over a jazzy backing, culminating in the brilliant chorus: “I’m bigger than Jesus/ bigger than techno.”
03. Languis & Fer Chlocha – “The Sky Below”
Sputters of electronic debris flutter like butterflies and criss-cross like waves crashing into shore, and then Chlocha’s whispery vocals enter, sealing the deal: this is summer translated by robots, but somehow the human emotion is amplified instead of submerged. It’s so beautiful it hurts, but it’s an absolutely stellar kind of pain.
04. Stephin Merritt – “This Little Ukulele”
Summer just wouldn’t be the same for indie geeks without Stephin Merritt’s stuffed teddy bear of a baritone. Any cute, cuddly nugget from the Magnetic Fields/6ths/Gothic Archies oeuvre would’ve done nicely, but this brief solo ditty from the overlooked Eban & Charley soundtrack has just the right summery bounce.
05. Van Morrison – “Glad Tidings”
Van the Man had better albums than Moondance, but he never again matched this sheer gleeful feeling. His vocals are more reined in than on Astral Weeks, and so are the arrangements, making for punchy, concentrated pop songs that hit hard on every note. Van’s bursting-with-enthusiasm delivery here is contagious, and once the horns cut in, just try and resist. I dare you.
06. Eric Alexandrakis – “Daylight Daylight”
An obscure home-recording genius, Alexandrakis wrote his album I.V. Catatonia while recovering from a life-threatening illness, but you’d never know it. This song grooves along on faux-Caribbean harmonica and percussion as Alexandrakis howls to the very limits of his primitive equipment. The best moment? A quick burst of overdriven guitar noise that hints at an explosion, but instead delivers a gorgeous chorus.
07. Deerhoof – “Holy Night Fever”
Like overactive kindergarteners hopped up on sugar, Deerhoof burst in and wreck your house in a little over a minute, then run away just as fast. Their weapons of choice: sloppily bashed guitars, spastic drumming that dances all around the beat, and of course the distinctive yelps of singer Satomi Matsuzaki. It’s joyful punk falling apart at its seams, and it’s all you’ll need for a hit of energy on a sluggish sunny afternoon.
08. Redd Kross – “Cease To Exist”
It’s strange to think that in some alternate universe, Charles Manson might be best known as a songwriter, but this sexy, swaggering rocker (originally written for the Beach Boys) makes it seem all too plausible. And the McDonald brothers’ snotty teen ‘tudes and guitars set to stun are perfectly suited to pulling it off.
09. The Dismemberment Plan – “The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich”
There’s a reason this song was such a favorite at Plan shows: it’s SO fucking fun. Hearing Travis half-rap his way through this out-there bling-bling fantasy is a delight matched only by the bells-and-whistles (literally) of the assaultive music. Never have white-boy hip-hop and punk rock blended so seamlessly, and best of all, you can dance to it.
10. The Flaming Lips – “Turn It On”
The Lips at the height of their powers were a crazed garage-psych band churning out ragged, energetic, experimental songs as easily as breathing. The lead-off track from their best album shifts from Wayne Coyne’s gravelly acoustic intro into a BIG chorus howled out over the band’s distinctive fuzzy, chaotic guitar stew.
11. Stereophonics – “The Last of the Big-Time Drinkers”
Yes, once upon a time, Stereophonics didn’t suck. Their first album was a raunchy and distinctly British album that could only have been recorded by a bar band with serious ambitions. And this song is its standout, a peon to drunkenness and a slap in the face of AA chapters everywhere, set to crunchy start-stop guitars that make passing out in your own vomit (or even someone else’s) sound just fine.
12. Beat Happening – “Down At the Sea”
Early Beat Happening was so lo-fi that they might as well have recorded into a tin can, but that’s exactly why it’s so good. Heather Lewis’ vocals are charmingly untutored and casual, so this song comes across like a personal conversation between the band and what few fans they may have had at the time.
13. The Mountain Goats – “Beach House”
If the image of a ravenous seal attacking someone on a beach doesn’t bring a grin to your face, I think it’s time to start questioning whether you still have a soul. John Darnielle’s lyrics are as wordy and clever as ever, and if you don’t know what to expect musically, you’ve obviously never heard a Mountain Goats song before.
14. Destroyer – “Crystal Country”
So this is Crystal Country? If so, I think I want to stay. A song just bursting with so much beauty that it’s impossible not to love it. Listen to those chiming guitars, and the multiple layers that meld together into a soft, gushy ice cream cone of loveliness. Sigh…
01. Jim Carroll – “Runaway”
How could the man best known for “People Who Died” and The Basketball Diaries come up with such a fun, innocent take on Del Shannon’s “Runaway?” The song retains its 50s-ish naiveté, but amped up and slashed through with high-energy keyboard riffing. It never lets up, and even Carroll’s deadpan delivery can’t hold back the effusive teen energy of the music.
02. Dub Narcotic Sound System – “Monkey Hips & Rice”
You either love Calvin Johnson or you hate him, but he’d undeniably be a lot of fun at a party. And this song should be an essential at any dance party, just funky enough to get asses moving, and just silly enough to keep smiles on everyone’s faces.
03. Joe Byrd & the Field Hippies – “Gospel Music”
A sedate instrumental trot through the summer of love with forgotten innovator Joe Byrd reveals him as a composer steeped, like Van Dyke Parks, in the traditions of Americana. This mildly psychedelic odyssey trips along on light drumming and a beautiful organ line, raising spirits as high as the heaven the music aspires to.
04. Pink Floyd – “Summer ‘68”
This song is supposedly about getting an STD from a groupie, which is more than I ever wanted to know about Rick Wright, but the song itself is just so damn good that I’ll forgive him his unnecessary confessions. “Summer ‘68” is a stately romp, building to those raucous horn outbursts on the bridges.
05. M. Doughty – “Mr. Bitterness”
Conjuring images of a sweaty nightclub with just an acoustic guitar and his stream-of-consciousness poetry, the former Soul Coughing frontman turns his band’s sloppy, sample-heavy song into a late-night lament. Perfect for strumming on a dark, quiet night as the fireflies fill the yard, or playing in the car on the way back from an evening of clubbing.
06. The Chocolate Watchband – “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”
Maybe the least-known Dylan cover ever, but also one of the best. This ‘60s garage rock outfit makes Dylan’s song their own, turning it into a shimmering symphony of jangly guitars and earnest harmonies. The original was a bitter ballad, but in this gorgeous incarnation it’s near impossible to read any malice into the lyrics.
07. The Seeds – “Mr. Farmer”
On this cut, Sky Saxon has disguised whatever it is he’s talking about so well that the innuendos completely obscure any meaning. Still, there’s something sleazy and slightly unsettling about Saxon, whether he’s singing about sex or just farming, and this proto-Doors slice of keyboards-laden rock leans heavily on the Stones strut despite its nonsensical lyrics. Great for driving, or just, you know, watering the crops.
