Emma Gase | Medium Talk Co-Creator
Are any of these songs Song of Summer™ material? Probably not. They may not dominate the radio waves, but they should dominate your weekend playlist.
Leon Bridges, “Smooth Sailing”
I usually try to avoid assigning “modern classic” to a song or album—too often, it is an overused shortcut to describe something that sounds either vaguely retro or vaguely timeless. But Leon Bridges recent spate of singles is making it difficult to avoid any description without heavy reliance on the word “classic.”
In the vein of Charles Bradley, Leon Bridges sounds like a 1968 Stax/Volt artist reincarnated. Not since Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings has new music sounded so much like old music. And yet this retro approach is fresher to me than the vast majority of new releases. Sounding like something straight from The Sandlot soundtrack, “Smooth Sailing” has earned a permanent place on my Porch Playlist of Summer 2015.
When I first heard Girlpool on one of my prepping-for-SXSW playlists, I wrote them off immediately due to their sonic resemblance to the way-too-twee-for-me Juno soundtrack. And then I heard this song. With girlish and wholesome harmonies that recall the Roches, and a plodding melody that surreptitiously takes over your brain, I’ve had to rethink my position on Girlpool. Let’s talk again after my next 10 listens.
Shamir’s androgynous vocals are inimitable. His voice is positively charming or inexorably grating, depending on your taste. Unexpectedly, “Demon” has emerged as my favorite song from Vegas-native Shamir’s much-covered debut, Ratchet. It’s an unassuming, uncomplicated ditty about love sung over some cute synths that complement Shamir’s unique warble.
Florence + the Machine, “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful”
I’m typically not taken by anything Florence + the Machine does. I find wannabe-Stevie-Nicks Florence Welch’s voice to resemble shouting more than singing, and the production on their songs to be overwrought to the point of distraction. When I first heard that “Dog Days” song back in 2009, I immediately placed them in the Big, Loud & Unfortunately Commercially Successful box (Kings of Leon also lived there at the time).
But there’s nothing more I love than changing my mind about a band, or at least amending aforementioned negative feelings. Enter “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.” It starts modest, slides neatly in acceptable grandeur, and has minimal(ish) sing-shouting. If “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” is the result of adding just one modicum of restraint to good ole Flo, then it’s an ingredient they shouldn’t neglect in their future endeavors.
[That’s not to say this song isn’t eye-rollingly overproduced— it’s still a Florence + the Machine song after all. They give ELO a run for their money in terms of not knowing when to let a song gracefully fade out. But in this case, the production doesn’t flatten the actual song structure like a big blundering arena-filling monster with two left feet.]
FIDLAR, “40oz on Repeat”
In the current musical landscape of synths, 808s, Pro Tools, AutoTune, and more synths, it’s not every day you discover music that doesn’t sound like a lap top created it. We are living in a dearth of authentic guitar-driven punk. Luckily, this FIDLAR song fills that void in spades. It’s merely a bonus that FIDLAR’s name stands for “Fuck it Dog, Life’s a Risk” (its doubtful FIDLAR gives a fuck about lap tops.)
FIDLAR’s songs are often about the awkward interactions of broke and inebriated slackers (see their song “Awkward”). “40oz on Repeat” fits right in, and sounds like the perfect splice of Weezer and Titus Andronicus, a combination you didn’t even know was missing from the universe.
BONUS TRACKS: ELI HOROWITZ’S CURRENT TOP 5 (Because he disagrees vehemently with 4/5 of mine)
1. Broods, “Four Walls”
2. Lera Lynn, Untitled “True Detective” teaser [Alternately, the below cover version]