Songs for Summer

Summer nostalgia, 5 live tracks, Cali surf rock, and the best skipping stone you can find.

As the calendar slides into mid-August, back to school supplies are torn from chain store shelves and Oktoberfest beer somehow begins to find its way into the last bbqs of the year, it’s time to celebrate summer.

The Best Summer Music Video & Song

ZACH: I never attended summer camp as a kid, but thanks to 90s media, I felt like I knew the ins and outs of the experience.  With movies like Heavyweights, Camp Nowhere, Indian Summer, The Parent Trap, Addams Family Values and TV shows like Salute Your Shorts… summer camp always felt like the perfect visual representation of summer to me.  Maybe it’s because of this summer camp connection, but if someone mentions the word summer… my brain immediately goes to Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” music video and song.  

After some introspection, I think I stumbled on the reason why… and it’s odd.  It’s not just the camp imagery that I’ve attached to summer… but the biggest reason is the way Carey sings the line: “linger on…”.  To me, that line is the verbal summation of summer. Summer heat/air does just that… linger... and summer days, simply put, linger on.  One could go on and on about the insane talent that Carey displays with her vocals or that perfect guitar melody… but the unspoken gift of “Always Be My Baby” is the magic trick of bottling up the mood of summer and allowing the listener, regardless of the season, to transport themselves to those days that just seem to… yeah, I’m going to write it… linger on.  

NOTE:  If I had to pick a second song/music video to represent summer, it would be Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy”... so I’m going to start referring to Carey as the greatest summer musician of all-time.

Summer Nostalgia Gone Wrong

My original intention with this post was to list my top five summer songs/music videos based on nostalgia.  Turns out, visuals and memory are tricky as my top five we’re very different from what I remember.  As mentioned before, Mariah Carey took the top two spots… then it was going to be A Tribe Called Quest’s music video for “Find A Way”.  I always loved and associated that video with the group trading off verses while walking on one of the beaches in Los Angeles.  It was so ingrained in my head that even when I lived out in Los Angeles, I would think of those areas (Santa Monica specifically) as the spot where they shot the “Find a Way” video or the movie White Men Can’t Jump.  On repeat viewing… it’s just a minor section and I knew my memory had played tricks on me when the opening shot started in outer space.

The number four spot was going to be The Smashing Pumpkins “1979”, but turns out, more teenage angst/rebellion/having fun than summer.  It’s still an all-time favorite music video:

Which brings us to my favorite summer music video “miss” and amazing realization.  I have no idea why Warren G’s “Regulate” (featuring Nate Dogg) is ingrained in my mind as connected to summer (maybe I listened and watched that video a lot one summer)... but the video isn’t very sunny or summer based.  What I did notice after re-visiting this music video is the fact that Nate Dogg did not seem that enthused to be in this music video.  I don’t know how I never noticed it before, but after time has passed and with fresh eyes… all I can see and think about now is why does Nate Dogg look so uninterested?  

5 Songs for Summer

HANK: I don’t know about these music video things. I can’t honestly tell you the last time I watched one since Zach made me watch this great “Two Weeks” fan made video. And that was 10+ years ago. So, when it came down to picking music videos that I connected with summer, I wrote down a bunch of disconnected ideas until the first track up here, “Two Towers” by Lighting Bolt came into my head. And, I thought here’s my twist. I’ll use live videos.

I used to hate live videos. But, I’ve been so starved for live music that they’ve become something of a calming influence. Back in grad school and the hey days of blogging, I’d see a bunch of shows a year. Nowadays, even before COVID, that’d gone down to a trickle. And, let’s face it, shows are risky these days. So, why not have a little reminder of the Dionysian experience of a damn good live show?

Lightning Bolt - “Two Towers”

Can’t you just smell it? Buncha shirtless dudes. Everyone too close together. Even in pre pandemic times, this looked like a petri dish that you walked into and you were afraid what you’d walk out with. And, frankly, it kinda fits the noisegasm that Lightning Bolt plied around the country in the mid aughts. This clip is from the fantastic documentary The Power of Salad and Milkshakes which chronicles the duo’s tour and is replete with all kinds of odd DIY tour moments from too much fast food to crawling into some Texas bro’s fridge. As such, the doc is half about the band and half sociological document. Check out the guy who looks a bit like our friend Cory become overtaken with sonic pleasure at the 2 minute mark. Watch the sound guy get lost in the thrum at 2:40. Oh yeah and then there’s THE GUY WITH HIS OWN FACE TATTOOED ON HIS CHEST. Predictably, he jumps on top of a ton of people and gets thrown to the ground only to resurface from this mass of stinky humanity to ride on the audience like an ecstatic wave.