08. Circulatory System – “Diary of Word” [Inner Views version]
The song dissected and laid bare in new form, full of quirks and surround-sound effects, creating a tapestry as lovely and intricate as a spider’s web. Its detailed beauty is best heard on headphones, but would sound nearly as good blasting from a car stereo cruisin’ along the beach.
09. Mice Parade – “Fingertips (The Phone Home remixes)”
A remix of Emiliana Torrini’s insipid Europop surrounds the singer’s sampled, chopped-up voice with tinkling wind chimes, Tortoise-esque drumming, and a slow ebb and flow of electronic waves, transporting her to a leisurely day at the beach.
10. Mouse On Mars – “Diskdusk”
On Niun Niggung, MoM reached the pinnacle of their playful, jittery phase by mixing live horns and acoustic guitars in with their familiar bleeps and bloops. “Diskdusk” races along with unstoppable glee, and whoever doesn’t join in for its frenzied ride will just be left in the dust.
11. Latyrx – “Lady Don’t Tek No”
A sexy, slinky bassline and the smooth as butter rapping of Lateef and Lyrics Born make this the perfect getting-busy cut for summer nights. Whether you’re on the dancefloor or lying out in the grass with a boombox nearby, this track’s guaranteed to make that special someone simply melt.
Ah, summer! That magical time of year when a man's fancy turns to thoughts of durty-durty beats and bass. Truly no sect of hip hop seems more appropriate for summertime drivin', grillin', sippin' or cheefin' than prime cuts of Southern-fried rap. According to Too Short, Southern rappers learned from the West Coast how to put a little thug into their bounce; I'll take it regardless of from where they learned it. Not everything on this mix is strictly dirty South, but let's just say summer wouldn't be the same without the influence of those distinctive flows from below the Mason-Dixon.
01. Q "The Kid" feat. Jermaine Dupri -- "Been Away"
Jermaine Dupri probably deserves every criticism leveled against him: a slavishly derivative adherence to current hip-pop trends, a willingness to exploit young artists (a la Kriss Kross and Bow Wow), and a reliance on a stable of So So Def writers for lyrics. Not to mention the fact that the man just looks weird. Regardless, Dupri's been in the game for most of his life and he knows his way around the studio. This meaty slice of horn-driven funk comes from the Drumline soundtrack, wielding bombastic Jackson 5 samples like they're going out of style (which they probably are).
02. Snoop Dogg -- "From Tha Church to Da Palace"
Leave it to the leaders of hip hop production to finally inject some life into Snoop's listless career. Despite the ethereal synths, there's nothing to be afraid of here; this is purely a vehicle for some entertaining braggadocio, proving that Snoop is actually willing to write some new material instead of relentlessly recycling his classic Doggystyle lyrics.
03. Fabolous -- "This Is My Party"
Fabolous is hard to take seriously (your bandana goes OVER your ball cap?), which makes him perfect summertime fare. With Timbaland providing one of his nicest B-game beats, Fabolous spits some terrific blingy hedonism -- perhaps the best he'll ever do. "I wake up in the same clothes from yesterday / Same hoes from yesterday / Lightin' clips to the same dro' from yesterday"... Ah, Fabolous, we know how ya feel.
04. Baby feat. Clipse -- "What Happened to That Boy"
Two pillars of the New South over one of the Neptune's most eccentric beats? Yeah, that's hott. Baby, Pusha T, and Malice wax rhetorical over a spacey melody and vaguely menacing clicks and snaps. With memorable gangsta lines aplenty ("Birdman, nigga, leave the guns in the bushes"; "I pass that shore for the shit that make fiends rise from the dead like Thriller"). Guns. Money. Coke. Murder. Summer!
05. Chingy -- "Right Thurr"
Hailing from Ludacris' Disturbing Tha Peace crew, Chingy weighs in with what looks to be a marginal club hit. It's a shame, because the beat's greasy 303 bass is perfect for azz-shaking. It's not genius, but who gives a fuck? I like the way you do it, Chingy.
06. David Banner feat. Lil Flip -- "Like a Pimp"
Two of the Dirty South's rising stars, Mississippi's David Banner and Houston's Lil Flip (a member of the late DJ Screw's clique) bring aggressive lyrics over the top of heavy orchestra hits and bass galore. The charisma is tangible as Banner and Flip trade lines and verses: this isn't any forced phoned in collabo. The radio edit doesn't do this track justice, and neither does the innocuous party video -- this is some gangsta shit. And Banner's got an impressive flow: he's sure to have longevity, and this track is poised to be one of the jams of the summer. Get down on the floor, pour it up motherfuckers.
07. Trina feat. Ludacris -- "B R Right"
Trina and the Slip-n-Slide crew was one of the New South's earliest successes, and the production values reflect the ability to drop some dollars in the studio for A-class production. Russian-flavored strings over a stuttery beat (with some timpani accompaniment, natch)? Good god, that's tasty. The song is also notable for experimenting with using production techniques on the vocals: Luda's lines are pitchshifted down octaves to match the bassline for a wonderfully trippy effect. Bienvenido a Miami.
08. Three-6-Mafia feat. Project Pat -- "Break Da Law"
The Dirty South just wouldn't be as dirty without the gothic gangstas of Lousiana's Triple-Six. Three-Six delivers tha hardest shit, all thundering 808 and spooky piano lines (they've appropriately sampled the Halloween theme on another track). You can always count on the crew to provide chant-worthy hooks, and the refrain of "Break da law / We ain't playing!" digests their oeuvre into their two favorite subjects -- crime and their constant reiteration that they are in fact serious about committing it. Nothing gets you more in the mood for sticking fools for their papers.
09. Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz feat. Trick Daddy, Fat Joe, and Oobie -- "Play No Games"
Did I mention hooks? Lil Jon specializes in them, injecting his experience in So So Def promotions into songs that DEMAND call-and-response. "Play No Games," Jon's latest single tones down the thuggishness of previous hits "I Don't Give a Fuck" and "Bia-Bia" in favor of a more relaxed atmosphere. As Lil Jon says, "We can be R&B;, but it's still ghetto." The verses are aptly handled by collaborators (another Lil Jon trope), while the smooth synths whet the appetite for cold drinks and hot weather. And some more dope MIDI pan pipes!
10. Lil Kim feat. Mr. Cheeks -- "The Jump Off"
So you no longer need to contribute a verse to receive credit as a guest? Maybe it's for the best; Cheeks rode a hot beat to club success with "Lights, Camera, Action," but he's content to let Kim and Timbaland horde the limelight. Kim sounds (and looks) the best she ever has -- perhaps a result of a nicely propulsive beat from Tim (stealing the screeches from Clipse's "When the Last Time" to great effect. Once again, not premium Timbaland, but still light years ahead of the competition.
