Ah, sing the summer electric. Let it lift your spirits. Music spills out of speakers large and small; in cars, at cook-outs, on headphones. Getting my annual summer playlist together always puts a smile on my face. Here are some mostly sunny selections for you to imbibe.
"Headlong into ihe Abyss" We Are Augustines Rise Ye Sunken Ships (Oxcart)
Majestic driving rock anthem from a Brooklyn trio featuring two ex-members of Pela has all the ingredients of your favorite summer stadium fare. Think a more muscular Modest Mouse; big guitars, thunderous drums, and impassioned vocals.
"Say Big Papa" Brigitte DeMeyer Rose of Jericho (BDM) - I'm a sucker for the pure vocal punch of an Americana muse. Add Ms. DeMeyer to my list. Relocating to Nashville has certainly afforded her some stellar local musical support for her fifth effort. And former Emmylou Spy Boy Brady Blade adds his production and drumming chops, too.
"Arnaldo Said" Wondermints Bali (Varese Sarabande)
This L.A.-based pop-rock outfit has backed Brian Wilson on many a tour. This samba pop-rock ditty will get any party poppin'. Having recently worked with a fashion photographer sharing the same name, I couldn't help but polish off this gem from 1998 and put it at the top of my 2011 playlist.
"Repetition" TV on the Radio Nine Types of Light (Interscope) - I recently heard Tunde sing it on the new CeeLo Green talk show and he blew my mind. Brooklyn alt rockers TVOTR kick this song so hard on stage that I can't wait for their live album to drop with it as the centerpiece. In the interim, I will gladly blast this at my next BBQ.
"Cactus" David Bowie Heathen (Columbia)
Released in 2002; I've recently revisited the Spaceman's 25th CD, his first for Columbia, as of late and can't keep this classic guitar-driven track -- originally recorded by the Pixies -- out of my head or off of my summer playlist. Tony Visconti's production perfectly captures Sir David's reptilian rock vibe circa Aladdin Sane.
"Persistence" Dub Is a Weapon Vaporized (Harmonized)
Having seen this Brooklyn-based band with Lee "Scratch" Perry tear down the walls at SXSW a few years ago, I became an instant fan. All the tracks were cut live with few, if any, overdubs. This is the perfect soundtrack for hazy, humid late summer nights; easy dub skanking style.
"Rider" Okkervil River I Am Very Far (Jagjaguwar)
Not to be confused with the Dead's "Rider." With plenty of banging piano and hyper strummed acoustic guitars, Will Shelf gets some Talking Heads energy snapping in all directions on this rockin' rave up from his Austin band's sixth effort.
"The Drowners" Suede Suede (Edsel)
Their early catalog is finally getting remastered in the U.K. This was the sound of the birth of Britpop. Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler wear their Bowie, T. Rex, and Smiths influences proudly, and in grand glam fashion, whilst carving out their own niche in U.K. rock history.
"Breaking the Hold" - Bob Weir Wretches & Jabberers (Rumor Mill)
From the Wretches & Jabberers documentary about autism, this is a track from the soundtrack compilation of songs by filmmaker and composer J. Ralph. Just Bobby's voice accompanied by acoustic and electric guitars, it sounds like an American Beauty outtake.
"First I Draw The Sun" Don Rosler Rosler's Recording Booth (Fingers Crossed)
This concept CD that reminds me of an era of songwriting when Van Dyke Parks, Harry Nilsson, and Randy Newman were just launching their careers. It features a number of guest vocalists breathing life into 16 of Don Rosler's sumptuous songs. My favorite is this simple, acoustic guitar folk-pop ballad featuring the sweet, clear-throated vocals of N.Y.C.-based singer Tamara Hey.
"Sometimes I" - Dusty Wright If We Never... (PetRock)
So I found out quite by accident that this herky jerky cello and guitar roots-rock track is getting Internet radio spins and I didn't even target it as a single. Oh well, just goes to show you that one should never sell his own house!
"Old Neighborhood" David Bromberg Use Me (Appleseed) - Bromberg has played with Dylan and just about anyone else worth their songwriting salt. With wicked guitar chops -- acoustic or electric -- and no slouch as a singer/songwriter, this new effort features guest vocals and musical accompaniment by some of his buddies. Hard for me to pick a favorite, but "Old Neighborhood" with Widespread Panic is really damn catchy. Plus you get David and Jimmy Herring trading git licks, natch!
Rock on this holiday weekend and don't forget your sunscreen! - Dusty Wright
Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 4 solo CDs, and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was a William Morris agent.