A regular feature in which our writers and photographers share their favourite tracks. Here’s our pick of summer tunes.
John Talabot featuring Glasser – ‘Families’ (chosen by Daniel Harrison)
In a perfect world, this would be the soundtrack to summer 2011, and not M****n 5 or whatever muck is infecting the airwaves. Talabot is a publicity-shy producer from Barcelona that has released a string of superb 12″s and remixes over the last couple of years. He collaborates regularly with fellow locals Delorean (who have themselves proven to be adept at capturing blissful Balearic vibes), and both acts are good friends with Glasser, who contributes vocals to this utterly infectious track.
Mad Season – ‘Long Gone Day’ (Chosen by Lisa Hughes)
Everyone has a summer to remember, maybe for good reasons, maybe for bad. Maybe for absolute madness, the best laugh you ever had or maybe for heartbreak. This is a tune for every one of those summers. Plucked from the superb Above, the sole album by Layne Staley’s criminally underrated side project Mad Season, ‘Long Gone Day’ is an exception to the notion Staley’s vocals or general demeanour might not exactly be sunny summer listening. A deceptively upbeat fusion of grunge and jazz, this track sees Staley’s distinctive vocals dance around the husky tones of Mark Lanegan and, with lyrics like “whoever said we washed away with the rain?” leaves a bittersweet taste. Lines like “Am I the only one who remembers that summer?” paint a picture of that hazy nostalgia for summers gone by which we all know so well. Gives me goosebumps. Every single time.
Vampire Weekend – ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ (chosen by Michelle Bond Dolan)
The debut self-titled album from Vampire Weekend sound-tracked my summer in 2008, with ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ being the clear highlight. The lyrics conjure up images of rich frat pack American kids from a Brett Easton Ellis novel living an indulgent life in Cape Cod for the summer (“as a young girl, Louis Vuitton” or “to see the dawn of the colours of Benneton?”). The Paul Simon Graceland influence transports you back to the 80’s and the video directed by Richard Ayoade of ‘The IT Crowd’ creates that world. A fun indie pop tune.
Stereolab – ‘Ping Pong’ (chosen by Shane Galvin)
It may not have the word ‘summer’ in the title but it has the essence of pure summer euphoria radiating from every note. And in many ways, ‘Ping Pong” s analysis of economic trends makes for the most apt summer song for these times: “It’s alright ‘cos the historical pattern has shown how the economical cycle tends to revolve…a slump and war then peel back to square one and back for more”. So, as we lick our ice-creams and forget our money worries, it’s worth remembering that all we require for a full economic recovery is a war. Isn’t life tremendous?
Fennesz – ‘Endless Summer’ (chosen by Darragh McCausland)
A key lesson from abstract art is that it sometimes takes a representation other than literal to capture the essence of something. This is true of the electronic composer Christian Fennesz’s concept album Endless Summer which utilises heavily treated and reconfigured acoustic music to evoke a sense of the season that is almost painful in its purity. The album’s title track is based around a simple guitar figure that crystallizes and melts in a thick buzzing mix of glitches,static, insect-like feedback and soft purring drones. It is the musical equivalent of abstract expressionism, a less-than-obvious representation that somehow nails the essence of summer better than a binful of Beach Boys tracks could.
A Tribe Called Quest – ‘Steve Biko (Stir it Up)’ (Chosen by Niall Byrne)
You could pretty much pick any track from Tribe’s 1993 album Midnight Marauders (or 1991’s The Low End Theory for that matter) and it would define summer for me. But the opening brass parps of ‘Steve Biko (Stir It Up)’ the subsequent beat drop combined with Phife Dogg’s “represent, represent” repetition and the “my favourite jam back in the day was Eric B. for President” line heralds the sunshine, the good times and the rhymes. In between the nod to Steve Biko, a South African anti-apartheid activist, Q-Tip and Phife go to town on some playful, eloquent wordplay. “Funky like your grandpas drawers, dont test me”.
Britt Ekland – ‘Willow’s Song’ (chosen by Dara Higgins)
It’s May on Summer Isle, and nobody is getting any sleep. Sultry, languid air outside the innhouse, and inside Willow, a local nymph has poor old goody-two-shoes Sergeant Edward Woodward is in a right old lather, a-tapping on wall and beguiling him with song (and he can’t even see her accompanying dance, the traditional “naked-wall-slap” beloved of nubile islanders). Willow’s voice couldn’t really do opera, but whoever is singing (there’s some disagreement, but it’s not Britt, who’s dubbed throughout the film) she keeps the lines vague and ephemeral, almost somnambulant, carrying the lilting, haunting melody in a way Enya, lets say, just couldn’t.