11. Beenie Man feat. Sean Paul and Lady Saw -- "Bossman"
The holy trinity of dancehall crossover team up for one of the illest ragga tracks to chart stateside. If dancehall hasn't won you over with Sean Paul's hits, this will be the track to do it. Hey Pharrell, can that synth whistle melody go up another octave? How about another? Oh yeah, that's nice. One more? Damn, I think I spilled my daiquiri.
12. King Gheedorah - "Fazers"
The only "undie" rapper on my mix (although many artists in this article qualify as "indie" in the literal sense of the word), MF Doom brings his trademark off-kilter eccentricity in the alias of megamonster King Gheedorah. Doom handles the stellar production as well, lending slightly askew drum beats to beautifully sweeping strings. If no one in the underground has lit your fires since Kool Keith, this is the guy to check out.
13. Notorious B.I.G. feat. Eminem -- "Dead Wrong"
And so I close this mix with a track that has nothing to do with the Dirty South, but everything to do with being dope as fuck. Sharp orchestra hits jab like kidney punches as Biggie delivers one of his best "how to rob" verses. Eminem is a bit more subdued, and therefore less effective -- luckily the beat helps him every step of the way. Released on the posthumous Born Again album, "Dead Wrong" recalls why Biggie brought the East Coast back to prominence, even as the South eats away at its current dominance. Pour a little of your King Cobra out for this one, for Biggie and for NYC. The hottest shit this summer is coming from lower latitudes.
Hey you— jaded and bored Stylus reader- remember indie rock? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Ain’t heard too much of it lately—nah, what with the new wave of new wave, the garage rock explosion, and other trend setting genres taking up most of the critical attention. And with most of the greats of the genre either gearing up to start receiving social security or long since departed, that’s probably a good thing. As a relative newcomer to the world of indie rock (I probably started listening around the time of the genre’s collapse), I have the advantage of being able to hear the genre as a music of the past, vaguely nostalgic for a time period but recalling no specific memories. There are few legendary indie rock songs that I would remember hearing about for the first time or being there when someone put it on at a party for the first time or anything like that. So, in a way, I guess it is my classic rock. Therefore, I have made this mix tape, for people who either are like me in their faraway fondness for the genre, or for people who are nostalgic for the good old days. Consider hearing this mix on the fourth of July on your local classic rock station in an alternate universe—if you’re reading this, you should know the words to at least half of these songs. Fire up the grill, gather all your friends and sing along as loud as you can.
01. Galaxie 500 - “Fourth of July”
What other song could this mix start with? I don’t know whether or not Galaxie 500 had these purposes in mind when titling this song, but it’s an ideal opener—summery melody, bouncy bassline, awesome vocal hook. It’s also pretty much the only G500 song that could be classified as “catchy,” in lieu of often their most apt descriptor-“droney”.
02. The Breeders - “Saints”
“Summer is ready when you are.” The ultimate good time statement from one of the greatest good time bands of the alternative era? “Cannonball” was more popular (and deservedly so, it’s unquestionably the band’s best song), but this song is easily the choice for a rolling July. Just try to forget the video that was set at a ski lodge and you’ll be fine.
03. Archers of Loaf - “Web in Front”
This one definitely has that “golden age of indie” sort of feel to it. Short, sweet, melodic as hell—as earnest as There’s Nothing Wrong With Love with the production of Slanted & Enchanted. The band hasn’t really survived critical reassessments, but this song is a definite classic.
04. The Pixies - “Gigantic”
Kim Deal makes her second appearance on the mix only four songs in, and if not for self-imposed mixtape etiquette, she’d appear at least that many times again before the end of the tape. Her voice is as luscious and ripe as the cover to Last Splash with a bass style that would inform alternative rock for years to come.
05. Sonic Youth - “Sugar Kane”
When Sonic Youth uses a K to replace the commonly preferred C in just about any of their song titles, you know it’s going to be a keeper (see also: “Kool Thing”). “Sugar Kane” is their most Pixies-influenced song to date, one of their closest to an alternative breakthrough, and one of the most enduring songs of their 20 year career.
06. Flaming Lips - “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1”
This is the closest thing the indie world has to a campfire sing-a-long. Uncle Wayne tells the widescreen story of a young girl who’s stocking up on vitamins and disciplining her body to fight those evil machines. It makes for good fun for the hipster young’uns, before they grow up and ask the hard questions: “Daddy, what does Zaireeka mean?”
07. Yo La Tengo - “Sugarcube”
“Sweeter than a drop of blood on a sugarcube”—that line says it all. Don’t be fooled by the title of Summer Sun, this is the real deal.
08. Big Star - “I’m in Love With a Girl”
The most sweetly good-natured song ever written? If not this, it’s still probably “September Gurls.” I think now that maybe the reason I never really caught on to Big Star was because I first bought #1 Record/Radio City during the winter, and these guys are spring and summer only.
09. The Dismemberment Plan - “Back and Forth”
I don’t even like this song that much, but the summer quotient is undeniable. It’s a groove that’s closer to Phish than anything else, but I can definitely see the thousands of lighters being held up to this song in concert, with young indie rockers making love on picnic blankets on the General Admission lawn. That’s summer, innit?
10. Wilco - “Heavy Metal Drummer”
“HMD” is very similar to “Back and Forth,” but unlike that one, it works in all venues, in all seasons and with all walks of life. This is simply one of the greatest summer songs ever written and serves as indie rock’s equivalent of “Grease (Megamix)”.
11. The Ramones - “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”
The Beach Boys probably should not be left off of any summer mix of any kind, but the Ramones will have to do for this one. But “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” is basically just one step away from the Boys—simple boy/girl romance lyrics, power-pop chords, and sweet, sweet harmonies.
12. Pavement - “Summer Babe”
Ah, to be a slacker. To me, this song is all ripped jeans and half-pipes. The sound contained within this song is pure sunshine, and the minute you realize that is the minute you realize what a great album Slanted and Enchanted is and what a great band Pavement are.
13. The Stone Roses - “She Bangs the Drums”
Happy Mondays and New Order, two of my all-time favorite summer bands, didn’t make the cut for the mix because they were far closer to dance than indie, but that other Madchester band rocks just fine. “Kiss me where the sun don’t shine, the past was yours but the future’s mine!” You can feel this song with all five senses.
14. Built to Spill - “You Were Right”
This song combines it all—poppy chords, classic rock references (try to recognize them all!), sing-a-long verses and loads of nostalgia, making it probably the definitive Indie 4th of July song on this mix. Built to Spill are probably an artifact by now—was 1999 really that long ago?—but how can you not adore this song?
15. The Lilys - “Ginger”
The Lilys have gone through as many faces as Bowie in the 70s, and I definitely like this one the best—the kind that gives us such purely perfect pop songs as this one. Like a less cute (and much more distorted) Weezer, “Ginger” taps into that mid-90’s alternative sound that could be so blissful when done right. “And that’s where I wanna be”. Right on, Kurt.
