The last four weeks have been…awesome. Every day, I wake up and I get to write and write and write, usually pausing to get my noodle soup on. I’m trying to hammer my way through revising enough of this project to get it off to my publisher (the beginning of the end…but nowhere near “the end”). It’s great for my academic career, not so great for doing other stuff (hence why I’m writing this post at 11:36pm).

I love the Summer Songs series but this year, I just had to take a break from organizing it, mostly so I could divert that energy into getting The Sidebar off and running. As hopefully you’ve noted, I’ve used the podcasts as a way to talk about summer songs with various guests but I still felt like I needed to contribute something, at least to keep the tradition alive.

Since moving back to LA in 2006, my summers usually start out all the same way: getting writing done, usually in cafes or else at home. It’s a good routine for me and as I suggested earlier, keeps me productive. But it also means that in June especially, I more or less witness summer in small breaks, whenever I step out for lunch or go pick up my daughter from summer camp. It’s at those times that I notice, “holy shit, it’s summer!” and as boring as it must be to hear an Angelino talk about how great summers are in LA, blah blah blah…they really are. The air could be cleaner most days, but the summer light is intense and bright and hot and it takes all the colors of the outdoors – the blues and greens – and burnishes them. It would, of course, be easier to appreciate all this if it were about 10-15 degrees cooler but hey, at least it’s not 100 and humid. I’m not complaining.

Since I’m not commuting to campus right now, my drives tend to be short, 10-15 minutes, max. And that means I end up listening to the same songs again and again on my “current favorites” playlist since I never drive long enough to get to, say, the tune that would normally have started around the 34th minute. Right now, the top of that favorites list is heavily weighted towards all those Don Julian tracks I just posted (they’re awesome; if you haven’t peeped yet, you’re a sucker) but there’s three songs that have crept through that wall and which will likely be part of my early summer playlist, at least until late July.

Alice Smith and Aloe Blacc: Baby
From Red, Hot + Rio 2 (Giant Step, 2011)

For fucking perfect is this song, especially to kick off summer? Sure, it’s like the platonic ideal of a KCRW hit but in this case, that’s a good thing. Love the breezy, bossa feel, love Smith’s voice on here, love how it invokes all the possibilities that mark summer’s dawn, yet is also infused with the kind of nostalgia-tinged melancholy that will make this song sound bittersweet come late September. If the rest of Red, Hot + Rio 2 is half as good as this, it’ll be another classic in that series.

Fela Kuti/Nick Nielsen: Water No Get 8-Bit Enemy
From (2010)

Yeah, I know, this dropped March 2010. Late pass, my bad. But hey, I only started rocking Fela’s original “Water No Get Enemy” in the summer of 2006 and that was 31 years after it came out so I figured, I’m not running as far behind now. In any case, this remake is genius. I don’t think you can chiptune every song out there and expect it to sound good but this absolutely nails it, giving you some old school Nintendo thrills without offending the sublimeness of the original. NIelsen should be chiptuning “La Murga” or something next. Serious.

Los Rockin’ Devils: Juego De Amor (Book of Love)
From 7″ (Orfeon, 1965)

Shout out to Supersonido, who put me up on this song back in Feb. Took me a few months to track down a copy for self but man, totally worth the trouble. I always thought The Mindbenders’ “Game of Love” had a killer riff that belongs in the I-IV-V pantheon. De La Soul and Prince Paul knew the real.

I won’t claim this cover is better than the original…but you have to admit, replacing the original bass line with horns was absolutely the right way to go. I honking love it. Plus, you still have the signature guitar riff and best of all, Los Rockin’ Devils bring some garage sabor to their version. Keep it ruff!