Soho: Hot Music
From 12″ (Kool Groove, 1989). Also available on House Crusher.
Amerie: All I Need
From Touch (Sony, 2005)
The Sugarcubes: Birthday
From Life’s Too Good (Elektra, 1988)
Q: What does a summer song mean to you?
A: Vaguely perspiratory, or conjuring images of such. Including but not limited to: crescendoing horns, crescendoing synth line, multiple imprints of breakbeats. Gigantic guitars and singalongable choruses. I.e., music that intensifies and creates or implies friction. Music that is airy or transcendent and sounds like the thirty seconds before the kiss. Hooks that seem to promise something. Tracks split wide with possibility. And as Rich Harrison can attest, there’s just something about a brass section.
If the song possesses none of the above, it helps if it is pervasive and defines your summer whether you like it or not, i.e. Bobby Valentino’s ass-appreciation anthem “Slow Down.”
Despite the above criteria, it all depends on the moment. Here is a perfect example: Last night, fitful with 1 am’s heat sticking on me, I decided to walk to my friend’s house in Ft Greene. When I got there, he and his two roommates were deep into an impromptu dance party, to the classic house track that sounds like it was born in the air of mid-August: Soho’s “Hot Music,” produced by Pal Joey in ’90. It’s got the sweaty, echoing vocal sample, the nigh-atonal piano and sax that bump uncomfortably, and the dogpiling snare samples–that’s what I mean by increase and friction.
As far as pervasive singles out right now, I would say “Pimpin all over the world” is my favorite summer song, but the above theory is best illustrated by Amerie’s “All I Need” (against all odds, I like it better than “1 Thing” at this point). The bassline on the chorus IS summer.
As for songs that CONJURE summer, I would also like to add the song “BIRTHDAY” by The Sugarcubes. It is the sound of Bjork around the time her first baby was born, young and unself-conscious, singing about a five year old and the guitars are all woozy.