16. The Microphones - “The Moon (Song Islands Version)”
Of course, summer isn’t just beach parties and barbecues. There are also those serenely touching moments that simply couldn’t transpire in any other season. Listening to this song is like walking barefoot on the beach on a cold night, alone, listening to the waves crash and crying uncontrollably at the sheer beauty of it all. The perfect end to a perfect indie rock Fourth of July.
From Gamble and Huff to Teddy Riley, soft soul has long been a summer staple. Late night slow jams to bouncy songs for the car, this mix has all the summer clichés covered.
01. Brenton Wood-“Oogum Boogum”
The bouncy, slinky piano line defined Brenton Wood’s career and he never did it better than “Oogum Boogum”. That coupled with Wood’s perfect, bright falsetto makes for one of the happiest, most engaging songs to ever hit the charts.
02. R. Kelly-“Chocolate Factory”
The title track from R. Kelly’s latest album isn’t quite as impressive as the “Ignition” remix, but it’s just as a deft a combination of Philly Soul-style suave with modern production values. As with so many Kelly tunes, the listener is faced with perfection of the man’s voice and production and the absurdity of his lyrics, such as this gem: “now if I could write a book on how you make me feel/the title would read A Strong Black Man and that's for real”
03. Jackie Wilson-“Whispers (Getting Louder)”
“Whispers (Getting Louder)” is a compromise for those who feel that Jackie Wilson’s soulful voice was destroyed by glossy production and those who love the combination of his vocal power and his producers’ pop sheen. The tune’s drum and vocal production feel a littler lower-fi and edgier than most of Wilson’s catalog, but it is still unabashed pop.
04. Cody ChesnuTT-“Boylife in America”
“Boylife in America” is perhaps the best distillation of everything great about Cody ChesnuTT. The Headphone Masterpiece is a frustrating mess, with some of the ugliest, most amateurish tracks on top of some of the most beautiful, well planned ones. But “Boylife In America”, along with a number of other songs on the album, is the full realization of what bedroom soul should be.
05. Prince-“Pop Life”
Less psychedelic and tormented than most of the others, “Pop Life” is one of the only downbeat Prince songs that makes any sense on a summer mix. Good luck getting it out of your head.
06. Stylistics-“I’m Stone In Love With You”
“I’m Stone in Love With You” was the Stylistics smoothest, sweetest single; a perfect track to listen to in bed with headphones, imagining you’re much cooler and happier than you actually are.
07. Moments-“Love On A Two Way Street”
Produced by Sugarhill Records Founder, Sylvia Robinson, this Hackensack-based group’s 1970 hit is one of the better depressing slow jams to top the charts.
08. Intruders-“Cowboys To Girls”
The Intruders were the first, and best, group ever to be produced by legendary Philly soul-duo Gamble and Huff. “Cowboys To Girls”, like so many of their singles, feels so genuine and pure that it works in almost any context- long, hot summer days included.
09. Bill Withers-“Who Is He (And What Is He To You)”
Bill Withers, often so comforting and warm, took a turn for the unsettling on “Who Is He (And What Is He To You)” The slick bass line and Withers’ paranoid deadpan make for one of soul’s coolest listens, whether you’re actually angry at your woman or not.
10.Clarence Carter-“Slip Away”
The keyboard simmers and the guitar work sounds effortlessly cool. “Slip Away” is one of Clarence Carter’s most powerful songs.
11.Pharell Feat. Jay-Z-“Frontin’”
Flipping the traditional Neptunes formula around, this current single features Pharell on the verses and a Jay-Z guest spot. A perfect example of how the modern slow jam should sound.
12.Mel and Tim-“Backfield in Motion”
Completely immediate and entertaining, this 1969 hit from the Chicago-based Mel and Tim, is a perfect inclusion among some of the more depressing numbers on the mix.
13.Delfonics-“La La Means I Love You”
14.Originals-“Baby, I’m For Real”
15.Billy Stewart-“Sittin’ In The Park”
Three perfect mid-tempo orchestral 60s declarations of love.
16.Solomon Burke-“Soul Searchin’”
Who would’ve guessed that the comeback album from a 65-year old Solomon Burke would’ve been so good? The Brian Wilson-penned “Soul Searchin’” was the definite highlight of the album. In examining the lyric sheet the tune makes sense as Wilson, but in Burke’s hands it’s impossible to tell. As grief-stricken as the song is meant to be, the warm organ and drum sound render it nothing less than comforting.
17.Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes-“The Love I Lost”
The intro to “The Love I Lost” was the pinnacle of Philly Soul. Each instrument joins one by one until the Blue Notes’ sweet chorus hits and explodes with Teddy Pendergrass’s verse. It’s a nice bittersweet closer.
Summer mixtapes call to mind massive, open roads, cloudless skies, and volleyball. That’s what summer is all about, right? Mostly. But what about what happens when the sun goes down? That’s where the lightning bugs, bonfires, and porch board games come in, and that’s where it really gets fun for me: away from the oppressive heat and into the serenity of the outdoors. I love the nighttime in any season, but it’s best in the summer. So it’s only natural that my Summer Jam Mixtape would soundtrack this oft-forgotten aspect of the middle months. When I began this project, I threw two things out the window: the cassette format and continuity. The cassette format was ditched for its inconvenience-- the last thing you want to do when you bask in the solitude of the stars is flip a tape over. As for continuity, I would liked to have been able to mold an ebbing and flowing mix, but this is a subjective thing, and there are so many different types of songs I associate with this time. Disc-ed and disjointed, here is my mix, “Summer Days And”.
01. M. Ward - “Transfiguration #1”
Opening with the din of crickets, this tranquil instrumental sets just the right mood, with its back porch twang and lazy stroll. Although better, more complete songs inhabit this impressive full-length, half the appeal of nighttime in the summer is the atmosphere, and that’s something that this shuffle has plenty of.
02. Gram Parsons - “November Nights”
Recorded in 1966, a ways before his choice meeting with The Byrds’ Chris Hillman, this vulnerable tune is pure Gram Parsons, with its passively strident strumming and love-beaten lyrics. Although it later found a place on a single by Peter Fonda (!), the version here catches Parsons at his most intimate. His folkie past subtly giving way to a cowboy future, he was working with a bruised confidence that would follow him to an early grave. And yes, I understand that the title belies the scope of my mix.
03. Greg Weeks - “Unsettled (By The Sun)”
Most of the time, I don’t venture much farther than a friend’s backyard on a summer night, but there’s always room for a daydream, and it comes here with Weeks’ epic organ-drenched song that sounds like a desert sunset slowly engulfing its surroundings. When the song delves slowly back into the modest acoustic guitar opening, it’s like a bittersweet drift back to reality.
