Summer is a rarefied season that (more than any other time of year) summons up all sorts of vintage ghosts from other generations’ musical realms — namely, the ’50s and ’60s in American & British music, for me. There’s something in those old AM radio songs and staticky car stereo anthems that instantly dig up all my best summer memories and leave me ready to go make some more.
As the June heat reaches full capacity these days, for this year’s summer mix I mostly swore off the stuff that feels all shimmery-new, in favor of the new that feels old and well-steeped. These twenty songs all could have maybe come out on a vinyl single, and soundtracked a sock hop or a sweaty, soulful city nightclub in 1964. But almost all of them (with a couple exceptions) were made in the last few years by people not old enough to remember any of that first-hand.
Here’s to music that perennially sounds good on a hot summer night.
SUNBURNS TURNING INTO TANLINES:
THE FUEL/FRIENDS SUMMER 2013 MIX
Ganges A GoGo – Bombay The Hard Way
A kitschy funk-Bollywood explosion from Dan The Automator features drums from DJ Shadow — and you can practically see the technicolor masses dancing to this one. Count me as one of them.
Summer Girls – Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds
This playful, slurry jam has been a no-brainer for inclusion since I first heard it in the middle of winter, on Mike’s delectable Round & Round album (one that should be on your stereos, in its entirety, all summer). Mike opened (and oh hey, named) last year’s summer mix as well, with “Smooth Sailin’.” Perhaps something in his joyful musical laments just suit the season. ALSO: Mike’s Daytrotter session that we stopped in Iowa to record a few months ago just went live this morning as well, with some really beautiful writing from Sean to match the songs. Bonanza!
Lady, You Shot Me – Har Mar Superstar
I had somehow stupidly pegged this band as some sort of J-pop collective. Why? Why did I miss out on this for so long? This new record, Bye Bye 17, is now #2 (after Mike’s) on my list of albums that you need for this summer. Pretty fly for a white guy (from Minnesota who looks like Ron Jeremy), as they say.
Can I Change My Mind – Tyrone Davis
One of the few authentic older songs on this mix, I just cannot ever ever get enough of how delicately sexy and perfect that febrile, bendy guitar lick is. Bad. Ass. All summer long.
Trying So Hard Not To Know – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
This song is one side of the hard-to-find Night Sweats 7″ that is floating around all the best Colorado record players. I have listened to this song roughly 86 times in the last month or so, after seeing them live and having my socks completely knocked off. Sweltering.
Better Days – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes
“I’ve seen better days drippin’ down your face / we don’t have to talk, just dance.” Yes. This new song from Edward Sharpe is from their forthcoming S/T July record, which is already promising to be a much-anticipated soundtrack to my late summer months.
Plan Of The Man – The Ms
I swooned and fell for this band when they released Future Women way back in the 2006 early-days of this blog, crowned by this tightly wound power-pop gem of a song. As one reviewer wrote, “The M’s have found a canny chemistry out of seemingly simple parts (three-part harmonies plus a powerhouse drummer), and now, they’ve got swagger to spare.”
Handle With Care (Traveling Wilburys) – Slang
Drew Grow and Janet Weiss cover a terrific assortment of songs in their joyous, airtight collaboration project Slang, mostly in and around the Pacific Northwest. These two are completely irresistible. Be sure to check out Drew Grow’s renamed band, Modern Kin, and Janet Weiss’s astounding new Drumgasm record.
You Put The Flame On It – Charles Bradley
This one’s a new song by an older dude who could have been part of the first wave of originals but instead worked as a cook and a James Brown impersonator called (you can’t make up a better backstory than this) “Black Velvet,” before being signed to Daptone Records. Everything about his newly-released sophomore record with Daptone –which my friend Andrew has on vinyl and it sounds just superb, spinning lazily– is fantastic.
Brand New Key (Melanie cover) – Thao Nguyen & The Get Down Stay Down
In her perfectly strong singsong delivery, the rocking Thao aces this 1971 rollerskating jam, all loaded with vintage innuendo about his key fitting into her brand new roller skates, and how they should “get together and try it out to see.” God bless the Seventies.
Country Girl – Primal Scream
A prime Rolling Stones song that isn’t a Rolling Stones song, this one is all swagger from a 2006 record by Scottish rockers Primal Scream, with lines like “crazy women, mess your hair / wake up drunk and bleeding in some strange bed but yeah – what can a poor boy do?” A common complaint. Put this one on when you need to get pumped up to go out and be superawesome some night.
I Like To Move In The Night – Eagles of Death Metal
Gahhh another one that so very clearly rips off the Stones, and yet does it with such unabashed glee that you can’t help but enjoy it. Plus, you can’t take a band called Eagles Of Death Metal too seriously, now can you? This reminds me of the watertower/pool hall/gas station scenes from Dazed & Confused. Like that.
Say So – Allen Stone
This 26 year-old bespectacled white kid from Seattle keeps wowing me with his smooth Stevie-Wonder-like range and delight in the music he’s making. A superb piece about him on Grantland described him as sort of looking like a Fraggle Rock character, “but (he) has a better voice than pretty much anyone I’ve ever heard in my life.” So there’s that. Listen up for this fella.
Please Forgive My Heart (Bobby Womack) – Bahamas
Afie Jurvanen can do no wrong, in my opinion, and this Bobby Womack cover with his wonderful backup-singer ladies is no exception. I love/hate the ability of sweet soul songs like this to woo me, wherein our protagonist begs some woman to forgive his heart, because the problem doesn’t lie “anywhere in there,” but the fact is, “I’m a liar.” So we’re clear. Ooooh ooooh ooooh.
Saturday – Josh Rouse
Such sweet, sweet bluesy topnotes here, floating across the air on a slow Saturday — this is one of the more romantic songs I know, and I’ve been wanting to put it on a summer mix for years. From Rouse’s 2005 masterpiece album Nashville, this song also has one of my favorite opening lyrics: “I would swim across the ocean, I would lay down on a bed of nails / but I’ll spare you all the bullshit, I will spare you all the desperate details.” Whew.
Dry Land – Planes (Inaiah & Desi)
Inaiah Lujan and Desirae Garcia are core members of The Haunted Windchimes here in Southern Colorado, but their side project Planes finds them charmingly exploring tunes that would have sounded right at home on tour with Buddy Holly. This melody is a serious earworm, and they agreed to record it last week in their living room, just for me and you and this mix, after I absolutely could not stop whistling it for an entire week.
Post-War – M. Ward
This song has always sounded radiantly humid to me, like drowsily-buzzing bees and backporch cicadas and air that clings to your skin, with a slow dance shuffle across a worn-smooth wooden floor somewhere.
Not Dark Yet – Bob Dylan
One of the greatest summer night songs ever recorded. You can see the ceiling fan spinning lazily, ineffectually, overhead. It’s too hot to sleep; the heat is still rising off the sidewalk and the soft, tarry asphalt. Behind every beautiful thing, Dylan croaks, there’s been some kind of pain.
It’s not dark yet but it’s getting there.