Words by Jacob
I have failed you, readers. I, your soundtracking guide through the seasons, dropped the ball on summer ’12. Sure, I submitted an Independence Day column, both to help you host the world’s most uncomfortable cookout and to support the eternal re-election of President Bill Pullman, but I skipped an actual summer edition, and for this I apologize.
But now summer is at an end, and back to work we must go. Unless you have a real job, in which case you’ve been working the whole time anyway, so like, whatever. But as I’ve nearly exhausted all my metaphors that can be used to describe the four seasons, this summer-ending edition of Soundtracking shall also mark the end of seasonal Soundtrackings altogether. Soundtrackings with other themes will continue, but I’ll just have to get more creative with it. Be sure to check in this April for the confusion that will inevitably come from “Soundtracking: Arbor Day,” but until then, enjoy these summer-sun-setting tunes, some of which are old, most of which are pretty new.
The National / “Wasp Nest” from Cherry Tree EP
Being a National superfan, I could easily compose this entire list using only their work, but I’ll resist the urge and settle with “Wasp Nest,” a sweet, romantically wistful tune from the Cherry Tree EP. It’s a gorgeously simple example of what the band does best, and, like much of their work, seems keen to romanticize the past while solemnly, but bravely moving into the future.
My Bloody Valentine / “To Here Knows When” from Loveless
The sound of all of summer’s beauty, gasping its last and slowly falling away, branch by branch, leaf by leaf. This should go without saying, but turn it up for the full effect, preferably on a pair of decent speakers aimed squarely at your chest.
Sharon Van Etten / “Leonard” from Tramp
My favorite from the estimable, DUL-approved Tramp waltzes its way through a doomed relationship, bitterly and sweetly acknowledging the good that’s not enough and the bad that’s too much. Van Etten rightly recognizes that when you’ve got a chorus as deliriously gorgeous as this, there’s no shame in repeating it a few times.
Beach House / “Myth” from Bloom
On the other side of the spectrum, Beach House prove here the value of melodic stinginess with a mid-song, orbit-altering refrain that happens once, towering over its blissful surroundings, and then never again. At least until you hit repeat, which you will.
Azusa Plane / “Every Wave Has Its Own Integrity” from Where the Sands Turn to Gold
This retrospective of Philly post-rock guitarist Jason DiEmilio (who committed suicide in 2006) veers from pretty, bare-bones post-rock to noisy industrial drone, but hits a sweet spot with “Every Wave Has Its Own Integrity,” which is as relaxing a four minutes of music as I’ve heard all year.
Dirty Projectors / “Impregnable Question” from Swing Lo Magellan
No one really has much bad to say about Dirty Projectors, but even if someone did, I doubt they could resist this, the band’s simplest, sweetest tune, probably ever. It’s hard to believe a band this avant garde could sound as good being adorable as they sound pushing the envelope, but somehow they succeed. Cuteness suits them.
Black Eagle Child / “Families Get Together” from Lobelia
Take a slice of perennial autumn favorites The Avett Brothers and then slather it with Brian Eno-brand zero-calorie spread and you’ve got Black Eagle Child. This song is more Avetts than Eno, but the rest of the album strikes a similar balance that respects the warmth of ambient richness and the raw emotional power of folk instruments.
D’Angelo / “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” from Voodoo
I read a profile on D’Angelo in GQ a few weeks ago and it reignited my love affair with this album, and this, its most famous track. R&B’s enjoyed a bit of a renaissance lately, especially in independent circles, and “Untitled” serves as a thesis statement for a new era of richly nuanced R&B.
Daughn Gibson / “In The Beginning” from All Hell
Gibson has a rich baritone that’s usually put to use in a doom metal band, but on All Hell he said…ahem…to hell with that shit. Relying on old country samples with a lot of surface noise and that aforementioned baritone, Gibson crafted an album that finds the surprisingly large overlap between ambient music, R&B, country, industrial darkness and probably a dozen other genres. “In the Beginning” is the most fun, and has the best bait-and-switch start that I’ve heard in a long time.
M. Ward / “Chinese Translation” from Post-War
I think aging figures into a lot of M. Ward‘s best songwriting, and his dignified way of resigning himself to a future that can’t help but pale in comparison to his past, at least as far as he can see right now, seems to really suit the end of summer. To me, this is the sound of the rest of the world returning to school while I remain at my desk, and wonder, as optimistically as possible, how to move forward.
Sleigh Bells / “Infinity Guitars” from Treats
If the future’s got you down, dig this blast of escapism and revel in the joys of carelessness while you can. I’m not sure that this song has anything to do with being young, but middle school me would’ve loved this, and sometimes it’s refreshing to be able to identify with a prior version of yourself in such a clear way.
There it is. The end of summer. Well, not technically for a few days, but we’re calling it now. Live out the remaining days with these tunes, and download the whole Soundtracking list right here.