04. Neko Case - “In California”
Although her discography is flecked with massively gorgeous siren wails like “Deep Red Bells” and “Twist The Knife”, “In California”, from a tour only EP, stands as my favorite Case moment. Recorded in her kitchen, the quiet ache of the song signals a wistful break in campfire gossip. When Tacoma’s Red Menace cracks her fiery facade in a lonesome duet with herself, you may never feel like playing volleyball again.
05. Paul Simon - “Everything Put Together Falls Apart”
Going back to campfires, it sounds like Paul Simon improvised this song in front of one, with its meandering guitar and slack vocals. Despite the lyrics, this one feels tenderly reassuring, and it’s the kind of reassurance that gives you enough motivation to make that midnight run to the convenience store, or anywhere else the night might take you.
06. The Heart Attacks - “A Clumsy Mortician”
The nighttime isn’t all about tranquility and comfort. When the daytime energy carries over, there’s always songs like this punked-out blues chantey. A fuzzy, drunken fist-pumper, “Mortician” gets by not only on its recklessness, but on its broken swagger that nudges you and dares you to throw shit on the bonfire just to watch it burn.
07. Mountain Goats - “Distant Stations”
Sometimes your backyard can feel snug, but other times it can feel as barren as West Texas, which is how we reach John Darnielle’s ode to expanse. Of his hundreds of excellent songs, none speaks to the feeling of sheer opportunity that summer can offer quite as eloquently as this one.
08. American Football - “Never Meant”
Say whatever the hell you want about Tim Kinsella, but leave his brother, Mike, out of it. While Tim spent his years after Cap’n Jazz sacrificing himself in the name of art, Mike made two beautifully ambient pop albums, one of which is the short-lived American Football’s debut LP (the other being 2001’s Owen in case you were curious). With twirling and twining guitars and punchy jazz-influenced drums wrapping around Mike’s overlapped vocals, “Never Meant” glows like a swarm of lightning bugs: there’s no bite, but damn it, it’s just better that way.
09. Calexico - “Low Expectations”
Tucson songsmiths Calexico have just about made a career out of recreating the mood of desert twilight, and they did it both best and most consistently on their diverse debut album. With a tossed-off swagger, this album opener just might make you want to grab a cigarette and mosey sinisterly off into the dusk.
10. Analogue - “Quiet, You’ll Scare The Horses”
If for nothing else, Analogue’s debut album should be cherished for expanding on every good idea that Slint failed to develop on Tweez. Sweeping patches of tension and low-end guitar suck glockenspiel and spooky spoken word into their vacuum, all accumulating into the best soundtrack to a late-night walk in the woods this side of Will Oldham.
11. Secret Stars - “Vague”
Back to the wistful. This charming and unadorned slice of mid-90s Northwestern indie pop has influenced its share of bands without gaining their level of notoriety. In the end, it’s probably for the better. Music like this sounds best when you know no one else is listening.
12. Bent Leg Fatima - “Dr. Spound and the Art That They Dismissed”
Culled from these whimsical Philadelphians’ sole album, this goofily melodic ditty sandwiches its earnestness with campy sound effects and left-field vocal snippets. It’s a song that’s as fun to listen to as it sounds like it was to play, and is perfect for when you’ve got nothing better to do than drive around and think about how boring structure is.
13. Epic Soundtracks - “She Sleeps Alone/Love Fucks You Up”
You can’t go to bed shrouded in joy every night, and former Swell Maps drummer Epic Soundtracks doesn’t let you forget it with this miserably titled medley. But at the same time, listening to Epic wallow in his punishing sadness is reassuring in some twisted way. We can take comfort in knowing he’d probably like it that way.
14. My Morning Jacket - “Bermuda Highway”
You know it had to happen. With their 2001 masterpiece, At Dawn, Louisville’s My Morning Jacket re-wrote the book on nighttime drawl, proving themselves more than worthy heirs to the country rock crown held by Neil Young among plenty of others. While nearly every song from that album could work in this spot, none are as hauntingly airy as this gem.
15. All-Time Quarterback - “Sock Hop”
I don’t know what it is about summer that makes me think “fey, minimalist indie pop”, but it’s something that inevitably draws me to Ben Gibbard, the genre’s king for the new millennium. Since his work with Death Cab For Cutie better calls to mind the throes of winter, his toy guitar-led side project will have to do here, with this succinctly bittersweet summertime romp.
16. Bedhead - “Wind Down”
Nocturnal rock has rarely come as elegant as Texas’ Bedhead, and they rarely straddled the line between apprehension and full-on twilit fantasia better than on this song. Its quiet beginning suggests closure to a day, but by the time it’s over, you realize it’ll all start over again tomorrow.
Most people only think of the nicer parts of summer, those warm fuzzies associated with the long days, steamy nights, and skimpy outfits. These people make mix tapes that reflect their facile view of summer life, spending endless hours working up strings of sad-sap indie ditties designed to conjure memories of the way the beach laps against the sun-drenched sands, that blonde cashier at the local Orange Julius, the night they drove Tim’s Camaro to Utah and torched it beneath a pale desert moon… They forget the other, darker side of summer – drifting off at mind-numbing clerical jobs, deflecting hoards of unwanted freeloaders and clingy friends, and perishing in fiery sleep-induced auto accidents. Spare yourself all three, take a few decibels off your upper-frequency hearing, and spite all those dorks dubbing “Good Vibrations” for the billionth time with the help of a different sort of mix! One suggestion as follows:
01. Kevin Drumm – “1.”
A few seconds of frizzled electronic chunking, a few seconds of pickup grit, a hint of amp buzz, the rattle of distressed guitar strings – and a glass-shearing squeal of ear-scraping frequency and unparalleled cruelty. Guaranteed to squelch dismal office chatter within the first two minutes.
02. Pita – “01.”
The room-clearing introduction to Rehberg’s best album, it’s like standing beneath an exploding power transformer at night – all bright flashes, heat surge, and electric squelch. A fraction of summertime melody peeks out thirty seconds into the assault, only to be hurled back into the fray and pummeled into its atomic components. Frontrunner for the role of summer anti-anthem.
03. Various Artists – SOUN 7”
A marvel of noise-damage slapstick, SOUN is the brainchild of Gameboy records head and Stylus contributor Mike Shiflet. One hundred noise artists, four seconds a piece, one side of a seven inch. Like picking up fragments of Martian radio while driving under high-tension power lines.
04. Wolf Eyes – “07.”
Further ugliness from the Wolf Eyes camp. Little more than a stratospheric high tone polluted with grime and stretched over seven minutes, this track hovers like dirty jet trails and highway smog under an oppressive sun and clings like dried sweat for the rest of the day.
05. Philip Samartzis and Sachiko M – “Interference”
“Interference” is a little subtler weapon than the rest, but no less effective – after all, the suggestion of harm is a more effective persuasive tool than its implementation. Like microwaves trained on your internal organs, Samartzis and Sachiko work up a nerve-withering net of sine waves and glitchy interferences whose malicious undertones climax with the introduction of a pitch black drone as ominous as a moonless summer sky.
