Summer music

I wrote this post once, and it became a recap of an earlier post about why I love Ben Folds, so I’m going to try again with much less focus on the Ben-love.

For the past, oh, eight years or so, every summer brings me back to certain bands. I can’t say that music really feels seasonal to me beyond the idea that there are summer songs and then there’s everything else. Well, I’ll make an exception: I can think of two bands right off that I consider “rain day” bands (Guster and Travis) that probably get the most play in the fall and early spring, but that’s weather, not seasons.

And what we’re talking about today is summer.

The closest I can get to defining summer music is to say that summer songs evoke a kind of high-school type appreciation of the freedom that summer used to bring: no school, no stress, just heat and friends and swimming and sleeping late and lots and lots of driving. Because summer, somehow, should always be an equal mix between travel and motionlessness: you drive to the beach and then you lay there. You drive home from school and then you find the couch.

My “intro to summer” band is always Cake. Usually in April sometime, there’s a day when it becomes OK to ride around with the windows down again, and at some point, a Cake CD — probably Fashion Nugget or Prolonging the Magic, though excerpts from the more recent Pressure Chief, like “Wheels” and “No Phone,” have been known to make appearances. Cake’s music feels like road music: it has driving beats, catchy but often throw-away lyrics, and the brassy trumpet that rings out in a way that’s not possible in the cold or wet of winter.

So Cake takes me up to summer, and then I have a raft of other CDs that I depend on to get me through the heat. This usually includes a mix of the old and the new, and it’s been the same this year. So far for summer 2006, I’ve been a dedicated fan of Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois, which is bright and fascinating and feels a bit like a road trip around the state. I’ve also spent some quality time of late with Snow Patrol’s new release, Eyes Open, which has a great mix of pumped-up guitar rock and the big, heavy-droopy summer anthem-esque ballads (“Chasing Cars,” “Open Your Eyes”) that always seem to climb the charts. I like “Warmer Climate” from that album almost most of all, just because I like the lyrics: “Maybe it’s the warmer climate/ Maybe I’m a smarter primate/ Maybe it’s the beer I’m drinking/ Maybe I’ve stopped overthinking.”

Summer has that overthinking vibe to it, for me: there can be so much emptiness in a proper, school’s out summer that overthinking becomes the norm. Just think of summer clothing! Shorts! The sheer amount of effort involved in selecting and wearing shorts makes my head hurt. There’s fit to be considered, and length (what’s appropriate for all audiences vs. what’s flirty vs. what’s just wrong), and then sandals, which require some kind of attention to toenails, and let’s not forget shaving…

So, anyway, I was talking about music, right? My other summer standards are the obvious groups: The Beatles, who exist for me in a lump of tour appearances and therefore are always travelling, and therefore are absolutely a summer group; Death Cab’s Transatlanticism, and in particular “A Lack of Color” and “Title and Registration”; Phantom Planet, The Guest,” because if summer were a state, surely it would be California; and Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five, with particular emphasis upon the earlier BF5 albums (Whatever and Ever Amen has what may be one of the best summer songs EVER, “Battle of Who Could Care Less,” and I can’t even narrow the self-titled album down to one summer song: they’re all like that).

I’m already starting to creep into my fall music, though, with the purchase of Thom Yorke’s solo debut, The Eraser, though when I finally trip and fall into buying Keane’s Under the Iron Sea, I’ll be firmly back into sunshine-and-travel territory.

Anyone else? Good summer music to recommend?

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4 Responses to Summer music

  1. therealjae says:

    This is really fascinating. I don’t think I have seasonal band choices, though summer is certainly a time when I’m more likely to discover and immerse myself in a new band.


  2. kepkanation says:

    The more I think about this, the more it feels true: I do have seasonal bands. Summer is really about the road-trip type bands for me; in winter, I tend to fall back into old music, things I find comforting, etc.

    Maybe it’s that winter weather inspires less travel, and therefore less time in the car, which (until this year) was the place where I listened to music most and with best attention. So there’s less discovery of new things during the winter.

  3. anonymous says:

    hey…i saw you posted something about leonard cohen covers, specifically about lloyd cole’s version of “chelsea hotel.” i’m dying to get my hands on an mp3 of this song. help!

    email me at if you can help, and if you want i can send you a treat in return.
    thanks, and i dig the site!

  4. kepkanation says:

    I sent it along! I hope you enjoy it. If you’d like the Rufus Wainwright version of “Chelsea Hotel,” I’d be happy to send it, too (it’s my favorite)!

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