Ekland was horrified to find out that the director had used a body double for some of the shots in this scene, no doubt feeling that as she couldn’t really act, wasn’t a real natural when it came to singing, and doesn’t even really speak in the entire movie, he could have at least relied on some of her natural abilities. Despite the retro, innocent charm the video isn’t really safe for work, if you work in one of those place where they find the human form abhorrent, so save it for later.
Belle & Sebastian – ‘For the Price of a Cup of Tea’ (chosen by Damien McGlynn)
I don’t know about you, but in warmer climates than, eh, Smithfield, I’m a little reluctant to gulp a big cup of hot tea. As a pale Irish guy whose skin burns at the very mention of a sunny day, I don’t handle stifling heat well. We Irish are bred that way. Our Scottish cousins aren’t too genetically dissimilar, so I’d imagine Belle & Sebastian wouldn’t be lashing into the Earl Grey in the Mediterranean heat either. Having toured the world with their occasionally bipolar pop, they’ve collated a list of things that you could spend your money on when it’s simply too warm for tea. These include: a line of coke and “seven inches” of… something. Regardless of whether you choose any of these or just a plain old grande iced-mocha caramel latte, this song has bottled sunshine radiating from their trademark jangly guitars and glistening keyboards. If the sun comes out, stick it on. If not, mines a Barry’s.
Belly – ‘Gepetto’ (chosen by Alan Reilly)
My intention was not to get lost in nostalgia, but that is exactly where this song is rooted. Sunstroke, 1993. All my favourite bands at the time were playing: Sonic Youth, Sugar, Belly. Faith No More were there too. I would say I was there to see Belly, except I wasn’t. I was outside. Still only 16, I couldn’t afford the £23.75 ticket (thank you Google) but I did have bus fare and a bag of cans – getting home was never a concern. And I was close enough to Tanya, I liked to think we were on first name terms. It was very easy to have an infatuation with Tanya Donnelly. She had an exotic hippy commune upbringing. She was step-sister to Kristin Hersh. She was a member of Throwing Muses and The Breeders for four snakes. Or in more elemental terms, she was a girl with a guitar.
The laid back buzz of hanging outside Dalymount Park that day shaped what would become a quintessential feeling for most of the early ‘90s for me and the jangly alt-rock of ‘Gepetto’ is an instant portal back.
Len – ‘Steal My Sunshine’ (chosen by Phil Udell)
You can’t beat a good summer based one hit wonder and Len fit the bill perfectly. A little known Canadian rap band (once featuring Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning, fact fans), ‘Steal My Sunshine’ gave them a brief taste of the high life in 1999. They knew it too, choosing to spend most of their video budget on booze – breaking a hotel lift in the process – before returning to the ‘where are they now’ file. A great, great tune though.
The Monkees – ‘For Pete’s Sake’ (chosen by Jennifer Gannon)
Summer is eating a ‘Blue Raspberry’ Mr. Freeze at 10AM in arctic Irish weather, the little cuts at the side of the mouth from the plastic opening oozing with victory. Summer is making ants run around on grooves of a Lo Lo Ball creating an ant Olympics. Summer is hiding all the Monopoly money under the board so the game will just END.
Summer is midway between boredom and freedom. It’s about running around with ridiculous, aimless abandon and who did that better than the Monkees? Grown up men in red jackets (and one green hat) playing a huge game of chasing in their novelty filled apartment whilst perfect pop blasted around them.
Without RTE and their bizarre summer scheduling , stuck somewhere in middle America in 1969, my sister and I would never have chosen our favourite Monkees (Peter for me, Mike for her) would never have followed their hi-jinks and mischief making and more importantly would never have discovered a treasure trove of tunes from ‘Your Auntie Grizelda’ to ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ songs that remain as vital and fun to this day. This one song ‘For Pete’s Sake’ the closing credits theme, is so potent it now releases a Proustian rush, the smell of Tinkerbell lipstick, the taste of Dip Dab on the tongue , the endless days stretched out in front of you and the promise of more Monkee business next week.