06. LaMonte Young – excerpt “31 / 69 c. 12:17:33-12:24:33 PM NYC”
Young’s study for fluctuating sine wave oscillators is the model representation of most student summer employment – monotony and minute variation, with rewards reserved only for those willing to overcome the initial irritation threshold. As a curious side note, the oscillators are tuned to the resonant frequency of my car windows, which vibrate with increasingly menacing violence each time it play this excerpt.
07. Hado-ho – “Stereo Action Suite”
This track saved my life last summer, when Takehito Nakazato’s torture-chamber bleating and frayed electronics woke me seconds after I’d fallen asleep behind the wheel. The ensuing shock – best likened to discovering an air raid siren under your pillow – caused me to veer off the road and narrowly avoid a concrete pylon, at which time this track nearly ended my life.
08. Francisco Lopez – excerpt from Untitled #104
Minutes 22:00 to 33:00, to be precise, in which Lopez – stepping out of his usual role as the party-pooping silent type – vomits up a mighty storm of garbled blast beats and grayscale grit. It’s a little mean-spirited and more than a bit surprising – the aural equivalent of having a fistful of gravel-flecked ice cubes stuffed down your shorts.
09. John Wiese – “Radio Broadcast”
“Radio Broadcast” is notable not only for its temper tantrum atmosphere and jagged static but also for the fact that it’s mastered a good twenty percent louder than ninety-nine percent of the earth’s recorded music. An ugly-as-fuck smear of unidentifiable – but clearly mistreated – devices recorded hot enough to rip speaker cones and melt magnets. Recommended for all convertible drivers.
10. Thomas Ankersmit – “04.”
A brilliant chunk of unpleasantness from the world’s most extreme and underdocumented saxophonist, this track realizes the bodily harm suggested by the Samartzis/Sachiko M duo. Five minutes of multitracked upper-register wailing that sounds like Ankersmit throwing showers of sparks as he grinds the brass from his saxophone into a noxious heated haze.
I’m not gonna lie to you. My family is pretty well-off. I don’t really have to worry about being poor. We’ve got a really nice house—and with that really nice house comes a pretty big lawn. A lawn that takes about fifty minutes to mow, not including the unplugging and putting that little orange cap shit on top of it, or when your headphone cord is too short so you have to jam your discman under the elastic of your crap gym shorts and you get really sweaty and it falls out your ass, or when you have to stop to itch your legs from all those mosquitoes, or—well, it’s pretty clear at this point what goes into mowing a lawn.
Mowing the lawn has always been an activity I’ve looked forward to. For those fifty blissful minutes, I can run around outside with an undershirt I stole from my friend on and wear flip-flops that get stuffed with grass. After the initial yank and thrust, I just keep going, wiping sweat from my brow and calculating just how much I have left to mow. I slowly start to settle into a groove—a monotonous drive that’s differentiated by turning sharp corners and avoiding bricks in the lawn, taking perverse joy in running over a juicebox and watching it get torn into a thousand fucking pieces, or give a sarcastic nod of the head to the passerby that catches you in the act.
And hence, I can play music as loud as I want—as to block out the roar of the lawnmower motor—and not really care (or know) that I’m singing as loud as I can in falsetto. And for those fifty or so glorious minutes, life is all at once pain, drivel, beauty, simplicity, and the very essence of summer—a nonchalant drive into ... nothing. So here is the ultimate collection of music to soak your mind as you cast your gaze into a black hole of crab grass.
Note: it has come to my attention I describe mowing the lawn as a fifty-minute activity. Well, tough shit. I give you eighty.
01. The Boo Radleys — "Lazarus"
This track opens with a definitive swirl, a sort of suctioning of all possible squeals and sounds that can emerge from a studio, circa Britpop. As it picks up, a towering guitar quivers and bites down as triumphant horns deliver the message— oh yeah baby. Push down that little bar thing on your lawnmower. And push down your ignition switch, cause it’s time to suck some grass.
02. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion — "Calvin"
"We’re gonna have a party!" some sampled salted blues man shouts at you. And damn right you are—after the swirling psychedelia of the previous track, those 90s blues-ironists, kings of controversy the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion take a simple idea: lots of stupid sampled voices, a crunchy riff, and steady drumming. Keep mowing, even around that huge-ass tree—it’s time to settle in.
03. Wilco — "Can’t Stand It"
As the faux-Brian Wilson distorted symphonies jump out of your headphones, the roots-rock blues riff is what eventually grabs you on this track. I can taste that grass flying into my mouth when I hear this, and down-home jangle makes you feel like a pussy for complaining about mowing the lawn when you could be ... farming or something. "You know it’s all beginning / to feel like it’s ending."
04. Pavement — "Elevate Me Later"
Perhaps the most summer-inflected track of all on indie rock’s most triumphant masterpiece—Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain—Malkmus croons out something about being lonely over triumphantly scratchy power chords, seeping in like a flood under the soaring falsetto. And for a moment or two, everything is beautiful.
05. The Feelies — "The Boy With Perpetual Nervousness"
And then for fifty seconds, nothing. But those shuffling drums ride up against the chiming guitars, the steady dugga-dugga-dugga-dugga pushing you to mow that monotonous field of green. "The boy next door is into bigger things"—but for right now, it’s all about you, and making sure you don’t run over the drain pipe. The throbbing, pulsating heartbeat makes all too much sense, and the wonderful, ascending climax brings tension to a high.
06. Stereolab — "Cybele’s Reverie"
Saccharine pop sung in French—a song in which the strings soar like birds, and a driving snare attack marches on ‘til the end. And that glorious interlude—a keyboard throb and strings stab a la "The Robot." Just do it.
07. Saint Etienne — "Kiss and Make Up"
The poor sap you are—fucking mowing your lawn while you could be out with the most beautiful girl in the world. As layers of harmonies roll out of your headphones—"you and I / let’s kiss and make up"—the airy, gorgeous vocals envelop everything you’ve ever thought about, carrying you far above the layers of drone and keyboard lilt. Go.
08. The Beta Band — "Squares"
And suddenly, it’s all chill. Very chill. The grass is sucked into your lawnmower at a speed so fast it slows down everything else. A lazy hip-hop beat and overblown production sit idly next to handclaps—the very juxtaposition of the mundane and the extraordinary make for the most perfect lawnmowing experience.
09. Television — "Glory"
Then those beautiful summer girls walk down the lawn, heading off to the great American baseball game at the high school. "I was out stumbling in the rain / staring at your lips so red"—and you don’t even give a shit that you’ve still got half of your front lawn to mow. As you avert your gaze and try to sort of hide your face, those Verlaine guitar jangles bob in and out of loving harmonies.
10/11. Olivia Tremor Control — "Love Athena"/Magnetic Fields — "When My Boy Walks Down The Street"
As those huge, thunderous lo-fi chords slap you over the head, it’s time to rock and roll, motherfuckers.
