Published on July 15th, 2011 | by Randall Castillo0
SOUND Summer Playlist ’11 [Side 1, Part B]
We’re still on Side 1 of things, but for the sake of easy reading and your own personal health (the combined portions of Side 1 unfortunately contain more awesomeness than your doctor-recommended daily intake), I have to feed you baby birds one little chunk at a time. You’ve already been warned about bringing some sunscreen, so apply freely, bust out the flip-flops and be sure to bring a large, colored beach towel (to set the mood) as we take you through the next part of the SOUND Summer Playlist ’11.
Side 1, Part B
“Hot Grills and High Tops” — Attack Attack!
A short introductory track deserves a short introduction, but an introduction it shall nevertheless get. If you’re one of those people who firmly believes that vocals that scream more than they sing are “of the devil” (imagine Mama Boucher from The Waterboy saying this), then this might not be the track for you — Attack Attack! has never been for the faint of heart. But if you’re of a musically open mind, give all 42 seconds of this somewhat comical, purposefully ironic crossover between post-hardcore metal and gangsta rap a shot. And, as the title suggests, fire up that grill and lace up your sneakers — it’s definitely summer on this side of the world.
Further Listening: “I Kissed A Girl” (Punk Goes Pop 2), “Dr. Shavargo Pt. 3” (Someday Came Suddenly), “Lonely” (Attack Attack!)
“Walk On Water Or Drown” — Mayday Parade
In Part A, we mentioned a band called Mayday Parade as they were known in happier, more talented times. If you’ll recall, I lamented on the early exit of lyricist Jason Lancaster, stating that the band had lost its soul and has fallen tragically to a path of one clichéd alt-pop track after another. Walk On Water or Drown is a perfect example of Mayday before all of this went down, and the things we loved them for are all here: an energetic intro, powerful, emotion-ridden lyrics, catchy hooks and more heart in one measure than most artists hope to stuff into an entire album.
Summer will complement the themes of the song that seem to revolve around those warm August nights and the musical blend of hidden layers conveys images of a setting sun and accompanying layers of afternoon color. All the while, co-lead Derek Sanders serenades with a milky-smooth voice and Lancaster adds his unique and oh-so-marvelous juxtaposed touch of grit to remind us why we fell in love with them in the first place. Always appreciate what you’ve got while you’ve still got it, kids. The good things just weren’t made to last.
Further Listening: “Three Cheers For Five Years (Acoustic)” (Punk Goes Acoustic 2), “Your Song” (Tales Told by Dead Friends), “When I Get Home, You’re So Dead” (A Lesson In Romantics)
“P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” — Michael Jackson
From “the band that should’ve been” to “the man that was,” “P.Y.T.” is admittedly one of the King of Pop’s less remembered tracks, the reasons of which are beyond me. As one of the last singles taken from one of the greatest and most important albums in music history, the only possible explanation is that it was buried beneath the incredible success that was Thriller. Nevertheless, “P.Y.T.” is in many respects the perfect musical personification of summer, with what I call a “controlled, quick tempo” (but real musicians call allegro), in a bright and happy key. Turn this one up at the pool or in a car full of friends, and witness the miraculous nature of truly great music: everyone immediately stops what they’re doing to dance, comment (“OMG I love this song!”) or, ideally, a little bit of both. And if not? Well maybe consider picking up some friends with good taste. [Zing! --ed.]
Further Listening: “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” (Off the Wall), “Rock With You” (Off the Wall), “The Way You Make Me Feel” (Bad)
“When the Day Met the Night” — Panic! At the Disco
In my lifetime, I’m not sure if there’s been a bigger departure in sound from a band’s debut album to their sophomore effort as Panic! did with Pretty.Odd in 2009. Following 2005’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out — an album you could just tell was penned in high school—the band ditched the exclamation point and retaliated with a sound that was far more organic than Fever’s electronic, manufactured steampunk vibe. The result basically had the band swapping money for critical acclaim, as critics were pleased with the changes despite a decrease in sales. This is easy to explain — everything from Panic!’s instrumentation and lyrics to overall songwriting and thematic feel was elevated, requiring a change in personality that likely alienated much of the fan base that wanted the carefree superficiality of Fever.
Commercial letdowns and disappointed high-schoolers aside, Pretty. Odd’s sincerity, at the very least, gave us gems like the piece being highlighted here. Serving as the album’s centerpiece — and likely its climax — “When the Day Met the Night” starts off with a simmering set of strings and Middle-Eastern instruments that set the stage for a warm-weather metaphor about forbidden love. Carrying the astonishingly high production value from beginning to end, the song also features what is easily one of my favorite outros of all time — the absolute essence of a summer memory. I won’t ruin the surprise; give it a listen, and let the sounds of a time long-gone take you back.
