For those of you who have school-age kids or who work in education, summer probably feels like a distant memory right about now. Nothing like the stench of bus diesel fumes or the frantic honking of a carpool driver to wake you rudely from your blissful California dreaming.
However, for the rest of the neighborhood, the calendar insists there’s still about a month to go before the arrival of fall. And, despite the warning signs of a few flagrant red maple leaves (or their ilk), there’s plenty of hazy, hot, and humid left in the atmosphere (at least here, in the Mid-Atlantic region) to discourage you from taking the angoras and tweeds out of mothballs.
So, this week at Scribbleskiff, we have created a playlist of 16 songs to meet the needs of both populations. Following is a collection of new music from 2009 that, depending on your worldview, will either make you weepy for those bygone, carefree days of summer — which may have ended as early as last weekend — or serve as a soundtrack to help you rock your way to the end of the season (that seemingly never ends).
Be sure to click on each of the links below to sample the songs (open each as a new tab or window), and then follow the threads to find out where you can download them. Or you can listen to the playlist in its entirety, though in a randomized order, at the Scribbleskiff page on 8tracks.com. Just click here, open as a new tab or window, and let it play as you read along. Enjoy!
“Let’s Go Surfing,” The Drums, Summertime! Here’s a recipe for reinventing beach music: Mix one part Jan & Dean with two parts New Wave (think Devo meets Joy Division), stir in a child’s hand-clapping game (chant “down by the roller-coaster”), add some catchy whistle-riffs, and, like wow, dude — instant classic!
“It Don’t Move Me,” Peter Bjorn and John, Living Thing. Speaking of whistles and hand-claps, this Swedish trio is back with a full-length follow-up to their cheery 2006 LP, Writer’s Block (which featured the bouncy, fluty “Young Folks”). The mood here is a little more jittery, underscoring the I’m-over-you lyrics, yet upbeat enough to get you dancing on beach blankets.
“Oxygen,” Living Things, Habeas Corpus. Although a relatively new band, Living Things have perfected a retro, Euro-pop feel on this track, with plenty of synths, electronic drumbeats, and angular, staccato guitar lines to satisfy the urges of anyone hungry (and tired of waiting) for the new Duran Duran LP (oops, busted).
“Farewell to the Fairground,” White Lies, To Lose My Life. Another new pop song with a curious blast-from-the-past sound (maybe it’s me), this one plucks the heartstrings for one of my all-time favorite summer records, Reach the Beach, by The Fixx. Luckily, though, I’m no longer longing for all that hair.
“My Secret Friend,” IAMX, Kingdom of Welcome Addiction. The driving, industrial-techno sounds (drum-stomps, fuzz guitars, droning vocals by indie chanteuse Imogen Heap), reminiscent of Depeche Mode (OK, it is me), create a lush, dark framework for a song that seems to be about espionage or forbidden love, or both.
“Wonderful,” Gary Go, Gary Go. It’s no surprise that iPhone-music-maker Gary Go’s songs feel derivative — this one, for instance could be an outtake from a U2 or Coldplay record. But Go has an ear for melodic, peppy dance-pop songs that sound, well, wonderful.
“Bitter Heart,” Zee Avi, Zee Avi. This breezy, soulful little number is the perfect accompaniment to one last swing in the hammock. And to make it tempting enough for a second (or third) play-through, the Malaysian-born singer, who sounds a lot like Madeleine Peyroux, adds a few twists, like a jaunty New Orleans-style trombone solo and a trapdoor ending.
“To Ohio,” The Low Anthem, Oh My God Charlie Darwin. I blame (and thank) Cowboy Junkies for giving birth to the indie alt-folk-pop scene, dominated today by the likes of Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, and now these guys. With their lo-fi production, soft guitar picking, hushed falsetto harmonies, and sighing harmonicas, it’s like chamber music for hippies. Oh my, indeed.
“Genesis 3:23,” The Mountain Goats, The Life of the World to Come. Prolific songwriter John Darnielle (aka, The Mountain Goats) is starting to sound formulaic, but it’s a winning formula: mid-tempo beats, strumming guitars, hum-along melodies, and a homilist’s lyrics. This track has all that, plus a female co-vocalist to sooth his gruff demeanor.
“Ancestors,” Throw Me the Statue, Creaturesque. Throw Me the Statue was one of my favorite bands from 2008. And with this lead-off single from their new record, the band once again delivers an immediately and immensely likable mix of power-pop guitar hooks, acoustic and electronic sounds, wistful vocals, and summery, downbeat melodies.
“Say Please,” Monsters of Folk, Say Please (Single). If you think this song sounds like it could be either Conor Oberst, M. Ward or Jim James on vocals and guitar, you’d be right. These three so-called folk-rock superstars have teamed up to record several singles (promising a full-length soon), including this one, which could be the best song George Harrison never wrote.
“Smith Hill,” Deer Tick, Born on Flag Day. I liked War Elephant, Deer Tick’s last LP, so much that if I could have worn it out I would have. Like their namesake, this band (who wave the standard of countrified American indie rock, passed down from The Dream Syndicate and Green On Red to Wilco and Drive-By Truckers) is hard to shake, once it gets a hold of you.
“You Can Make It,” Hill Country Revue, Make a Move. And speaking of countrified — if you’re a fan of redneck rockers like The Allman Brothers or Marshall Tucker, then say howdy to this “group,” a collaboration between members of North Mississippi Allstars and Garry and Duwayne Burnside (sons of blues legend R. L.). Their recipe for Southern-fried boogie will spice up any backyard barbecue.
“Island,” Hopewell, Good Good Desperation. Although the phrase “no man is an island,” shouted in this song’s emphatic chorus, is hardly an original conceit, there’s plenty that’s unique about this band’s sound — a cross between Jane’s Addiction and The Grateful Dead (if you can believe it). It’s the ideal weapon for late-night iPod “top this!” duels.
“Take It In,” Wye Oak, The Knot. Sometimes intimate and murky, sometimes urgent and loud, this lovely, low-burning rocker (by a Baltimore-based band whose singer sounds like Karen Carpenter crooning for Sonic Youth, not the other way around) could serve as both serenade for an end-of-the-date kiss and an end-of-the-affair kiss-off anthem. It’s a mood thing, apparently.
“All You Have to Do,” Hallways, Ghosts. Both the lyrics and the lilting melody help keep the emotions in this Seattle-based duo’s country waltz balanced between hopeful tenderness and desperate longing. But it’s the swelling, keening pedal-steel guitar, which can make even the sunniest song sound sad, that ushers in the anticipated finale.
So, there you have it, a miscellany of new music to help you survive (and possibly celebrate) this special in-between time of year — let’s call it “the fall of summer.”
As always, let us know what you think. Who were your favorite artists from the summer of 2009? Is there a particular song that makes you think of a season? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
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