June tunes

A playlist and a plea to reimagine the sound of summer

The phrase “song of the summer” gets thrown around a lot this time of year.

But something that has always annoyed me is that only the newest pop hits seem to be eligible for consideration! Why can’t, say, a Sun Ra composition from 1973 qualify for the song of the summer sweepstakes of 2024? Are we as a culture so ruthlessly com- mitted to the here-and-now that we must immediately dis- card anything older than six months?

We need not be afraid to think bigger! To that end, here is a playlist of ten songs I listened to for the first time this month. Each would be a worthy candidate for the distinguished title of “song of the summer,” if only we could open our minds.

“Ghost Pathway Toward Midgard” — Natural Snow Buildings, Between the Real and the Shadow (2008).

Because every good playlist has to start with 56 unrelenting minutes of psychedelic drone.

“In the Dry” — Ivan the Tolerable, Time Is a Grave (2024).

It opens with a discordant synth line matching the tone of the preceding song and then unfurls into a breezy slow jam.

“Anudrutam” — Debashis Sinha, Anudrutam (2010).

I first encountered Sinha’s music through his inclusion in this year’s Cluster Festival lineup and I am glad I did. This skittering, staticky electronic piece is infectious.

“Phones” — Annie-Claude Deschênes, Les Manières De Table (2024).

A dance-punk heater featuring audio of a restaurant reservation being booked over the telephone. I am unsure whether Deschênes intended this to make a broader point about society or whether the dullness of the situation is meant exclusively as a joke, but either way, I’m groovin’.

“Mysterious Love” — Geese, 3D Country (2023).

Geese is right. Sometimes love does feel like “20 pounds of glass in my eye.” I’m sure that this is normal.

“Side A” — Peter Brötzmann, Milford Graves and William Parker, Historic Music Past Tense Future (2022).

There is almost nothing more exhilarating than a trio of free jazz legends chopping it up. Graves’s work here is especially impressive. Despite the musicians’ lack of rehearsal prior to recording, the drummer somehow knew exactly when to hang back and when to grab the spotlight for himself.

“Blueprint” — Fugazi, Repeater (1990).

The chorus (“Never mind what’s been selling / It’s what you’re buying / And receiving undefiled”) is a useful reminder of the importance of interrogating our desires and sources of information.

“Sympathy Is a Knife” — Charli XCX, Brat (2024).

My inner need to feel cool and interesting often leads me to reject popular music out of hand. This is why it took me until just this month to finally listen to Charli XCX on purpose. Reluctantly, I am forced to admit that her fans were right the whole time.

Hyperconfessional and Overwhelmingly Sincere,” — Alex Walton, I Want You to Kill Me (2023).

Walton’s brand of depressing garage rock about being a self-conscious transsexual woman who cries at the slightest of provocations isn’t for everyone, but it sure resonated with me!

“Old Melody” — Beverly Glenn-Copeland, Keyboard Fantasies (1986).

After a heavy dose of abrasive and/or emotionally intense songs, it is crucial to calm yourself down with a relaxing synthesizer instrumental.