Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Playlist: July

The onset of summer—my favorite season—here in West Hollywood has influenced my listening this month. For starters, I've been enjoying Washed Out's Within & Without (it boasts one of the best album covers I've seen in a while, see above). The brand new album, which has been widely acclaimed, sometimes sounds like a lush, electronica version of Low. Its "bedroom auteur" creator, Ernest Greene, has been saddled with the genre tag of Chillwave. (Because that's what us music journalists do: We sit around and think up ridiculous new genre labels all day like, say, NĂ¼-Dreamgaze.) But all that matters is that Washed Out's blissful electronica is cool balm for a hot day.

In addition to Washed Out, I've been seeking out other albums and songs that feel summer-y to my ears. Perfect summer songs include Porcupine Tree's "Time Flies" and No-Man's "Days in the Trees." Both songs, penned by Steven Wilson, offer nostalgic recollections of the seemingly infinite summers of childhood. (Watch the music video of heavily abridged single version of "Time Flies," below.)

So, what, exactly, constitutes a great summer song or album? Sometimes a summer song is that which feels light, folky, and as laid-back as a sultry siesta. (That would explain why I've been craving some J.J. Cale of late.) At other times, one wants a kick-ass rock song ideal for jamming while you drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu. (Red Hot Chili Peppers ticks those boxes.)

Other records have a summer-y feel. Pink Floyd's Meddle takes me to "Saint Tropez" on a "Pillow of Winds." Laura Viers' wonderful July Flame album boasts tracks such as the exultant "Summer is the Champion" as well as its catchy title track (see video, below). And Led Zeppelin reminds us that Dancing Days are here again on Houses of the Holy.

One album, in particular, stands out as a great summer listen. The second disc of Kate Bush's masterpiece, Aerial, is a conceptual piece that depicts one summer's day. It starts with the birdsong of early sunny morning, passes through a fleeting midday thunderstorm, basks in an a honeycomb sunset, and ends with a song about swimming late at night. Seek it out!


Summer-y albums in rotation:
  • Washed Out—Within and Without (2011)
  • Gary Moore—Dark Days in Paradise (1997)
  • J.J. Cale—J.J. Cale Live (2001)
  • Porcupine Tree—Lightbulb Sun (1997)
  • Calexico—Carried to Dust (2008)
  • Tame Impala—Innerspeaker (2010)
  • Joni Mitchell—Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975)
  • Stone Temple Pilots—Thank You (2003)
  • The Amazing—The Amazing (2009)
  • Laura Veirs—July Flame (2009)
  • Pink Floyd—Meddle (1971)
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers—Stadium Arcadium (2006)
  • Led Zeppelin—Houses of the Holy (1973)
Other albums in rotation:
  • Gavin Harrison and 05ric—Circles (2009)
  • Warren Haynes—Man in Motion (2011)
  • Henrik Freischlader—Still Frame Replay (2011)
  • Marillion—Live at Cadogan Hall (2011)
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds—The Boatman's Call (1997)
  • Eric Clapton—Crossroads, disc 3 (1988)
  • John Hammond (Jr.)—Push Comes to Shove (2009)