(DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, via Pinterest)
A lot of keys have been mashed by bloggers discussing the elusive perfect summer song. I’m not going to bring you yet another post about the right amount of syncopation or the correct level of bass. I’m not going to praise DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Summertime,” a song that makes lists because of lyrical content and not musical quality. Instead, I’m going to reach back in my memory and bring you a list of every song that has defined summer for me, personally, since 2000. Does it flow as a mixtape? Absolutely not. But it’s my list and I’d love to hear other folks’.
2016-Rich Chigga-“Dat $tick” Brian Imanuel is a 16-year-old Indonesian kid who taught himself English via YouTube and discovered rap music on Twitter. In the video, he wears a pink golf shirt, khaki shorts, and a fanny pack. He pulls odd faces, makes strange hand gestures and doesn’t dance so much as jerk around. The lyrics are sprinkles with ethnic slurs and casual homophobia. And it is the hardest song I have heard all summer.
2015-Visage-“Fade to Grey” This song came out in 1981 but got a little bit of airplay after Steve Strange’s death, which is how I heard it. I played it more than anything else that came out last year. And check out that video–the low budget was spent entirely on makeup and the result is beautiful.
2014-The Horrors-“So Now You Know” I think Luminous was the best record of 2014. No one else I know agrees. Bright synthpop and deep lyrics combine to make one of the loveliest and most inspirational records I have ever heard.
2013-Tegan & Sara-“Closer (Morgan Page Radio Edit)” 2013 was a rough year. Vampire Weekend came out with a record all about mortality and that was the very last thing I needed to hear. The Strokes came out with a record that found them sounding completely exhausted. Some of the records I would swear I listened to in 2013 came out in 2014. In short, summer 2013 isn’t really defined as clearly as others for me. But this song was a jam.
2012-Merchandise-“Time” I would love Merchandise even if they weren’t from Tampa. This song is so melancholy that I feel like I need to remind anyone reading this that these are songs that evoke specific summers, not necessarily actual jams.
2011-Nicki Minaj-“Super Bass” Aside from having one of the most visually arresting videos ever, this song is hella fun. I’m not the only one who rapped it on the way to the beach, right?
2010-Lady Gaga-“Bad Romance” What was I doing in 2010? Working constantly and going to summer school at UCF. I barely hung out with anyone. I barely listened to new music. Oh well. We were all listening to Lady Gaga back then, right?
2009-The Dead Weather-“Treat Me Like Your Mother” I had slept on Alison Mosshart, who found success long after she left her hometown of Vero Beach. Having never listened to her band The Kills, this song was a revelation. I didn’t know how I would like a band that Jack White was in but did not front, and the answer was better than anything else he has ever done. Honorable mention: Vampire Hands-“Safe Word”
2008-MGMT-“Electric Feel” The ubiquity of this song was so obnoxious I didn’t bother checking out the rest of their music for months. Eventually, it grew on me and the opening bars take me back to the cheesy tourist bar my friends and I made our second home that summer. (Why? Because one of us was dating the bartender and free drinks overrule any objections to the music.)
2007-Amy Winehouse-“Rehab” I hate that she spent the last years of her life as a punchline. I hate that she was so tortured, even as she was so talented. I hate that this song, which was a flippantly defiant party track in 2007, is now more often cited as part of her legendary substance abuse problem. But I could never hate or get tired of this song.
2006-Arctic Monkeys-“I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor” I remember there had been a big debate about guitar music dying when this came out. As always happens when there are Cassandras predicting the end, a monster hit emerged. They managed to make the concept of two guitars, a bass, and a drummer fresh again. Even if they did swipe that riff from Stabbing Westward.
2005-Sol Seppy-“Slo Fuzz” I spent a lot of time on MySpace and actually recorded a lot of songs from the site, tragically lost when I failed to back up my hard drive. (Damn you, Seagate!) Most bands break up within a couple of years of formation so most never uploaded their music to YouTube or elsewhere. So I am happy that this gorgeous, dreamy piece of music (Mazzy Star vibes) is up.
2004-Jay-Z-“Dirt Off Your Shoulder” It came out in fall 2003, but it was all over the radio that summer. I remember blasting it each night after I left my much-hated job at a hotel.
2003-Interpol-“Roland” I went from being underwhelmed by “Obstacle 1” to being blown away by Turn on the Bright Lights over this summer. I went on a solo hike that summer when I became aware that there was a bear near me. We stared at each other for a moment and then I began singing “MY BEST FRIEND’S A BUTCHER HE HAS SIXTEEN KNIVES/OH LOOK IT’S STOPPED SNOWING” at the top of my lungs. It had the desired effect.
2002-Built to Spill-“Strange” This song was released the year before, but I didn’t hear it until a much-cooler friend ripped it onto a blank CD for me that summer, after attempts to send it to me via AIM failed due to my dial-up connection.
2001-Weezer-“Hash Pipe” I saw Weezer that fall at Tampa’s Ice Palace, my first stadium gig. This was after I had spent the entire summer poolside jamming out to what was known as “The Green Album.” I stopped caring about Weezer after they released three disappointing records in a row, but I don’t regret the intense love I had for them at the time.
2000-Missy Elliott featuring Nas, Eve, and Lil Mo-“Hot Boyz” I had a super-intense but brief friendship with a girl who had the coolest attic bedroom I have ever been in. Every nook had a plant or a caged pet, the walls were covered in a riot of textiles she’d managed to thrift, and she had an actual seating area in her bedroom, as opposed to just hanging out on her bed and desk like everyone else’s bedroom. Even though she had an impressive music collection, all we listened to was Missy Elliott and Lauryn Hill. Who else did we need, really?
Now for some cozy things I liked today:
Long read of the day: Not that long, but the Intercept looks at Microsoft’s image recognition API–and how it could be used for crowd control at political rallies.
Cooking video of the day: How to BBQ Pizza
Garden idea of the day: Pam Thompson posted this chair made from reclaimed oak fencing