Playlist: In the summertime

Earlier this year, I had this brilliant idea to make a series of seasonal-themed playlists and post each on these pages on the first day of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The idea was inspired by my friend Andrew Rodriguez, who has posited in the past that there are certain songs and albums that just scream out a particular season to him. I think there’s something to his idea and wanted to shared the love and expand upon it.

My playlist for Spring, the aptly titled “The first day of spring”, went off without a hitch. It was predictably full of the hope and pent-up excitement that the season brings and I posted it right on time. Of course, and incidentally, my summer playlist wasn’t as punctual. I had it made in time for the turning of the season on the calendar date but perhaps something in me felt that the time wasn’t quite right. Indeed, if you listen to these twenty-five tracks, it just screams out from the depths and the heights of mid-summer, wavering between the hazy and languid, and the all out beach and patio party.

Yes, I know August is more than half over and the kids are heading back to school soon but that doesn’t mean we have to let the summer end. As long as the sun beats down on us and the patios remain open, we can stretch this thing out and enjoy it to the fullest. So I suggest we put this playlist on repeat, turn it up, and get ready to “Lay back in the sun” and hit as many “Happy hour”s as we can.

Other highlights on this mix include:

    • “In the summertime”, the title track and opening number sets the tone with love
    • Camera Obscura’s “Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken” isn’t necessarily linked to the season lyrically but it definitely has the feel that we wished all summers had
    • “Island in the sun” is Weezer as The Beach Boys and resulted in one of their biggest ever hits
    • I remember first hearing Smash Mouth’s retro fling, “Walkin’ on the sun” in the summer of 1997, falling for it, and then, falling all over myself trying to find their album in the stores
    • Black Box Recorder’s lovely cover of the wistful “Seasons in the sun”, a song originally made famous by Canadian Terry Jacks

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist (complete with YouTube links) as I’ve created it:

1. The Rural Alberta Advantage “In the summertime”
2. The Housemartins “Happy hour”
3. Primal Scream “Higher than the sun”
4. Young Galaxy “New summer”
5. Doves “Catch the sun”
6. Camera Obscura “Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken”
7. Galaxy 500 “Fourth of July”
8. The Airborne Toxic Event “The girls in their summer dresses”
9. Weezer “Island in the sun”
10. Pink Mountaintops “The second summer of love”
11. Violent Femmes “Blister in the sun”
12. The Polyphonic Spree “Light & day / Reach for the sun”
13. The Pogues “Summer in Siam”
14. Spiritualized “Lay back in the sun”
15. The Sundays “Summertime”
16. Rachel Goswell “Warm summer sun”
17. Munroe “Summer”
18. Belle and Sebastian “Another sunny day”
19. Shannon Lay “August”
20. Vampire Weekend “Cape Cod kwassa Bkwassa”
21. Smash Mouth “Walkin’ on the sun”
22. Dodgy “Staying out for the summer”
23. Black Box Recorder “Seasons in the sun”
24. The Jezabels “Endless summer”
25. The Decemberists “Anti-summersong”

And as I’ve said before, I’ll say again: Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe and continue to be well. Until next time, enjoy the tunes.

For those of you who are on Spotify, feel free to look me up. My user name is “jprobichaud911”.


Best albums of 2008: #3 Vampire Weekend “Vampire Weekend”

Vampire Weekend formed in 2006 in New York City. The four original band members, Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson, and Chris Baio, met while attending Columbia university and took their name from a short film project that frontman Koenig was working on but never finished.

It is indicative of its time and place that by the time this, the group’s debut, self-titled album was released, two years later, many of its songs were already known or at least familiar to the indie music community. The internet and blogosphere was in full hype machine mode and Vampire Weekend were definite beneficiaries. The debut hit and climbed both the UK album charts and Billboard 200 upon its release. It was met with critical acclaim from most corners but of course, with quick success came backlash, some detractors screaming about theft of world musician thunder by privileged white kids. Interesting, then, and the band did lash back with explanations, that all four members graduated college with student loan debt and that their collective lineages were varied and multicultural.

When I first got a hold of this album, I did so with some excitement. There was so much fun and energy in the songs. The album sounded very DIY, almost like a mixed CD-R, which was likely a result of the self-production and the range of recording locations, including a family member’s basement. And the sound, which many attributed to thievery of afrobeat sounds and compared to Paul Simon’s “Graceland”, I thought more hinted at the world outside of North America rather than outright plagiarism and with its mixture with punk and post-punk sensibilities, was reminded more of music by The Police than Mr. Simon. The lyrics’ subject matter were varied and quirky, name-checking other musicians, grammatical usage, and architectural details, and the music was intelligent, unique, and also just this side of Wes Anderson-ville.

Of course, two albums later (and soon to be a third) and “Vampire Weekend” is considered a classic album by an indie rock world mainstay. It ranked high on many best album lists of its year and decade lists by many music mags, blogs, and websites. And well, looking back, I still love it and can sing along to most of its tracks. Have a sample of my three picks for you and if you haven’t checked out the album as a whole, I highly recommend it.

“M79”: This is one of the first tracks on the album that really caught my attention. And how could it not, really? Bursting forth with harpsichords and orchestral strings, it hops and pogos along with a ska-like rhythm and pace, complete with staccato guitar riffs. But what does it mean? A bit of research confirmed that the M79 is a crosstown bus in New York. So, much like their other tunes, the metaphoric-sounding lyrics by Koenig make a lot more sense to New York habitants and insiders. Words like “No excuse to be so callous. Dress yourself in bleeding madras. Charm your way across the Khyber pass.” are really about dealing with relationships across class and cultural lines in the big apple.

“Oxford comma”:  If the last track was one of the first songs of the album to catch my ear, then this was most definitely the first. Released as the third single off the album, track two sounds so simple, driven forward by the plunk, plunk of organ chords and the sparse rhythm that sounds like it was banged out just using the one drum. Even the guitar that peaks it’s head out of the melody for a solo midway through the song feels free and easy and uncomplicated. And that opening line: “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?” If designed to catch attention, it certainly does the trick (especially to a grammar geek like me). Vampire Weekend rarely use profanity in their songs so its appearance here says something about the the song’s protagonist’s attitude towards his antagonists’s apparent haughtiness. And yeah, it’s all so damned catchy.

“A-punk”: Talk about energy. Track three is it. Living up to its name, “A-punk” certainly calls to mind the sniper attack of two minutes or less punk, though this tune clocks in just over that time. It’s got skank and slam dance beats, staccato rhythm guitars, and some surprising flute-aping synths give the song some levity. Koenig throws a lot of lyrics at us in such a short span of time, the subject of which are cause for debate. References could be to bands of influence, historical context, more NYC time and place. However, what’s not up for debate, given the “ay, ay, ay” instead of “oi, oi, oi”, is the sensibility. This is a song for dancing to, for letting loose and forgetting it all, a song for Saturday night, a song for partying. Ay, ay, ay!

Check back next Thursday for album #2. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Fleet Foxes  “Fleet Foxes”
9. The Submarines “Honeysuckle weeks”
8. Schools of Seven Bells “Alpinisms”
7. Glasvegas “Glasvegas”
6. Spiritualized “Songs in A & E”
5. Elbow “The seldom seen kid”
4. Death Cab For Cutie “Narrow stairs”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.