Monday, June 01, 2009

Songs for June

Several months back, I described February as "the coldest, bleakest, grayest, quietest, ugliest, most depressing month of the year." Some months, for better or worse, are easily characterized. Some, like June, are not.

June isn't the in-between chapter of May, and it isn't the mid-summer constancy of July. It's summer, but not definitively. It's somewhere between the last season and your future plans. Late spring ushers in energy, anticipation, restlessness. By July, you've settle into a routine (maybe in a new place, maybe in a summer destination, maybe some makeshift vacation, etc.). But June is the summer's pliant middleground. It is, simply, whatever the hell you want it to be.

If you're like me, it can (and will be) nearly anything, so long as it doesn't let up.

Here now are thirty songs of heat and wind, downshifting and sidewinding wherever they want, going--fast--without any particular destination in mind. Here, now, are:

30 Songs for June!

(Note: I'm actually doing 31 songs. I'm trying a new trick where I let my iTunes randomly pick a song from my entire musical library and see if I can't make its case. The iTunes Pick will come at the end.)

(Note #2: No iMeem playlist this month, because iMeem's changed what can and can't be added to a playlist. I'll have a playlist handy when I find a new platform, or when The Man is finally defeated. Whichever comes first. Meantime, just search on Songza.)

(Note #3: Don't forget to comment below and give me your Songs for June!)

Jack White, "Great High Mountain"
Because every trip's gotta start somewhere. This song sounds like a lazy river that refuses to pick up speed.

Green Day, "Holiday"
And, just like that, we've kicked it into fourth gear.
(Side note: After I get several listens, I'll post a review of the new Green Day record. For now, I'll say that if it had come out before my March Madness series, Green Day might've gone even further.)

The Hold Steady, "Constructive Summer"
It's interesting to me that the Hold Steady see summer as a time of productivity and self-improvement. For me, that's fall. Either way, the song's so chock-full of energy and earnest optimism, I'm sold.

The Who, "Can't Explain"
Long before the rockoperas and doublealbumepics, The Who proved that simple can be great, too.

Bob Dylan & The Band, "Apple Suckling Tree"
June, done right, is a gorgeous mess. "Apple Suckling Tree" is one of the finest, messy, basement jams in American music--still true to its foundation, but made better by its deviations.

The Beatles, "And Your Bird Can Sing"
The middle-Beatles statement: yes, we still harmonize better than the Byrds; yes, we still roll better than the Stones; and yes, we still like Buddy Holly better than the rest of you chumps. The sound alone matches the month, but I love it for John's biting-but-never-malicious lyric.

Lucero, "She's Just That Kind of Girl"
Here's hoping that the new Lucero has plenty more of wherever this came from.

White Stripes, "Forever For Her (Is Over For Me)"
Mr. White makes his second appearance with something of an autobiographical pick. This record came out in the summer and I have inescapable June-related memories attached to this tune. It'll always remind me of the summer after graduation, after moving back to Memphis, before moving back to Nashville, driving for hours in the steamroom air, stuck to the driver's seat, always at a red-light, not quite in the past, never near the future.

MGMT, "Electric Feel"
The lone "summer-song" on a record full of bizarre, coldweather music. Through all the swirling, multi-track, instrumental confusion, it's a glorified dance record. And a good one, at that.

Wilco, "Say You Miss Me Too"
Because it's too early to admit it, but you're already missing whatever you said goodbye to in May.

Cory Branan, "Tame"
Something about that dry, warm guitar tone sounds lonely, bemused, and a little evil to me. Like most of Branan's best songs.

Led Zeppelin, "Going to California"
Because at some point, you need a destination. Also, bonus points for the vocal delivery of "telling myself it's not as hard as it seems." If Plant ever had a finer moment, I haven't heard it.

Smokey Robinson, "Ohh Baby Baby"
To be honest, I have no idea. I can't stop listening to this song.

Beta Band, "Dry the Rain"
"I will now sell five copies of The Three EPs by The Beta Band."
"Go for it."

Rolling Stones, "I Just Wanna See His Face"
One of rock's finest interludes, it stumbles and plods along surreptitiously, like it's repositioning itself for a counterattack and doesn't want you to notice. A perfect song for the middle of the month, when you're road-weary and sunburnt and dehydrated and time-blurred.

Lyle Lovett, "LA County"
The checklist for a great Lyle Lovett song:
--Perfect for driving? Check.
--Simple and immediately likable? Check.
--Weirder and scarier the more closely you listen? Check.

The Thrills, "Big Sur"
As with May, songs about California are a motif. Not necessarily for the destination itself, but for the idea of a place at the end of the road, a place that might provide some respite. Or, with any luck, a place that won't.