Further Listening: “Folkin’ Around” (Pretty.Odd), “That Green Gentleman” (Pretty.Odd), “Stall Me (Bonus Track)” (Vices & Virtues)
“Minor Thing” — Red Hot Chili Peppers
Much like with “P.Y.T.”, the success of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 2002 album, By The Way, may have been responsible for masking the genius behind some of their own lesser known tracks. Beneath the girth of such heavyweight singles as “Can’t Stop” and the title-track “By the Way,” “Minor Thing” wasn’t exactly a hot topic throughout the halls of my middle school. It totally could have been, though — the track contains some of the most beautifully subdued guitar work you’ll hear, with that unique, summer-only fun woven into the fabric of the music: super-funk, bass-slapping riffs, steadily moving drums and the characteristic sorta-rap of lead vocalist Anthony Kiedis are only some reasons why the tune is such a perfect fit for this time of year. The others? Despite the telltale background choral notes and trademark calamity that give away this song as clearly belonging to the band known as RHCP, “Minor Thing” is a track that both fans and non-fans can appreciate. It’s just way too damn catchy not to be.
Further Listening: “Californication” (Californication), “Can’t Stop” (By the Way), “Desecration Smile” (Stadium Arcadium)
“Bonafied Lovin’ (Tough Guys)” — Chromeo
In case you missed it a couple of years ago — and a lot of us here in the States sure did — the Canadian duo from Montreal dropped one of the most entertaining albums of the last decade: 2007′s Fancy Footwork. Appearing on everything from late night talk shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live to video games like the FIFA franchise, Chromeo always seemed like they were just on the cusp of blowing the doors wide open into the public American sphere. That could very well be happening right now, but it would still be disingenuous to ignore the things that got them to this point to begin with, and Fancy Footwork is easily the biggest of these. Amongst the group’s first singles from their breakout album was “Bonafied Lovin’,” a quick, healthy dose of fun electro dance-pop that made for an easy transition into the foot-tapping, club-dancing weekend nights of summer. Our theory is that it’s still good for exactly that, though should you aim to spin this track at your local block (or beach, or house) party, we’re fairly confident you’ll be just fine.
Further Listening: “Fancy Footwork” (Fancy Footwork), “Outta Sight” (Fancy Footwork), “When the Night Falls” (Business Casual)
“What’s Golden” — Jurassic 5
You hear the song and you think “old-school hip-hop circa 1995,” and yet the label will tell you “2002.” On paper it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but forget about all that for a second and instead listen to the music. Soulful and rich, the carefree track meanders meaningfully, making its march to the samplings of organs, and a beat that just doesn’t seem to care what you think (but is cool anyways).
This would all be for naught if the top layer didn’t contain some smart lyrics and “What’s Golden” excels in the songwriting department. Forget gangsta rap and all the childish notions that come with it, Jurassic 5’s talented core of rappers deliver an intelligent — yet still engaging — set of flows that incorporate words like “participles,” “melancholy” and “Rhodes Scholar”. So if your SAT scores weren’t the kind you ran home to tell mom about, we’d say hold off on reading too much into the lyrics, and instead simply enjoy your golden hip-hop song of summer.
Further Listening: Jurassic 5—“Future Sound” (Feedback), Common—“I Used to Love H.E.R.” (Resurrection), Dr. Dre—Lil’ Ghetto Boy (The Chronic)
“Judas (Royksopp Remix)” — Lady Gaga
You already know plenty (and probably more than you care to) about Lady Gaga, the meat-dress totin’, egg-ridin’ maniac who we’ve crowned an international superstar due to her catchy Top 40-type tracks and real-world shenanigans. But Royksopp — a pair of Norwegians with an affinity for creating some wickedly brilliant electronic music — might need more of an introduction. Forming in 1998, Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland test more than your pronunciation abilities and knowledge of computer keyboard accents: they also set the bar in experimenting with sound. The result has been a series of albums and individual songs that easily fall onto the “genius” side of things, and Royksopp has become quite adept at making music for all kinds of moods and differing interest levels. Remixing Lady Gaga is somewhat of a surprising move for the duo, who don’t usually venture into areas as “obvious” as the American mainstream. But we’re glad they have: Royksopp takes a song that, while rich in personality, is begging for a reworking, and that’s certainly what we get here. Everything from the overall sound to the solo is definitively Royksopp, and for a song that I personally didn’t care for to begin with, this is a very, very good thing.
In the interest of full disclosure, Royksopp makes a second (full) appearance on the SOUND Summer Playlist later on down the road, so if this doesn’t quite do it for you, stick around. Like you could leave if you wanted to.
