Summer song

Isn’t this always the way? I don’t write an entry for weeks. Then I write one and the ideas start coming in a torrent.

So we recently got a new laptop after living off of a tiny slow netbook for over a year and a half. You can imagine how thrilled I am to have access to iTunes again. I have music at my beck and call and I’ve been ripping all the CDs I’ve picked up the last several months as fast as I can. Computers being what they are and the vagaries of technology, a bunch of the music we thought was stored on an external hard drive appears to have up and disappeared. Some files were downloaded to our dead laptop. Some files got corrupted. Either way, I’m spending a lot of my Saturday re-copying songs to our new computer. Not a horrible way to spend my weekend… but not a particularly stimulating one either.

That is not until I slip on my headphones and put on shuffle mode. And what should pop up? One of my favorite songs for summer. It’s been hot and humid here in Charm City the last week or so and summer feels like it is just around the corner (if not here already). Summer here is nothing compared to the ones I endured growing up in the desert. It is probably the one thing I do not miss about my hometown. I still get that sinking feeling when it starts to get warm here, despite the fact that I know that summer is very different here.

So what is my top pick for a summer song? Rill Rill by Sleigh Bells. Now this is one of those polarizing bands, if ever there was one. If you’ve heard them, you’ve probably already made up your mind about them. You either love them or you hate them. And there is really no room for in between. They combine the soft breathy voice of Alexis Krauss with the discordant, heavy, and oft-times industrial sounds of Derek E. Miller, who writes and produces their songs. Most of their songs are loud, sound-effect laden, full of samples and distortion, and they aren’t always easy to listen to. But they are different, I will give them that much. I can’t think of another band out there that sounds like them and has reached their level of penetration into the music industry. I personally think they are great. Thankfully, so does my husband.

Last summer, we picked up their album Treats. Afterwards, we drove around some of the prettier, woodsier areas of the city. I remember riding in the sunlight, windows down, talking and laughing with my husband. It was a good day. And since then, Rill Rill is associated with sunny summer days. And it makes sense to me. Unlike the other songs on the album, this song has a laid back quality to it. There is this lovely guitar sample (taken from Can You Get to That by Funkadelic) that sets the pace and is ever-present in the background. Krauss’s voice, layers over layers, whispers, croons, and breathes. The beat is slow and measured and the occasional distorted bass note sounds like thunder before an approaching monsoon storm.  It is a great song for summer. I especially love the lines:

“you are the river flow

and we can never know

we’re just the weathermen

you make the wind blow”

Makes me want to go for a drive with my husband…

Here’s a link to the video. I’ll warn you that it is nothing like what I’ve been talking about here. Apparently they took this slow, sweeter song and put in some slightly unsettling images. Nothing bad. Just be aware.

Do you have a favorite summer song?


They’re playing my song

Theme songs. You know you have one. We all do. That song that doesn’t just speak to you, but speaks for you. Theme songs come in two different flavors: philosophical and subliminal. The former is a conscious choice, while the latter is more a reflection of our unconscious.

Philosophical theme songs are often easy to find and are generally straight forward. They serve as our own personal propaganda campaign and support the image that we wish to present to the world. A biker might choose something tough, like “Bad to the Bone” (George Thorogood and the Destroyers), while a lady-killer (or someone who wishes they were one) might choose something like “Sharp Dressed Man” (ZZ Top). Silly examples, I know. But they are believable, right? And don’t even get me started on the songs politicians choose for their campaign rallies.

For me, if I had to pick a philosophical theme song these days, I think it would be “I Heard Ramona Sing” by Frank Black. This comes from his solo work outside of the Pixies and is also found on the soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The lyrics, specifically the first verse, appeal to my sensibilities and play off of the image I am currently cultivating here–the thoughtful music fanatic.  “I had so many problems/Until I got me a walkman/I really liked it a lot and/They walked right in and they solved them.”

The second type of theme song, the subliminal, is more likely to choose you than the other way around.  Unlike with philosophical theme songs, whether you like this song or not is irrelevant. You’ll probably just be minding your own business, idly flipping through radio channels or listening to that new album you just bought. An innocent turn of phrase will catch your attention and suddenly you know that this song has got you pegged. Discovering this type of theme song can sometimes be an uncomfortable experience. The lyrics may hit too close to home, revealing secrets you may not have admitted even to yourself. But you know that what it is saying is true.

I recently had this experience with “Dance Yrself Clean” by LCD Soundsystem. I love this song, don’t get me wrong. It is fun to listen to and always gets me going when I’m tired in the morning. But it speaks to me on many levels. It is the perfect theme song for someone entering their 30’s, who spends more time at work than away, and who is wondering if this is how the rest of their life is going to be. There is a tired, dissatisfied undercurrent to this song, perfectly counterbalanced by the infectious, sometimes off-kilter dance beats of the instrumentation. “Break me into bigger pieces/So some of me is home with you/Wait until the weekend/And we can make our bad dreams come true/And its a go/Yeah its a go/But if we wait until the weekend, we could miss the best things to do.”

It’s hard to grow up… and it’s even harder when you realize that it has already happened…

Do you have a theme song?