Paul Simon, "Gumboots"
I appropriately rediscovered Graceland recently when I raided the Brother's record collection. I say "appropriately" because I can't hear this album outside the summer. I'm pretty sure it's illegal. Anyway, a classic Paul Simon song that makes little-to-no sense, makes you resent him for pulling it off by being "quirky" and "suggestive," and makes you like it because its one cohesive moment ("You don't feel you could love me...") somehow delivers. Sometimes the melody's all that matters.

Tinted Windows, "Nothing To Me"
You're damn right I put Taylor Hanson on the playlist. Seriously, listen to this song, then chalk up yet another contemporary band referencing Big Star to great affect.

Phantom Planet, "Hey Now Girl"
Speaking of Big Star disciples...

Son Volt, "Drown"
Alt-country's biggest hit in the mid-90's, and the only Son Volt song that I always want to hear. Bonus points for being one of the greatest Mix Transition Songs of all-time (i.e., no matter where you put this song on a mix, it will make for a great transition.)

Ryan Adams, "So Alive"
Bypass the monotonous verses and the occasional falsetto: it's the hook that matters, and the energy of the season. Windows down, speed up. Watch it go.

Kings of Leon, "Ragoo"
Because maybe somewhere in the meandering and philandering month you met a girl that caught you off-guard. And maybe that's all KOL write about.

Wilco & Billy Bragg, "Secrets of the Sea"
Some of Mermaid Avenue's (the double album of Woody Guthrie songs Wilco and Billy Bragg adapted) best takes are the ones that don't stay true to Guthrie at all. A great song's a great song, and Woody doesn't have to sound like Woody for his songs to be great.

Buddy Holly, "Not Fade Away"
One of the best bootlegs I've ever heard is from a Bob Dylan concert several years ago. He and the band close the show with a breathtaking, retooled, fully orchestrated version of "Not Fade Away." But for June, I prefer Holly's original: raw, vulnerable, bouncy, and streamlined. He says what he says, and he's gone as quick as he came.
***Bonus points for one of the best opening lines in rock history: "I'm gonna tell you how it's gonna be/you're gonna give your love to me."

Beach Boys, "Don't Worry Baby"
You knew it was coming.

Pearl Jam, "Parachutes"
Exhibit Q in the ongoing Case for Stone Gossard; I can't think of a guitarist/songwriter who can do more things well, and make all of them look effortless. Also, some autobiographical June-heavy connections to this song.

Jimmy Cliff, "The Harder They Come"
Because the rest of the year you very, very slowly forget how great he is. Because it's warm-weather music. Because when June comes around you dust him off and hit play. Because he never fails, in that moment, to completely knock you out.

Tom Petty, "Mind With a Heart of Its Own"
I don't know who wrote this song first: Tom Petty, or U2 when they called it "Desire." Frankly, I don't care. Always moving, occasionally without direction, it's quintessential June music.

My Morning Jacket, "Phone Went West"
It's a song that tells a story and foreshadows its own bittersweet conclusion. We can't see the end yet, but we know where it's going. By the end of June, I usually do, too.

And now....the Bonus Pick! I'm going to let iTunes randomly select a Song for June. Let's see what the machine thinks.


Johnnie Taylor, "Somebody's Sleeping In My Bed"
You've gotta be kidding me. I've been doing this for four months. I just spent the last two hours compiling a list of Songs for June. Songs about leaving something/someone behind. Songs about the journey and an unknown destination. Songs that sound like urgency, like movement, like fierce, misguided energy.

I do all of that, and iTunes picks THE PERFECT SONG about what's happening back home, what's going on while you're away. It picked the one song that tells the other half of the story.

I quit. Til next month.


That's a bad thing to say but it's the truth,


ross k. said...

"Electric Feel" is a song for EVERY month.

I'll tell you a good June song, is "Down Home Town" by Electric Light Orchestra. Jeff Lynne sandwiched himself a Bob Dylan songs between the symphonic-Revolver-Beatles trips at the beginning and end of Face the Music.

I also nominate Full Moon Fever, Mystery Girl and Time Out of Mind as good June albums. The whole albums.

How boutcha, blogworld?

me said...

Mostly I think of Katie Herzig's "Jack and Jill" for June. It's bouncy and light and it starts out with "She wore that dress like it was a Saturday, pretty as a summer rose picked in the morning." It just sounds like the dawn of summer when the weather isn't hot enough to need a/c in the car so you can drive around with the windows down and a breeze blowing in...that is, if you're brave enough to face the ubiquitous allergens of the season.

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