The heart of summer beating
Arts DEVO shares bright new tunes for the faded days ahead
Time for a new summer jam. Lists of old songs that have already had their fun in the sun don’t interest Arts DEVO. I already know that The Beach Boys, Murder City Devils and Tupac will (and should) be ruling my iPod boombox this summer. But I also gotta hear something that I don’t already know, something fresh and new that will make my friends say, “Who is this?” And, I of course want to be humming along with the crowd to that new, big, fat, inescapable hit that will mark this specific summer’s time in history (“Hey Ya!” equals 2004, no question).
So, after sifting through my recent-music library, doing a little fact-finding/asking-around to bring myself up to speed with the last couple months of releases, I’ve put together a list of 20 fresh tracks for 2012 to consider for inclusion in the summer-jam canon. Only newer music allowed—released between last summer and this summer. (Basically, anything that hasn’t yet had a summer in which to frolic.)
Right now, I can’t think of anyone who is more capable of busting out the jam of the summer on a regular basis than Somali-born rapper/singer-songwriter K’naan. His smooth flow, smart lyrics and memorable pop choruses set to a sunny reggae/afropop/world beat have already infiltrated my master summer play list (hear “Fatima” and “Take a Minute”), and he’s back again this year, with the first single from his new Country, God, or the Girl, the perfect sing-along slow-jam “Hurt Me Tomorrow”: “This ain’t a good time/ But when is it ever/ I know the perfect time/ and maybe that’s never … Tonight ain’t the night for sorrow/ but you can hurt me tomorrow.” Start and end the party with this, and stack up the memories.
Timing is everything for good summer jams to turn into huge summer hits, and for both of the following tunes, released on the last day of summer 2011 and in the middle of last October, respectively, an opportunity for summer greatness seems to have been missed. “We are Young,” by indie boy-band Fun (with the funky Janelle Monae guesting), steals some soaring chorus tricks from Arcade Fire and thankfully doesn’t shove it all into a boring Top 40 electro-dance template, opting to chop it up and put it back together in a weird slow-and-insistent arrangement. And, if there is any justice, Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa’s dangerously infectious “Young, Wild and Free,” will still get a chance to make a mark (and maybe knock Carly Rae Jepsen’s hollow—but pretty damn fun—“Call Me Maybe” out of the song-of-summer running?) as it gets a re-do as the lead single from the soundtrack to the duo’s just-released movie, Mac and Devin go to High School. “So what we get drunk/ So what we smoke weed/ We’re just havin’ fun and we don’t care who sees/ So what we go out, that’s how it’s supposed to be/ Livin’ young and wild and free.” Yes, that works.
When it gets late, and the time is right for the party to start getting weird, I’d suggest anything from Die Antwoord’s Ten$Ion to weed out all delicate flowers and set the scene for a hot night of bad choices (or more likely, a night of just me bopping alone to a cheap-headphone mix after clearing out the whole party). I’d pick “I Fink U Freeky” as the most fun to share with others. Pair it with David Lynch’s warped groove “Crazy Clown Time” and hide the fireworks and guns.
All popular tunes and weirdness aside, the heart of the party, for me, is usually a careful blend of spirited up-tempo rock, sunny indie pop, a slow dance or two and a thick-and-funky jam or four. And this year the selections are very promising—from the reinvigorated Superchunk’s hyper call to arms (“This Summer”) to a groovy jam from Spoon’s Britt Daniel’s indie-supergroup Divine Fits (“Would that Not be Nice”) to a brisk pop gem from The Walkmen (“Heaven”). But the real heavy lifting here is goin’ down on the dancefloor, with a trio of female-fronted party-ready jams:
M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls,” Azealia Banks’ tongue-twisting “Jumanji,” and coming up especially huge, Seattle duo THEESatisfaction (Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White) with their Sub Pop single, “QueenS.” The moody, loopy (“ooh-ah, ooh-ah, ooh-ah”) Sunday-morning soul side comes out smooth and ready to defend the summertime party: “Don’t funk with my groove/ Whatever you do.”