Beirut - “Perth”

It might be just my imagination, but I feel some times that No No No was the album that most people lost interest in Beirut on. I’ll admit that it was that way for me for a while. But, the record has slowly grown on me and even more after I saw the band live on a 95 degree day in Munich some years ago. There was some sort of outdoor festival in town that bordered on Waitsian. I was just stoked to see Zach Condon and co. because of how much I’ve loved the band. It was unseasonably warm. Thank god German beer sizes are about the same as the Big Gulps at 7-11: 32oz is a “small.” These tracks for me are some of the best songs that Condon’s written. They’re as if he pared his instruments down to the bare essentials and they still do more than fill up the recording. Listening for lyrics in Beirut tracks is useless, but the one that sticks out from this song is that simple bit of regret -- “Last night I combed the earth / You saw me at my worst.” It’s just enough of an emotion to hold the whole song together.

Stereolab - “French Disko”

I’ve been begging Zach to do a post on the last shows we went to and he won’t bite, so haha working mine in here. The last show we hit was Stereolab in Bordeaux back in 2019. My wife was pregnant at the time and found refuge on a side of the stage right next to the speaker with another expectant mother. Stereolab was one of those bands that I’d always wanted to see live and didn’t think I’d be able to until this reunion tour. Prepping to see the band, I came across this video on Chanel 4’s The Word. I instantly fell down the rabbit hole. 

The Word was an after clubbing show that had all your greatest hits of 90s bands on it: Nirvana, The Sugarcubes. It’s part 60s mod club part 90s fashion horror show and every moment is brilliant. Stereolab was notoriously deadpan. Well, that might not even be sufficient. On The Word, they look comatose. Given the relentless beat of “French Disko,” the ADD of the camera work, and the melange of colors, it looks like the band is having the worst birthday party ever. 

Bomba Estéreo - “Cosita Rica”

“Cosita Rica” was the first track that really got me into Colombia’s Bomba Estéro. And Bomba Estéro was the first Spanish-language band that I really got into. There’s just enough English to make your ears prick up if you’re not used to listening things in another language. The rhythm is universal.

When they burst onto the scene with tracks like this, Bomba Estéro’s uniqueness was in taking traditional rhythms and adding contemporary twist. I saw them live first at SOB in New York. It was one of those February nights where the air sweeps down the avenues and pierces into every fiber of your being. SOB was like the tropics. We wolf down caipirinhas until realizing what the price was. We moderated in time for the band to really start. Listening to this version it’s interesting to hear how the almost hypnotic lines of the rhythm section bump you into the echo effects of Li Saumet’s voice. The song seems to build and build and build until you come to this effervescent synth line. “You make me feel so ha-ha-high,” Saumet sings. And then punctuates the lyric with “carajo,” a slang Spanish term which probably translates something like “asshole.” It’s not an exclamation of disdain but one of pleasure and desire something beyond the physical.

Daft Punk - “Get Lucky”

Ok, I lied. I watched this music video. It’s pretty fucking amazing. But not nearly as good as this, what I consider to be the apex of the summer jam.

One Thing

Zach’s One Thing: Wavves - “King Of The Beach”

Since we’re talking about summer music… I still marvel at how successfully Wavves created the perfect summer rock album with “King Of The Beach”.  It gets better with each year that passes and might be my frontrunner for best summer rock album of the last few decades.

Hank’s One Thing: Delete Your Email from Your Phone

You might notice that this post is coming to you a day later than usual. I was away and in the process decided to do something I hadn’t done in a while: leave my laptop at home and, after a day when I decided to “check,” I thought “I’m a fucking idiot. Why am I doing this?” and I deleted my work email from my phone. It was amazing. Do it. Seriously. Nothing is that urgent.

While you’re at it, turn off all your notifications.

Probably delete all your social media apps after that. I mean, who needs them if you’re not getting notified.

And leave your phone when you’re doing something like watching TV or going for a walk.

Or take it with you. When you get to a large body of water, use a sidearm motion and throw that sucker in. The surface area should give you a couple pretty damn good skips.