WXPN's Sleepy Hollow's Songs of Summer
Yo La Tengo | via http://matablog.matadorrecords.com/2014/03/07/reminder-yo-la-tengo-beach-party-tonight-or-tomorrow/

Today is the official first day of summer, the Summer Solstice. To celebrate, the hosts of WXPN’s Sleepy Hollow, Keith Kelleher and Julian Booker have put collaborated on a list of their favorite summer-themed music. As languid and dense as a late July afternoon, these selections are a good place to start for those looking for a soundtrack to get them through the season, especially during those early mornings and late nights. (Words by Julian Booker)

Miles Davis-“Summertime” (Porgy & Bess; Columbia; 1959)
This George Gershwin classic is, indeed, one of the most oft-covered songs of the last eighty years, with versions recorded by everyone from Billie Holiday to Sublime (their “Doin’ Time,” which lifted both lyrics and melody from the tune, was an unexpected minor hit in 1997). Miles Davis’ take, though, is undoubtedly one of the preeminent renditions, particularly considering its inclusion on his landmark 1959 collaboration with Gil Evans, Porgy and Bess. With 1957’s Birth of the Cool, Davis dove headlong into the sound that would come to define his first truly great period of recording, culminating in what many regard as the greatest jazz record of all-time, Kind of Blue. Divorced from the bop that preceded it, and ill-concerned with the avant-garde that followed, Miles’ music of this period is, in a way, cooler than cool, inserting so much originality into the style of west coast jazz that had become popular at the time that nearly no other artist of the era can be mentioned in the same breath as Davis (with the exception of one or two, of course, including later Miles collaborator, Bill Evans). The infusion of orchestral arrangments by Gil Evans (apparent also on 1957’s Miles Ahead and their 1960 masterwork, Sketches of Spain) on this landmark re-working of Gerswin’s 1935 Broadway musical, created a new template for how jazz could be presented. This is in prime form on “Summertime,” at once completely familiar and utterly progressive, it is a striking example of their synergistic genius.

The Decemberists-“June Hymn” (The King is Dead; Rough Trade; 2011)
This acoustic track from Colin Meloy & co.’s 2011 release, The King is Dead, is a decidedly folk-infused effort form the Oregon-based indie rock band. The ode to the coming season finds hope at home, with Meloy and guest vocalist Gillian Welch singing “Here’s a hymn to welcome in the day / heralding the summer’s early sway / and all the bulbs coming in” before the chorus that namecheck’s the Portland neighborhood of Springville Hill. And though absent of some of the more grandiose themes that Meloy is want to tackle, “June Hymn” is a quiet reflection on the transformation of a familiar place that comes with the bloom of summer; it’s simple elegance gives it a profundity all its own.

Iron & Wine-“Everyone’s Summer of ’95” (Archive Series Volume 1; Black Cricket Recording; 2015) The first single from this year’s Archive Series Vol. 1, which presents a set of previously unreleased home recordings that Sam Beam made in 2002, is a nostalgic reflection on the narrator’s youth, summer’s spent (we can presume) bereft of work and filled with (mostly) innocent trouble. Beam’s music has always been presented in a thick southern haze that make it particularly suitable in the summer months. And when he sings “everyone’s summer of ’95 / vivid and there ’til the tape had died / on our favorite song / halfway home and goin’ nowhere,” it not only allows the listener to feel as if they are a character in the song, but also touches on something essential in each of our lives, conjuring up one’s own memories of summers spent without responsibility, which, if never entirely filled with truth, are at least a fond, dare I say therapeutic, recollection of an easier time.

Nina Simone-“Memphis in June” (Forbidden Fruit; Colpix; 1961)
If there ever were a song tailored for the summer Sleepy Hollow experience, it may be Nina Simone’s version of Paul Francis Webster and Hoagy Carmichael’s “Memphis in June,” opening with the lines “Memphis in June / a shady veranda / under Sunday blue skies.” When we discussed Simone’s rendition of “I Put a Spell on You” earlier this year, we mentioned her uncanny ability to transform the words and music of others into something that is singularly hers, and this is no different on “Memphis in June.” As listeners, we can forget entirely that it is not the singer’s own “cousin Miranda…making a blueberry pie” or her “grandmama across the street still rockin / watching all the neighbors go by.” But thus is the power of Simone’s voice, in inflection, and tone indeed, “Memphis in June” is, in its musical way, “paradise.”

Yo La Tengo-“Green Arrow” (I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One; Matador; 1997)
Though it’s not featured on Yo La Tengo’s more appropriately-titled 2003 album, Summer Sun, this standout from 1997’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One is an unarguably powerful reflection on a peaceful summer night. This song is all production and subtle performance, with James McNew’s melodic bass line sitting atop a pattern of chirping insects, shakers, and Georgia Hubley’s carefully-placed tom hits. Of course, it’s indie rock guitar god Ira Kaplan’s performance that steals the show: his ethereal slide guitar, though simple, overflows with emotion and sentimentality. Perhaps “Green Arrow” was never intended to be about the summer (though the fact that its sequenced immediately following a Beach Boys cover makes this writer wonder…), but it is of no matter, this song represents the quiet beauty of summer in a way that few have achieved before or since–it’s a masterpiece.

Also recommended:

Joni Mitchell-“The Hissing of Summer Lawns” (The Hissing of Summer Lawns; Asylum; 1974)
The Milk Carton Kids-“The Jewel of June” (The Ashy & Clay; ANTI-; 2015)
Evan Dando & Sabrina Brooks-“Summer Wine” (Total Lee! The Songs of Lee Hazlewood; City Slang; 2002)
Paul McCartney-“Summer Day’s Song” (McCartney II; Columbia; 1980)
Madeleine Payroux-“The Summer Wind” (Half the Perfect World; Rounder; 2006)

Listen to the full playlist on WXPN’s Youtube here

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