I'm not sure about your hometown, but here in Denver, '08 just graced us with its first blush of glorious, summer-like, near-80-degree weather on Monday and Tuesday. (Of course, it's in the 40s with a chance of snow as I write this on Wednesday, but whatever.) Inspired by Nathan Rabin's mixtape rundown, I've decided to gather a few awesomely summery (at least to me) songs into a hypothetical mixtape–the kind that used to be a tradition for me back when mixtapes were a vital part of the hipster mating ritual. Yeah, I said hypothetical: You didn't think I was actually gonna give you a real tape, did you? (Wait, are you hot?) And so, without further ado, here are ten of my favorite sweet, sweaty jams–perfect for listening to while walking around in the sun, while lounging on the patio in the sun, while sitting in traffic in the sun, and while cursing the goddamn relentless fucking sun in cranky anticipation of autumn (which I'm sure I'll be doing by, oh, the end of next week).
Buffalo Tom, "Velvet Roof"
There's something about this old Buffalo Tom single–that riff, that tambourine shake in the intro, the vivid, bittersweet imagery–that just screams "summer" to me. Now if someone could only tell me what the hell a velvet roof is.
Hall & Oates, "You Make My Dreams"
Seems like Hall & Oates had been listening to a little Devo in the studio one day when they decided to transplant that jerky, robotic beat into their soulful smoothosity. The result is one of the duo's most upbeat, infectious, get-off-your-ass songs ever. Which is saying something.
Smog, "I Am Star Wars!"
Ah, Bill Callahan in his Beck phase. Sampling a steamrolling Stones riff and wedding it to a cryptic, perhaps even slackerly ironic geek fetish, "I Am Star Wars!" is as mind-numbingly refreshing as a Slurpee on Tatooine.
Naughty By Nature, "Everything's Gonna Be Alright"
Everyone loves Naughty By Nature's armed-with-harmony party jam "OPP." But the group's entire self-titled album from 1991 is pretty solid–due to tracks like the lesser-known "Everything's Gonna Be Alright." It's a tragic, angry narrative about ghetto life, but the bouncy song goes down like a kid on a cheap waterslide.
No, not the Gershwin tune–instead, this sloppy, unpolished "Summertime" is an original from Chrimpshrine, a Bay Area punk band that was a comrade of Green Day back in the day. Gruff and in love, Jeff Ott sings about rekindling a frozen romance, summing the whole situation up in one heart-squeezing couplet: "I'll be back in the summertime / with a handful of flowers and a bottle of cheap wine."
Lynyrd Skynyrd, "On The Hunt"
Basically an admission of professional admiration from one sensual predator (Ronnie Van Zant) to another (the town slut), Lynyrd Skynyrd's slinky, seamy, animalistic "On The Hunt" bottles–only barely–all the juicy lust of summer. What's that on your chin, Ronnie?
Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman, "In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening"
My grandparents unwittingly instilled a love of old musicals and show tunes in me, and one of my favorites is "In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening"–a duet between Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman from the 1951 film Here Comes The Groom. The best part of the sunny, breezy song is Bing's checklist for an imminent picnic: "Sue wants a barbecue, Sam wants to boil a ham / Grace votes for bouillabaisse, too / Jake wants a weenie bake, steak, and a layer cake / And he'll get a tummy ache, too." Me, I'm with Jake.
Black Ivory, "Surrender"
Somewhere between The Jackson 5 and the bubblegum funk of the Hot Wax roster sits Black Ivory. Before fizzling out in the midst of some deep, dark, sultry disco flops like "Feel It," the Harlem group recorded singles like "Surrender"–a bracing summer downpour of early-'70s soul-pop.
Architecture In Helsinki, "Do The Whirlwind"
I gave Architecture In Helsinki's third album, last year's Places Like This, a bit of a savaging in my A.V. Club review, but that's partly because I had such high expectations for it: I totally fell in love with the Aussie band's 2005 song "Do The Whirlwind"–the dancefloor equivalent of dandelion fluff.
The Undertones, "Here Comes The Summer"
I originally meant to end this mixtape with Hüsker Dü's "Celebrated Summer"–but Christ, what a downer. A few years older, and way more conducive to dumb escapism and a case of heatstroke, The Undertones' 1979 song "Here Comes The Summer" is everything a summer anthem should be: beaming, juvenile, and packed with lines like "Summer's really here, and it's time to come out / Time to discover what fun is about!" That just about says it all.