Further Listening: Coldplay—”Clocks” (Royksopp’s Trembling Heart Remix), Lady Gaga—”Alejandro” (Rusko’s Papuseria Remix), Royksopp—”Only This Moment” (Alan Braxe & Fred Falke Remix)
“Caraphernelia” — Pierce the Veil
If you’ll remember, I gave you the heads up in Part A that Pierce the Veil would be making a second appearance later on down the list, and here they are. Only one other band on this year’s playlist has the honor of getting two spots dedicated solely to them. Assume what you will, but this has nothing to do with laziness or an unavailability of other summer songs — there were plenty of perfectly eligible tunes that didn’t make the cut. No, the reasons PTV gets an extra slice of the summertime spotlight is twofold: (1) We’re here to mix things up, and “Caraphernelia” is exactly the kind of addictive, explosive, panic-inducing thrill ride to give your summer the jolt of mayhem it needs and 2), more practically, the track includes some vocal assistance from A Day to Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon—a band and a singer you should all become familiar with. The Florida based metal group (often shortened simply to ADTR) has made it pretty big on the scene as of a late. As evidence of this, I once heard their song “Have Faith in Me” on Sonic radio (yes, “Sonic” as in Sonic: America’s Drive-In), which is undoubtedly the ultimate measure within the music industry for any band’s success.
Drive-thru soundtracks notwithstanding, the creative minds of both bands mesh well here and it’s fun to hear McKinnon’s energy converge with that of the PTV crew. As they’re known for, Pierce the Veil finds a way to yet again cram the entire contents of a remarkably engaging story within a 4:30 time span. And if you can keep up, give that story a shot — we’ll still be here when you get back.
Further Listening: “The Downfall of Us All” (Homesick), “If It Means a Lot to You” (Homesick), “Better If I Leave” (What Separates Me From You)
“Never Let You Go” — Third Eye Blind
The year 1999 was good for several things — The Matrix, Napster and the SEGA Dreamcast, to name a few. But in the music world, 1999 was good for the release of Blue, Third Eye Blind’s second (and strongest) album. Amongst the monster string of singles put out by 3EB during my middle school years (insert your own memories here), “Never Let You Go” remains by far my personal favorite, besting such champion tracks as “Jumper,” “Semi-Charmed Life,” “How’s It Going to Be” and “Deep Inside of You”. Not that anyone needs to defend choosing a song like this, but I’ll do it, more in the name of pageantry than anything else.
For starters, there’s that unforgettable opening three-note riff that serves as the song’s backbone, and the distorted solo guitar line that accompanies it. If this is the first time you’ve heard the song in a while, I imagine your eyes will light up in that “Oh yeah! I used to love this song!” kind of way, and you’ll soon find yourself tapping whatever appendage you find appropriate. Everyone experiences music differently, but those opening notes are just so summer to me that I can’t imagine anyone else seeing it differently. Simply stated, those notes are sun, a warm breeze and freedom in the form of music.
Then, there’s the simplicity of lyric, crooned out by front man Stephan Jenkins with absolute perfection. His voice has always been rough around the edges — a trait I find endearing in a musician — and the way it works with the melody and the words is convergent perfection. As sort of a side note in regard to the lyrics, something a good friend once pointed out is that in the chorus, the lyric is “I never let you go,” rather than the oft-misquoted “I’ll never let you go,” putting much more weight into the story. This isn’t one of those “I’ll love you forever and ever!” songs that every 13-year-old girl has already become well-versed in. “I never let you go” is in the past tense; a thought of both retrospect and the reassuring feeling that comes from knowing you’ve done everything you could, no matter the end result. It’s a song that means something, and I’m not sure we get a lot of that kind of music anymore.
But let’s not get too deep here — after all, this is a summer song, and above all a summer song is one that makes life better. “I’ll Never Let You Go” is exactly this. If you want, let it serve as a reminder of the stupid things, the mood rings, the bracelets and the beads. Or maybe it’s just a song meant purely for fun. You choose. I just know that, for me, there will always be that girl who’s like a sunburn that I would like to save.
And this is my song for that.
Further Listening: “Farther” (Blue), “Deep Inside of You” (Blue), “Good Man” (Out of the Vein)
So that’s it — Side 1 is all wrapped up for SOUND Magazine’s 2011 Summer Playlist. If your summer is basically a collection of days spent poolside, then I’d say you’re pretty much set for the rest of the season. But we know our readers better than that—your perfect life of freedom is composed of far more than just barbecues and time combating tan lines. You’re diverse — you get out there. Which means the things we have in store are going to fit you perfectly for the next several weeks to come. In the interim, give these tracks a listen, revisit Part A once more, and don’t leave us high and dry when Side 2 makes its debut within the next couple of weeks. You won’t want to miss what’s next. ♦ ♦ ♦
Randall Castillo currently resides in New York City, working in television. A proud Twitter-er, Tumblr-er and only child, he has simple and humble ambitions of making films in Hollywood, and frequently pursues ventures in comedy, journalism, photography, production, fashion, art, business, athletics, advertising, law, motorsports and psychology. In the meantime, he writes for SOUND.