Scene’s songs of summer
Thinking of a Place – The War on Drugs
By Adam Ramos, Scene Editor
Maybe it’s the longer days or just the lack of school, but summer always seems to take its time with things. Having the opportunity to just relax without my mind constantly drifting to the next event is always what makes summer great. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed The War on Drugs’ “Thinking of a Place” so much this summer. Coming in at over 11 minutes long, the track is an indulgent joy ride that gracefully floats along with The War on Drugs’ signature laid-back style.
“Thinking of Place” wistfully captures frontman Adam Granduciel’s gift as both a lyricist and producer. The airy guitar melodies and patient harmonica riffs play nicely with Grandiciel’s smoky vocals, evoking the spectral beauty of a southern landscape to reflect both the excitement and fear associated with a fleeting or narrowly out of reach love interest. For anyone who had to leave behind a summer fling this year, take some time this busy fall to relax with “Thinking of Place” and return to that dreamy summer world, if just for 11 minutes.
Plimsoll Punks – Alvvays
By Mike Donovan, Scene Writer
“Do the tea lights on your mantel illuminate that summer feeling?” Alvvays frontwoman Molly Rankin queries on the group’s latest single, “Plimsoll Punks.”
The new track is a cultural address — a case study in twee revival — takes aim at those rosy looking people who exude a cursory sunshine that overshadows their inner ferocity. The song’s protagonists, “the seashell[s] in my sandal / That’s slicing up my heel,” represent Alvvays’ fundamental ethos. Both the band and their long list of C86 source material (The Shop Assistants, The Pastels, Talulah Gosh, etc.) emit a Plimsoll (light canvas shoe) aesthetic, but their thematic roots take hold in grislier ground. Drawing from summer’s essential conflict — a war between beauty and impermanence — Alvvays’ newest track caricatures the twee experience for a contemporary listener. It’s a song for the person who craves melody, but lives in a self-aware darkness — free from the gloomy shackles of traditional punk/post-punk arrangements but wholly indebted to the ideals.
In addition to its role as a twee standard, “Plimsoll Punks” also works as a critic of the genre. Rankin berates those legions of twees for “getting [her] down” to no redeeming effect. The path of the Plimsoll Punk seems little more than an emotional, cardigan-clad spiral into self-absorption.
I expect this internal dialogue of the twee to a central element on Alvvays’ upcoming LP “Antisocialites.”
Homemade Dynamite – Lorde
By Charlie Kenney, Scene Writer
Just like every year, 90-degree heat and kids being out of school for three months was accompanied by a plethora of anticipated album and song releases. Calvin Harris, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus — to name a few — all released songs that have deemed worthy by some of the elusive title “song of the summer.” As much as “Feels” and “Malibu” were — and still are — overplayed, however, a summer album that has been sorely overlooked is one that was released by a New Zealander during her Southern Hemispheric winter — Lorde’s newest album “Melodrama” and in particular the song “Homemade Dynamite.”
The song — one of the most listened to on the new album — is Lorde’s ode to her party life. She sings about how “We’ll end up painted on the road / Red and chrome” after we let a drunk friend drive us home, she sings about “All the broken glass [from bottles] sparkling” and most notably she sings about “Blowing s— up with homemade dynamite” — all of which are actions that are illegal for a 20-year-old living in Los Angeles to actually do. Through the song, Lorde tells about a night that we all long to tell our friends about. All us wish we had been “Painted on the street” in one way or another during the summer, but almost none of were. That shouldn’t matter though, any of us can turn on Lorde telling us about it while we do less impressive, illegal and dangerous things.
Everything Now – Arcade Fire
By Brian Boylen, Scene Writer
Summer has always had a certain bittersweet feeling for me. On one hand with the abundant free time it grants, the world feels as if it is at your fingertips; but on the other hand, this can be shadowed by the notion that you aren’t doing enough to enjoy it while it lasts – especially in the age of the Netflix binge. On “Everything Now,” the first single off the album of the same name, Arcade Fire muses on the instant gratification culture that technology has created in our evermore interconnected world. The song immediately kicks off with a heavily ABBA-inspired beat that conjures nostalgia in me for a time I wasn’t even alive during. Vocalist Win Butler soars on the track, belting out “(Everything now!) I want it / (Everything now!) I can’t live without,” referring to our desire to get things immediately — whether experiences or objects. This song resonated with me in particular, as it came out while I was studying abroad in London — one of the largest cities in the world. I could see the truth in Butler’s words as I was bombarded by advertisements, taxi horns and just general urban noise. At times I was worried that I wasn’t utilizing my limited time abroad to its fullest, but looking back I can see I was stupid to worry. I may not have had “Everything Now,” but who does?
Supermodel – SZA
By Matthew Munhall, Scene Writer
In its second season, “Insecure” — the HBO series created by and starring Issa Rae — has become an exemplar of a well-worn TV genres — sitcoms about young adults navigating travails both professional and personal. One of the show’s defining characteristics is its brilliant soundtrack — a stunningly up-to-the-moment mix of rap and R&B songs.
A recent episode ended with the fictional Issa moving her pillow to the middle of the bed, after realizing that she and her ex are not going to get back together. The scene was scored by “Supermodel,” the stunning opener from R&B singer SZA’s debut album “Ctrl.” On its face, “Supermodel” is a breezy track, built around a languid electric guitar riff. The lyrics, however, reveal its narrator’s internal conflict over the end of a relationship. She starts out confidently, making a number of revelations to her boyfriend: she’s leaving him; she had an affair with his best friend; and, frankly, she would do it again in a heartbeat.
By the chorus, though, she’s singing a different pitch, laying bare her insecurities about being single. “Why I can’t stay alone just by myself? / Wish I was comfortable just with myself / But I need you,” SZA croons. It’s the kind of vulnerability that almost feels invasive — and along with “Insecure,” one of the best modern documentations of romance.