(Editor’s Note: This summer songs post comes from a dear friend and colleague, Hua Hsu – all-star culture writer, scholar, DJ and member of the Red Sox Nation. Given that both of us spend ungodly number of hours, idling in front of laptops (Apple, holla), we’re constantly IMing songs back and forth. That’s why I knew, given Hua’s eclectic, expansive taste in music, his summer songs post would be off the wall for ya’ll. Not to mention some funny sh– to read. As I understand it, Hua wrote this during a bout of insomnia, in the wee hours of the morning. –O.W.)
Superchunk: Package Thief
From On the Mouth (Merge, 1993)
A personal indulgence, because this song reminds me of some summer during my mid-teens, sitting in the back of this sunned-out driving school classroom, reading magazines and deciding that “my thing” was going to be music. The next summer, I went to debate camp in Vermont and scared this girl I was cutting cards with (nothing kinky; we were compiling evidence about health care policy) by telling her the shirt actually read “SUPERCHINK.” There’s nothing quintessentially summery about this song, other than the fact that it sounds like the song itself is sweating.
High Fashion: Feelin’ Lucky Lately
From Feelin’ Lucky (Capitol, 1982)
A: You should get this.
B: This is corny.
A: You need this.
B: I guess it’s not so bad. Okay, I’m going to get it. And someday, perhaps I will like it. And someday, after that, I’ll be in this really, really good, life-affirming mood, and I’ll put this song on and it will be wonderful that I have something that can adequately capture how I feel inside that perfect moment.
A: Do that.
The Fab 5 (Heltah Skeltah): Leflaur Leflah Eshoshka
From Nocturnal (Priority, 1996)
Mark Ronson feat. Ghostface: Ooh Wee
From Here Comes the Fuzz (Elektra, 2003)
It took me many months in the DJ booth at the Enormous Room to realize that nobody wanted to hear Boot Camp semi-hits, but I didn’t really care. When you’re constantly being harangued by a seemingly endless queue of sun-damaged idiots, you need some “alone time,” and this, oddly, was my sanctuary. The mirror-ball, disco fanfare and cha-ching of “Ooh Wee” are best enjoyed striking the most classical of summer poses: riding shotgun, one arm (preferably the right) out the window, stars in eyes, life ahead of you.
David Bowie: The Bewlay Brothers
From Hunky Dory (RCA, 1971)
Jesus and Mary Chain: About You
From Darklands (Warner Bros, 1987)
The Kinks: Waterloo Sunset
From Something Else By The Kinks (Pye, 1967)
Three-fourths of the year the dissolve from day to night lasts two blinks. Summertime is the exception. It drags. It is the possibility of agony. Those hours before sunset are like readymade bummers, and sometimes you need something languid, something that feels slower than the sky, to make that passage without injury.
The Zombies: Care of Cell 44
From Odessey and Oracle (CBS, 1968)
I think “She’s Not There” is such a great title for a song. Where is she not? Is she simply not where you last saw her? Is she not there—mentally? Is it on some existential shit? A similar instability cloaks “Care of Cell 44,” a much better but also much less famous song from the Zombie catalogue. Within ten seconds of harpsichord you know exactly how the rest of Odessey is going to sound: perfect. Like, so perfect that you wish life itself could be this symmetrical, this harmonious, etc. Colin Blunstone has a great affect, even when he’s not singing—sometimes you can hear him wetting his mouth between lines; oftentimes it sounds like he’s a weeper. The “summerness” of this song, for me, is in the threat of sadness (see: above)—even when CB enters the prattle with a “Morning to you, I hope you’re feeling better, baby,” you don’t really get the sense that this is going to be a very happy song. Where is she this time? Boarding school? Or perhaps a sanitarium? Again, Blunstone is purposefully vague with the details, referencing a “prison stay” before eventually fessing, “We’ll get to know each other for a second time.” Yeah, it’s definitely a sanitarium. Summertime: pretty and calm on the surface, but you never know when you might go mad.
Sister Sledge: Thinking of You
From We Are Family (Cotillion, 1979)
It is not uncommon for record collectors weaned on hip-hop (“Yo, son, Lord Finesse used this bass-line. He chopped it up, son! You need this!”) to view disco as that Maginot line you don’t cross. This is plain stupid. “Thinking of You” is a pantheon song, one I do not trifle with unless I want to “go there.” (“There” being the sanitarium.) It is a self-evidently incredible song and the British love it. And by “the British,” I’m of course talking about Paul Weller.