Top Five Most Unexpected Summer Songs

Published on July 30th, 2008 in: Issues, Music, Retrovirus, The Summer, Top Five Lists |

By Emily Carney

I grew up in South Florida, where summer was obviously guaranteed to be oppressively hot and sticky. The worst part about being in Florida is how people assume you were probably growing up by the beachside, chilling out, getting tan, and doing something constructive and athletic. I was usually found doing embarrassing things like writing awful “confessional” poetry, reading books that were way over my head, and working on my paleness, when I should have been out, say, making friends. Another diversion was—of course—listening to a lot of Goth, indie, and shoegazer “hits” of the 1990s and before. Because of that, the following songs have sounds I will always associate with summertime.

the cure pornography

1. The Cure, “Charlotte Sometimes”

This song by The Cure is the perfect antidote to the warm weather and beach vibes of summer, with its rather funereal church organs and utterly deadpan drumbeats. I’m not sure if the lyrics actually have meaning to them, but Robert Smith’s consistently strangulated voice certainly gets the “point” across. This song can be found on the most Goth album of all time, 1982’s Pornography. Why is Pornography the most Goth album ever? Because one of the song lyrics goes like this: “It doesn’t matter if we all die” (from “One Hundred Years”). I remember a friend and I trying to make our own version of a video for this song. Fortunately none of this has surfaced on YouTube. . .

kitchens of distinction

2. Kitchens of Distinction, Strange Free World

Strange Free World was one of the greatest albums of the 1990s by a chronically underrated band. Kitchens of Distinction were sort of lumped in as being part of the early 1990s “shoegazer” movement; however, this entire album hearkened more to the romantic, stark sounds of 1980s bands like Echo and the Bunnymen. “Drive That Fast” is a gorgeous song; I remember seeing the video on MTV’s now-long-defunct 120 Minutes (hosted by Dave Kendall!) and instantly falling for this band. My first copy of Strange Free World was on cassette.

The cassette and a few CD copies have subsequently disappeared because I let friends borrow them during summers. I remember vividly listening to this on a Walkman while lying out in the sun (one rare time). . . the sound is more cold-wave than shoegazer, and sounds remarkably good in the sun.

lush gala

3. Lush, “Thoughtforms”

Lush were another band unfortunately dated by the “shoegazer” label, due to possessing female guitarists, “ethereal” vocals, and a generally spacey aura. Their 1991 compilation of singles, Gala, has not dated at all and still rocks. The song “Thoughtforms” is my personal favorite selection from this album, and accompanied a lot of chilling out sitting by my childhood stereo.

I remember Lush having a lot of fans at my suburban high school. During the summer of 1992/1993, this was another cassette that would occasionally disappear into the ether. . .

kraftwerk radioactivity

4. Kraftwerk, “Radioactivity”

Obviously this doesn’t fit into the “Goth” genre at all, but I was a pretty huge fan of 1970s Kraftwerk as a teenager. This song is from the 1975 album of the same name, which is a most unusual offering from Kraftwerk. It has a very stream-of-consciousness quality to it, and oddly enough, contains a lot of “spoken word” sections.

I remember attempting to “prepare” for AP German Language class during one summer: basically all I did was listen to this album. Subsequently my German language knowledge is basically limited to anything from Kraftwerk albums.

pavement wowee zowee

5. Pavement, “Father to a Sister of Thought”

This song is from 1995’s Wowee Zowee album, and certainly inspired a lot of bad haircuts and ugly cowboy shirts on my part during that particular summer. If you check out the video, you will discover why.

I always got the feeling that people in school liked Pavement for the wrong reasons, like Pavement allowed you into some “exclusive” group of coolness or something, and certain people just couldn’t be let in. At any rate, Pavement made good songs, and this was one of their greatest songs. During the summer of 1995 I probably listened to this daily.

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