Alright, bear with me. This definitely isn’t your typical summer playlist ripe with pop anthems and tunes that make you want to lay on the beach, like, forever. What I like in a summer playlist is risk-taking, unlikely partnerings, and songs that take you to a place you won’t find on top-10 travel lists. Basically, my ideal place to blast this playlist — in order, of course — would be driving in a convertible, top-down, in the middle of the desert somewhere. I mixed some classics — both originals and remakes — with some newer work from largely unknown but definitely underrated musicians. I’m hoping this playlist gives you a punch of nostalgia, a tinge of Americana, a burst of edginess, and a serving of badass women singing some pretty moving pieces.
1. Wilco: “True Love Will Find You In The End”
To kick off the playlist, I chose this remake of the classic by Daniel Johnston. “True Love Will Find You In The End” never gets old and is apt for any season. Wilco is one of my favorite bands of all time, and their echo-y, very Wilco-y vibe (that faint harmonica and rhythmic drumming) brings a gratifying hopefulness to the prospects of ~summer love~.
2. Luke Temple: “Florida”
This was the first of Temple’s songs I’d heard and it only has the perfect summer effect when it’s on full-volume. Let his slow, ethereal minor tones and wavering voice carry you along. The slight reggae undertones give “Florida” a summer vibe and keep it upbeat enough to make the cut.
3. Lhasa De Sela: “El Desierto”
I am totally obsessed with Lhasa De Sela’s music. The phenomenal soundtrack for the new Amazon series “I Love Dick” features her work in almost every episode. Sadly, De Sela passed away a few years ago, but her work is hauntingly gorgeous, spiritual, and guttural. Lhasa sings in Spanish, English, and French, but always keeps with her signature Latin American-inspired energy. Also, this song is definitely the reason this playlist makes me want to traipse through a desert for a few days.
4. Samantha Crain: “Sante Fe”
Following Lhasa is another super strong female vocalist: Samantha Crain. She brings a little more Americana twang to the list. Matthew Milia and David Jones of Frontier Ruckus join Crane on this song for vocals and banjo, respectively. The effect is a mournful-yet-confident piece with sliding vocals and lyrics which reference heading back to Santa Fe — the only place Crane knows that isn’t rushed and where society is still kind and communal.
5. Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White: “Look At What The Light Did Now”
Morrissey and White put out this fantastic album — “Gentlewoman, Ruby Man” — in January of this year, chock full of dope remakes of great songs. This one is definitely the most popular, with almost 3 million hits on Spotify alone, and it really sings summer to me. Whether you take the “light” to mean sunshine or something else, this is a great one to play at your next barbeque.
6. Paul Simon: “The Obvious Child”
This song absolutely *reaks* of summer to me. It makes me want to get up and dance my head off every time I hear it. I first heard “The Obvious Child” in Jenny Slate’s hilarious film of the same name, and it’s stuck ever since. Also, the playful lyrics and drumming patterns at the end make. this. song.
7. POLIÇA: “You Don’t Own Me”
Of course, we need a summer rebellion song in here somewhere. “You Don’t Own Me” was first recorded by Lesley Gore in 1963 when she was only 17 years old. Since then, it has been remade over and over, but this one by POLIÇA, an American synthpop band, begins with an epic guitar opening that makes the song feel even angstier and defiant than what the lyrics portray. POLIÇA keeps a tinge of that 1960s pop feel, and the lyrics themselves make the song; they are feminist and unapologetic and bold for a song released during the second-wave feminism movement.
8. Lhasa De Sela: “Small Song”
Couldn’t stay away from Lhasa’s music, so I included another of my favorites by her: “Small Song.” This piece is sung in English and includes a similar vibe of minor-keys and deep vocals. The simple lyrics with her powerful voice are what make it memorable.
9. Laura Mvula: “Green Garden”
Since I heard Mvula’s song “She” earlier this year, I have been entranced by her work. She rocks in the same boat as Lianne La Havas, with completely original tunes, an iconic aesthetic, and lyrical instrumentals. It makes my heart sing to have Lhasa and Laura next to each other on a playlist. Their powerful and unique vocals are unforgettable. The chimes and clapping halfway through the song give it that go-lucky summer feel.
10. Old 97’s: “Good With God”
Finally, we end the playlist the way we began: with one of my favorite bands of all time. The Old 97’s are a Texas rock/folk/Americana/country band, and this is a new song on their latest album. Continuing with the theme of badass lady singers, Brandi Carlile is featured singing the role of, oh yah know, God. This call-and-response song brings the twange and brings the drive-through-the-countryside tempo. The signature Old 97’s guitar solos mixed with a vengeful female God singing through a muffled mic mixed with excellent/hilarious lyrics make this song deserving of any upcoming playlist — or car ride through the desert.
Image Credits: Photo: Daniel Varghese