12. The Fall — "Paint Work"
And after that massive wake-up, it’s time to revert, revert back to a time where there is no time, and you’re in the middle of a sweaty summer day, and you don’t really have anywhere to go, and a monotonous drive keeps going. Punctuated only by "and sometimes they say, ‘Hey Mark! You’re messing up the paint work," and the occasional guitar roar, this track is a lull like no other.
13. Disco Inferno — "Second Language"
You near the end of your journey, turning that corner. It’s up to you and that huge square you’ve left in the middle of your lawn. The slight handclaps egg you on, and wildly messy percussion rolls everywhere. The achingly beautiful guitar pushes you towards the end, a mess of reverb, distortion, anger, and beauty—this truly is summer’s last sound.
14. The Stone Roses — "Elephant Stone" [12" Version]
Backwards high-hats roll into one another, giving way to a thunderous snare. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Trickling bass and Squire beauty come full-circle, and God dammit, when Ian Brown tells me "burst into heaven," there’s no way I can’t. That fucking bouncing guitar takes me there alone.
15. Buzzcocks — "Why Can’t I Touch It?"
Touch what, motherfucker? You beat that lawn. And as you push your lawnmower back up the front steps with one hand, you wink and give the ‘Hey baby’ point to a girl going down the block. This is beauty, this is glory. The Can pounce and driving guitar fills only make you stronger—because on this gorgeous summer day, the singular drive just keeps going. And you’ve never been happier.
16. Fela Kuti/Africa 70 — "Mister Follow Follow"
And as those skanking horns bob in and out, the fluid bass rolls over you, and that sense of calm is there. Fela Kuti—bad-ass mother. And so are you. Sip that lemonade from your back porch, admiring your work done.
Lay in that sweet grass, and give up. Give it all up for fifteen minutes, baby, and just remind yourself how awesome you are—trumpet solos, African chanting, and enchanting, ethereal piano and all.
OK, pop quiz: what country has the most recording studios per square mile? If you answered Jamaica, then roll yourself a fat one. Nothing says summer to me like vintage reggae, ska, rock steady, and dub from the sunny shores where there’s always, “No Problem, Mon.” This tape should ONLY be played on cloudless sunny days, preferably on a white sand beach, and accompanied by a nice cold Red Stripe (following a nice big bag of mean green, that is). Note: this is sequenced to fit perfectly on both sides of a c90, not a CD—this music sounds best on old 45s, but analog tape still beats digital discs in a pinch.
01. Shark Wilson & The Basement Heaters - “Make It Reggae”
The Shark comes over all James Brown as he shouts and sweats his way through this perfect lead track. A potent opening salvo that defies you to deny its wishes.
02. Hopeton Lewis - “Sounds And Pressure”
A true reggae classic in a mellow style, co-opted for Adrian Sherwood’s reggae reissue label in 1994. The perfect soundtrack to that fat ounce you just scored.
03. Bob Marley & The Wailers - “Sugar Sugar”
Yes, the Archies tune. Recorded in his pre-Island days and all the better for it, Marley is upstaged here by the heavenly harmonies of the Wailers, which are smoother than a block of polished marble. Call me crazy, but I think Marley sounds better singing this bubblegum stuff than much of his heavily anglicized later works. Money changes everything, they say…
04. The Gaylettes - “Silent River Runs Deep”
A Motown record that lost its way and ended up in the sun, right down to the group’s name. This tune could be seen as Jamaica’s own “Stand By Your Man,” as it were.
05. Willie Williams - “Armageddon Time”
Later immortalized by the Clash, but they don’t have a patch on the pure, sinister sense of dread hanging all over the grooves of the original. Deeper than quicksand.
06. The Jamaicans - “Ba Ba Boom”
The traveling reggae sound systems of Jamaica immortalized in a three-minute ditty. The “Ba-Ba-Boom” of the chorus approximates the bass thumb of the speakers nicely, and soon hooks you in with its mantra—just like the sound systems. Get it?
07. Desmond Dekker - “This Woman”
Though Dekker is better known for his international hits “007 (Shanty Town)” and “Israelites,” I prefer the relentless groove and loose atmosphere of this earlier track. The sound that all those Two Tone bands wished they could make.
08. Brentford All Stars - “Greedy G”
I have no idea who the All Stars are, or if they can play basketball, but they sure can lay down a track. This dubbed out instrumental workout makes the JBs seem like the house band from Merrill Lynch.
09. Tommy McCook & The Supersonics - “Soul Style”
A stomping Stax-Volt workout features one of the sweetest guitar leads you’ll ever hear by the hottest house band of the rock steady era. Mick Jones knicked a key riff for the hook in Big Audio Dynamite’s single, “The Bottom Line,” proving the old adage that talent borrows while genius steals.
10. Sound Dimension - “Granny Scratch Scratch”
This stealthy track features an otherworldly sounding guitar-organ riff that has to be heard to be believed, and some stellar early dub techniques. God knows what the producers were smoking. Oh, wait…
11. Althea & Donna - “Uptown Top Ranking”
Proof positive that bad girls existed long before Xtina. Coincidentally, this is my wife’s favorite reggae tune—if you ever see the video of our honeymoon in Jamaica, this can be heard in the background as we cavort on the beach. Ah, those were the days…
12. Denzel Laing - “Beware of the Vampire”
An early Lee “Scratch” Perry production, this is quaint little ditty features one of Scratch’s trademark killer baselines and an oddly infectious melody. Years later, Perry will be quoted in an interview saying, “Mick Jagger is a Swedish vampire.” The man is truly not of this earth.
13. Bongo Herman - “Chairman Of The Board”
This potboiler rocks along on the back of a pounding rhythm track, highlighted by—you guessed it—bongos, as well as tweeting birds and a healthy dose of rolling rrrrrrrrrs. If Mungo Jerry had played reggae, it might have sounded a bit like this.
14. The Skatalites - “Herb Man Dub”
A popular name to drop among the fat-white-kid-from-Brooklyn ska contingent, but don’t hold that against them. Excellent percussion and some funky-as-fuck scratch guitar. And where the hell did they find that organ? Mars?
15. Toots & The Maytals - “Funky Kingston”
My favorite track by my favorite reggae outfit. This is also possibly the funkiest reggae track ever. The piano, bass, and drums lock into an absolute steamroller of a rhythm and Toots goes off like a motherfucker, sounding like the bastard spawn of Otis Redding and James Brown. Put this on at your next party and watch the dancefloor explode.
16. Alton Ellis & The Flames - “Rock Steady”
17. The Marvels - “Rock Steady”
Same title, vastly different grooves. Alton Ellis implores us to do it like Uncle Freddy (don’t know who he is, but he makes a few appearances on a few Jamaican records of the period), while the Marvels do it funky instrumental style. Take your pick—silky smooth, or hot and bubbly.
