Grown-up summer has a lot going against it. The days of three month summer vacation are long gone, and the electricity bill is higher than ever. The humidity leaves your shirt sticking to your back the moment you step outside, and getting into your car will cook you alive. The scent of chlorine is everywhere. But despite it all, I love summertime.
Part of that is the soundtrack.
Every year, starting in the late spring and going right through August, I do a little time travelling. Old friends like Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke, and, of course, the “Fab Four” keep me constant company. A couple of classic seventies acts make appearances as well.
Is it the weather? Is it the image of hippy dippy types frolicking in the sun? I don’t know. There’s nothing to stop me from listening to these fellas year round, but for whatever reason they inevitably take over around now. It just makes sense!
Am I alone here? I got a handful of LPL audiophiles to share their summer soundtracks to find out.
Ilka: Readers’ Services
An enjoyable aspect of music is its temporal quality. You could be doing a banal task, and it can transport you back to summer 1993, when you were trying to teach yourself how to play Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today” on guitar, or, 1984, when Don Henley vowed his love would outlast those “Boys of Summer.” Before my world had internet, summer’s soundtracks were fueled by a mix tape or an entire cassette.
Nowadays, thanks to streaming services like Hoopla or Spotify, those seasonal counterparts have become an immersive experience. How I’ve spent my sonic vacation, thus far, has been revisiting whole catalogues (The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan), or sub genres, as well as artists unbeknownst to me, such as the Canterbury Scene and Kevin Ayers. So, turn on, tune in, and press play because those sounds you discover will accompany great summer memories!
Every summer, I make a playlist featuring some of my favorite albums of the season to listen to while I’m up to my usual shenanigans. I would describe myself as a serial listener in that I play the same album on repeat until I discover my next musical obsession. Here are three summer essentials that make me feel happy even in the face of record temperature highs and 300%, “are we seriously living in a swamp” humidity.
To kick off my list, I’ll start with Kristin Chenoweth’s The Art of Elegance. I had the incredible opportunity to see her perform live at the Lied Center earlier this year, and there isn’t a single genre of music that Chenoweth can’t sing. This collection features recordings from the Classic American Songbook and will help soothe even the most heat exhausted of souls with its relaxing, jazzy timbre.
I’ve also been in love with Paramore’s 80s, synth pop inspired release After Laughter. If I need something upbeat, whether I’m exercising or getting my grill on with the fam, After Laughter is my go-to jam to liven up any get together. As far as future releases go, anyone who knows me well won’t be surprised that Lana Del Rey’s Lust for Life makes it to the top of my list, as it wouldn’t be summer without a moody, atmospheric, hipster Americana album from alternative goddess Del Rey. Keep your eyes on the horizon as it is slated for release in late July.
The tunes flow freely at all times during the summer, but I tend to gravitate towards a few artists/albums more than any other time of the year. When I’m going to be in the car for a while my favorite way to kill off a ride is by listening to Blood Visions about 5 times in a row. Its short, punchy, pop punk tracks keep my head bobbing from beginning to end. La Roux’s self titled album contains quite possibly the best summer track ever created, “Bulletproof.” The song rears its glorious head on the radio this time every year. Violent Femmes sound like a sunny day even at their angstiest, and their debut album is chock full of uptempo tunes. Wipers, Is This Real?, is a little more brooding and moody, but the songs are all full of a lot of energy, and “Let’s Go Away” will make you leave town if you listen to it enough times.
My mood switches when I’m on my porch where I sit and bask like a lizard. I like to be able to drift in and out of consciousness or take pleasure in the thought that I have nothing to do in the moment. White Fence’s easy going psych pop doesn’t ask many hard questions and allows me to kick back on a hot day. Sam Cooke is always good for lowering my blood pressure and providing a tune to sing to while I tend the grill and sip a beer. And when I’m dreaming of the beach, there’s nothing better than Adron’s Organismo to whisk me away to a tropical paradise.
Each summer these favorites reemerge from the years before and I seek a new tune to add to the collection for the future. I haven’t found the summer 2017 song/album/artist yet, but it’s out there somewhere.
So there you have it! We’re an eclectic bunch. Make sure to swing by, grab an album or two from our display, then roll down your car windows and listen to your own perfect summer soundtrack (at a respectable volume) on the drive home.
-Ian Stepp is an Information Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.