Because, as it turns out, being pale and drawn isn’t really that fun all of the time. Because the summer is more than uncomfortable sweating on strangers in the subway. Because sitting outside with friends and an icy cold beer actually feels really fucking good. Because music is a language wider than I sometimes remember; where there’s space for more than just blotchy winter synth lines and hushed, echoey vocals. Because girls in summer dresses are some approximation of heaven. That’s all it comes down to, really.
The Smiths- “Ask”
Because few things in music say joyful summery pop glimmer like Johnny Marr’s guitar arpeggios over Morrissey’s maudlin crooning. And about Morrissey: as much of an angsty shoegazer (as in, somebody who stares down at their own shoes, not Loveless-shoegaze– man, I should include a song from Loveless here) as he’s purported to be, and as drab and joyless as the streets of Manchester would appear from his lyrics, this song is pure jangly summer bliss, and its very premise– “ask me, I won’t say no, how could I?”– is a resounding “YES” in the sun’s general direction.
Life Without Buildings- “Let’s Get Out”
Because this is playful, bubbly post-punk with the most deliciously off-center Mike Millsy bass line this side of “Radio Free Europe” and Sue Thompkins’s shouted vocals. This song is an instant mood changer for me, and one that I’ve been giddily addicted to since I picked up this band’s first and only LP “Any Other City”. It’s really a shame they broke up after only one album; for as much as they rely on formula, their music really is a treat; snappy and infectious enough to pry me out of the recliner and out into the streets.
Bombshell Rocks- “180 Down”
Because ever since I picked up the Punk O Rama 5 compilation at the tender age of 13, I’ve been convinced this is one of the best punk songs ever written; it’s energetic, joyful, melodic and anthemic (seriously, how huge is that chorus?) while feeling simultaneously tight and aggressive and like it’s at the verge of coming apart at the seams. It’s a victorious and stouthearted rallying cry, and I have absolutely no idea what it’s about. Seriously, though… that chorus. Wow.
Dave Hillyard & the Rocksteady Seven- “Playtime”
Because I spit on the alarmingly pervasive notion that the saxophone is an “inferior” instrument. This wonderfully off kilter live performance of a tasty summer jam is electrifying in the same measure that it is mournful. Dave Hillyard settles into a groove and flow that plays to all the instrument’s strengths, with a sense of melody that oozes in and out of jazzy. This is the title track to one of the best albums to light a spliff to. And that’s what summer’s all about.
The Undertones- “Teenage Kicks”
Because this is 50s summer-night teenage rock and roll reimagined in the age of the power chord, with lyrics as simple as “I wanna hold her, wanna hold her tight” somehow feeling incredibly sincere. That guitar sound and that chorus are absolutely irresistible, as are the syncopated handclaps punctuating the instrumental breaks.
Dum Dum Girls- “Jail La La”
Because reverb is the musical equivalent to solar glare. This angular, ridiculously catchy indie rock is made by badass chicks in badass outfits, their style is all perfumed neon summer nights. Their deadpan delivery betrays a genuine youthful energy evident in the chorus and pre-chorus, which burst with all the exuberance of early-80s New Wave. And also, the second verse to this song is made up entirely of “la la la la la”s. I mean, if that’s not summer in song, then what is?
The Temptations- “The Way You Do The Things You Do”
Because Motown got it right. It’s really amazing how one record label was able to cull together so many incredible performers and songwriters, paying so close attention to detail. This song is a carefully assembled breezy summer afternoon, with its stopstutter drumming and shimmery acoustic guitar, discretely panned to the right and left, leaving the vocal melodies up front and center. It’s all sugarshot , rhythmic, incredibly catchy and soulful and, haters be damned, features a saxophone solo. A really fucking great saxophone solo, too.
These songs are fucking amazing and make strutting down the otherwise offensively bright and sunny streets a complete pleasure. As much as I love to bitch about the weather, I sometimes find myself nodding in agreement with Pete Townsend’s words in the chorus to “Blue, Red & Grey”– I love every minute of the day. (and, uh, consequently, all the weather fluctuations that come with it. Also I really should’ve included something from Loveless here. Damn.)