Liz Buckley is back at the reins and this week she’s talking seasonal wonders.
A few weeks ago I was putting together a list of summer-themed releases for my label’s website when a colleague said she’d never thought of records as being seasonal before. Which isn’t something she said six months before when I was doing a similar thing for a Christmas records guide… I thought to myself. But music can be absolutely about the month, the weather or about deciduousness without being as blatant as to mention the date, California girls, going surfing or allergy pens.
Some records just make you want to gather the nearest people to you, form a human pyramid and sing vertically into the sky until you have freckles.
Father John Misty – Tee Pees 1-12 & I Love You, Honeybear
This probably isn’t a sentence you were expecting, but I think my cat is in love with Father John Misty. The latest project of the stupidly charming Josh Tillman is summer personified, as he bounces, climbs, gyrates and preaches across the assembled congregations of this summer’s festivals. I’m delighted Glastonbury is on TV as I never thought I’d get to see bands with my cat (during Spiritualized’s set I explain to him, “This is where I go.”).
A few weeks ago we begin watching the Father perform for us at home with the windows wide, shutters vents open, the volume set to street party and the retro fans on high-wind. I notice after a few minutes that Meep has moved to sit intently staring at the screen, his eyes like hearts, his head occasionally resting on crossed paws, his gaze transfixed for the full hour’s set. In the first 10 minutes I laughed – good taste, our kid! But wait. It’s been half an hour now. He’s still looking. I think he just sighed. This is big. It’s the most emotional he’s been since I bought him Mrs Octopus.
I started to wonder what the draw of Father John Misty for a young cat might be. It could be that Josh’s brown suit-jacket, furry beard and white bib-like shirt meant Meep thought it was his brother. Preach, other little litter member! They all separated one day in Penge and who’s to say one or more of those kittens didn’t go on to record with Bella Union or Fleet Foxes.
It could be that Father John Misty’s chaotic, silly, fuzzy performance, running all over the place like a madman, climbing up things before falling on his back to show his tummy and have untold photos taken of him lying there in a cute mess was something Meep could really relate to. It could also be that Father John Misty has a song about teepees.
Since the beautiful day that Meep met eyes with Father John Misty in the summer sun, I’ve frequently sung I Love You, Honeybear to him and he raises his watery green eyes in loving wonder at me. “Don’t give into despair / Cause I love you, honeybear / Honeybear, honeybear, honeybear.”
It’s beautiful. Meep and Father John Misty are my sunshine.
I haven’t told him about the verse on inherited depression.
Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks
There is nothing like a song with a female vocal, a male vocal and a huge array of voices for the chorus for turning a group of friends into a spontaneous am-dram musical theatre troupe. You immediately assign parts to the strongest candidates, all done on gut instinct as there’s no time to audition; the real band have already started.
This song has everything to get your flash-mob organised into running round in a circle all shouting “HEY!”, mass hand-clapping and kicking your legs out in synchronicity like the hokey bloody cokey. There’s very few songs that make me feel as skippy as this one, and if it arrives on my iPod while on a bus, I will want to be stood up for it: take my seat. It’s pure sunbeams. It’s more summery than I Get Around. Not bad for a band from Iceland.
Booker T & The MGs – Soul Limbo
*presses play* I’m already laughing and so are you. Thanks to the cricket commentary, this song is double the fun. And I say that as someone who doesn’t like any sport apart from snooker. The snooker has got it right – you should take up smoking and drinking to watch it; everyone in the live audience is eating a scotch egg and the players take piss breaks on live TV.
But come on, snooker for is winter. How summery is cricket? And how crickety is Soul Limbo? With its polite clapping and terrifying ball made of concrete that kills people, cricket is thought of as harmless and endless. So is the sunshine, despite skin cancer. Let’s play Soul Limbo again, God it’s funny.
Booker T & The MGs began lowly as the anonymous studio band at the legendary Stax label but they ended up being legendary themselves. This track has Isaac Hayes playing the cowbell on it, that’s how bloody fun it is.
Kate & Anna McGarrigle – Swimming Song
The Swimming Song is a Loudon Wainwright III track but my favourite version of it is by folk duo Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Kate having been Loudon’s soon-to-be estranged ex-wife.
Its banjo-led melody and incredibly literal lyrics make it simplicity itself. There’s no room for metaphor; this singer is not in the “September of their life” or “feeling sunny inside”. They are doing actual cannonballs and the Italian crawl in the swimming pool and, let’s go up a notch, also in the sea.
They even discuss the difficulty of having chlorine issues – “I’m a self-destructive fool!” At just over two minutes long, it’s a real-time climb to the top of the high board and a pike leap into the water before you want to go right round again.
Teenage Fanclub – When I Still Have Thee
Big Star – September Gurls
Nothing lightens the heart and raises the spirits like a Teenage Fanclub album, and let me double that heart soar for you as there’s a new album due out from them in 2015. I love Teenage Fanclub so much I don’t even mind that I Still Have Thee uses the word ‘thee’. The joy of summer is the joy of listening to a sunshine pop song you love on repeat.
“From the western isles to the Tasman sea / There’s a world of men and machin-ery.” *UP AN OCTAVE!* “But the birds still sing and the sun shines free / No, I don’t need much when I still have thee.”
Oh God, it makes my heart swell and my hair visibly turn blonde. Again, again!
US predecessors Big Star were a huge influence on Teenage Fanclub and are equally summery and full of joy, despite nearly all of them being prematurely dead and this song being about heartbreak. But it doesn’t MATTER because we’re all in the garden drinking some awful cocktail we’ve just invented using too much lime.
The records I decided made the cut for the Ace Records Summer Gift Guide are here: https://www.acerecords.co.uk/features/music-guides/summer-guide971 Views
Department manager at an independent record company. Liker of Frank Sinatra and Nick Cave. Very sudden laugh. Pasty but tasty. Quite tired.