18. Lee “Scratch” Perry & The Upsetters - “Catch This”
Perry’s first studio band was also his best. The Upsetters could ride a rhythm track until its wheels came off, and “Catch This” finds them doing it up in their best JBs style. Is it merely a coincidence that James Brown and Lee Perry are equally insane?
19. Sister Nancy - “Bam-Bam”
This minimal, dubbed out skank may not make any sense to those of us who speak the Queen’s English, but you can’t deny that rhythm track. Play it enough times under the right kind of influence and those incomprehensible lyrics will actually start to make sense. I swear!
20. Honey Boy Martin - “Hey Leroy!”
Possibly the least “reggae” sounding tune here, but perhaps the most “Caribbean.” Whatever—it’s great to do the Limbo to.
21. The Paragons - “The Tide Is High”
Blondie may have taken this tune to the top of the charts, but the original still pisses all over it. Features some of the most gloriously ragged harmony singing ever recorded, and possibly the only violin ever to appear on a rock steady track.
22. King Tubby - “King Tubby Dub”
Hard to pick just one track from the inventor of dub, but this three-minutes of solid groove (lifted from the Temptations “Get Ready, Here I Come”) will do just as well as anything else. If you don’t know who King Tubby is, cancel your subscription to The Wire immediately.
23. The Untouchables - “Tighten Up”
Another Lee Perry production, and this time a restless, upbeat pop number. I have this track installed on my alarm clock to wake me up in the morning.
24. Jackie Mittoo - “Stereo Freeze”
Jackie Mittoo is the Jimmy Smith of the Jamaican scene, an organ virtuoso that his followers can’t help but be compared to. Unlike Smith, he didn’t make a bunch of bad records in the ‘80s.
25. Bob Andy - “Games People Play”
One of my favorite vocal performances. Andy really belts this one, and the crack musicians really keep it driving along. Bonus points for the stellar roller-rink style organ solo.
26. Theo Beckford - “Easy Snappin’”
“Here I come again/Shock you in your brain” – that’s a pretty audacious opening line. Luckily, the galloping rhythm track and ill guitar licks (and is that an autoharp, or just some weird-ass mixing?) deliver the goods.
27. Melodians & U-Roy - “Everybody Bawling”
An odd one, this, featuring a super mellow track overlaid with the, um, distinctive tones of original “toaster” U-Roy. Would have been great with just one or the other, but with both, it rises to a whole other level. Just like an aural Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
28. Augustus Pablo - “Rockers Rock”
The world’s foremost melodica man closes our mix with an archetypal dub cut that proves that the instrument is better used even here on this rather samey track than on records by all those Chicago bands. Oh Tortoise, do you see what you have done?
There's nothing that really separates summer from other seasons, except that it reminds me of indie rock. Or the 70s. Really, when you think about it, the late 60s and early 70s were a veritable summertime in music history ("The Summer of Love", anyone?) It was the dawning of an ornery and hot era, initiated with the Sunshine pop of Harpers Bizarre and ironically enough, fizzling out with the disco fever of Donna Summer. Yes, by the time the indie rock laden 80s came around, things were autumnal again (REM and Game Theory, for instance). And god knows how long it took to climb out of that rut. So, without further ado, “My Summer Beats Your Year”.
01. Bay City Rollers – “Summer Love Sensation”
"Baby, I love you." When you hear that, you know that not only the summer is here, but that you're actually going to have a good time and meet a significant other. You can literally hear the school bells ringing: "High school is adjourned", and "Since none of us have jobs, we're all going to have fun".
02. Pentangle – “Springtime Promises”
Catchy Brit folk. Springtime promises? "Summertime is with us once again". A great stand-up bass line and lyrics about the ecstatic way in which flowers bloom annually. Pssst…he’s talking about sex.
03. Paul Giovanni - "Corn Rigs"
More traditional-related music from Britain or Scotland from the soundtrack to The Wicker Man. Despite the song once again detailing springtime and harvest/sex, the movie takes place on Summer Isle.
04. Keith - "98.6"
"98.6" is a song about fever, but rather than exacerbating the situation, Keith's baby restores his feverish temperature to normal. The arrangements on this song are inexplicably unique in a certain offbeat sunny way. It's been raining in Upstate New York for the past month of summer, and it's been humid and unpleasant, hence my identification.
05. Girl Talk - "Fun In The Sun"
Internationally acclaimed Gregg Gillis is the mind behind Girl Talk, and possibly the only Plunderphonic-influenced pop musician, bent on making heavily rhythmic, often melodic electronic music solely out of top 40 hits. "Fun in the Sun" is packed with summer anthems, a wide variety of hip-hop I'm completely unfamiliar with, Fresh Prince's "Summertime" and Alice Cooper's "School's Out".
06. Donna Summer - "Summer Fever"
Is this the worst song Giorgio Moroder ever produced? Donna Summer's "concept album" about the changing seasons, "Four Seasons of Love", is probably one of the weakest releases in her often stellar, hypnotic catalogue of gems. The best part is that like all Donna Summer, "Spring Affair", "Summer Fever", "Autumn Changes", "Winter Melody", and "Spring Reprise" (once again emphasizing the sexual rebirth of springtime) all sound exactly the fucking same! See, music and seasons have nothing to do with each other. Here is an 8-minute track to really make that point, over and over again.
07. 10 cc – “Lazy Ways”
Another song only loosely-related to summer, and solely predicated on the idea of summer being purely a time for relaxation. "You get less done but more out of your days". How Dare You! is an uncanny album, and "Lazy Ways" is a great example, especially the simple, half-time backbeat that kicks in at "You'll never get up if you don't get up".
08. Townes Van Zandt – “Like A Summer Thursday”
"Like a summer Thursday, I cry for rain". I was lost driving around in the woods, trying to find a video store today. It was 6 o'clock and the entire sky was gray. I was listening to "Our Mother the Mountain" with the windows down. It's been raining for five hours.
09. Roy Harper –“Twelve Hours of Sunset”
This is another hazy, slow-paced song that essentially transfigures the miserable humid weather into a kind of eternal patience. "Twelve hours of sunset/Six thousand miles/Illusions and movies/Far away smiles".
10. Heart - "Crazy On You"
I realize this track doesn't have a direct correlation to the "Summer", per se. If fact, if Heart were a season, they would be a blustery winter, capable of turning men into icicles. And the first verse bears this out, singing about the world going to shit "with the bombs and the devils and the kids keep coming", but by the end, it's a regular raunch-fest: "Let me go crazy on you”. This summer is about lovin'.
11. Palace - "West Palm Beach"
You didn't really think I meant all that indie muckraking, did you? This is my favorite Oldham song of all time and decidedly the most summery, almost a follow-up to Roy Harper's "Twelve Hours of Sunset" in its melancholy timelessness.
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2003-06-16