Are you like me? Are you profoundly distractible in the summer? Are you flooded with memories of some silky body of water from childhood? Do you perpetually conjure fantasies of what your life would be like with a beach house? While I am aware that it would make me a far more interesting person to say that my favorite season were fall (“LO, the changing leaves, the chill in the air, the opportunity for reflection . . .”), it is unequivocally summer. The sense of liberation, the peeling of clothes, the ubiquity of gazpacho . . . my mood lifts for a solid three months. Yet, here we are, mere mortals---without that second home with the chic friggin’ towels, jute rugs, and $67 candles on the vanity. You and I are still caged in the daily grind (however joyful and soul satisfying) of work and the business of life. At times like this, I like to use music to transport, because as it turns out, there is nothing fired up on the helipad to take me to the Hamptons or Anguilla.
I compiled a list of some all-time favorite albums that give me that carefree summer vibe. In doing so, I have noticed a few things: 1) I am kind of old; 2) As such, I seem to have gotten a little bit stuck in the ‘90s; 3) Maybe the ‘90s were sexier?; 4) I digress; 5) I can’t remember the other thing I was going to say here. And one final author’s note (for the sake of what we will not characterize as my obsessive compulsive disorder, but merely something on the wide-ranging and often totally, totally normal anxiety spectrum), this list is certainly not comprehensive. These albums---yes, I call them albums, I mentioned I was kind of old---are classics in my mind and I reach for them consistently in this season, but they are in no particular order and there are so, so, so many more I could discuss. That is all. ENJOY IN GOOD HEALTH. Oh, and I would love to hear about your clutch songs or albums for summer in the comments---always looking for new classics.
Moondance – Van Morrison (1970) Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we? This is such an obvious choice, but I have (even recently!) met people who have never heard this album in its entirety and I have even met people who don’t own this album or any of the songs from it. If something doesn’t move inside you when the opening of “Into the Mystic” begins, well . . . then I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.
Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder (1976) Double album. Stevie is so fully, totally, serious here, such a monster talent. He played many of the instruments on many of the songs. This is a major opus in his long and illustrious catalogue and is referred to by several critics over the years as the best album ever made (like of ALL the albums ever made by anyone, ever). This masterpiece comes with a 24-page booklet of lyrics and liner notes. UNREAL. Stevie writes the book on heavy duty lyrics paired with gorgeous melodies. Prepare to have your mind blown by “As,” one of my favorite songs, period.
3 Feet High and Rising – De La Soul (1989) Pure, unadulterated, wacky fun. I wish hip-hop existed like this today---sadly, it does not. This concept album is smart and sassy and hot and will make your booty shimmy.
Static & Silence – The Sundays (1997) This is the third and final album by the dreamy band, The Sundays. If I had a voice like lead singer Harriet Wheeler, I think I would use it only for good. And she totally does. At all times. And the single, “Summertime?” How about this chorus stanza:
“And it’s you and me in the summertime. We’ll be hand in hand down in the park. With a squeeze and sigh and that twinkle in your eye. And all the sunshine banishes the dark.”
Heaven or Las Vegas – Cocteau Twins (1990) Cocteau Twins are completely weird, and I recognize they might be an acquired taste for some. But if you don’t know this band and want to go into a really cozy version of outer space, this is the album to choose. I also love Elizabeth Fraser’s voice and although she is noted for singing jibberish, this is one of the only albums on which you can actually hear her clearly and make some sense of the lyrics. This seems like a strange endorsement, but please go download this?
Summerteeth – Wilco (1999) Haunting, lush and beautiful album by the always amazing Wilco. An all-time favorite for all seasons.
Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? – Metric (2003) Metric is an awesome Candian indie rock band that it would really behoove you to know better. Total Girl Power music, but also heady and sharp. “Hustle Rose” makes me all intense and gets me grooving every time.
Rumours – Fleetwood Mac (1976) Do I really have to write anything here? I mean, COME ON.
The Hits/The B Sides – Prince (1993) 3 albums of HOT SEX.
Celebrity Skin – Hole (1998) I will grant you that Courtney Love is a complete and total mess. But she has made (arguably in collaboration with many other talented people) some rock-solid music in her day. Particularly because I suspect that day has passed, never to return, what with all the crazy . . . this deserves a good, hard listen. This whole album is sort of dedicated to LA and is very much evocative of California pop (a common theme in my musical tastes). This also makes it a gorgeous summer stand by. The hits on this are obviously great, but try “Boys on the Radio” on for size. You won’t regret it.