Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On the Jukebox with Erik Gundel: Summer Edition

Need some music to get you through the stretch run of summer? Erik Gundel has tracks for the beach, pool and smelly New York City street corner.

Hello, my Puddlers. I know you are all busy watching the Olympics and trying not to think about the fact that August starts tomorrow, but it does and that means there is only one true month of summer left. 

But you don't need to worry, because Erik Gundel is here with the second installment of his "On the Jukebox" series and he has some music choices that will blow your mind. Or, if they don't blow your mind, they will maybe just affirm that your taste is up to par with Erik Gundel's. Who, by the way, released his first solo record today, so why don't you buy it from him after all this nice musical advice he is about to give you? 

Oh, and bonus points to whoever can guess where the jukebox in the hero image is from. 


It has been a while since I’ve checked in with my column, but I figured that I only have a limited time remaining to slot in my summer playlist.  How many weeks left of summer? Three? Four? By my calculations, that actually leaves me barely any time to type. So, hopefully you’ll find something to enjoy in these songs while you watch high-level badminton, handball, cheaters swimming or whatever other Olympic sport suits your fancy.


Junior Senior — “We R the Handclaps” from Hey Hey My My Yo Yo

These two dudes really like pop music. You can hear it in each carefully constructed gem on this record, which harkens back to the craftsmanship of ABBA, and the modern ABBA—Ace of Base.  If you couldn’t hear it in the music, almost all of the lyrics are about writing pop music.  That and girls, obviously.  It’s hard to pick one song, but “We R the Handclaps” might have one of the catchiest choruses since “I Want You Back.”


XTC  — “Summer’s Cauldron” from Skylarking

This is a song that is so evocative of summer that it’s more of a song for winter, if you know what I mean.  Like, why put on virtual reality goggles to look at a view that is right in front of you?  Right? Did they ever end up inventing virtual reality goggles, or is that just a relic of mid-90s sci-fi movies?  Suffice it to say that this song and its partner “Grass”—along with the entire Skylarking album—are the pinnacle in “summery” music.


GAS — “Untitled #1”

For one semester in college, I had an ambient music radio show, which actually followed a slot by main Puddler M. Domino.  He may remember that my introductions to the show were rather sheepish and apologetic. I didn’t thrust myself on the airwaves with a “YESYESY’ALL, WHO’S READY FOR SOME MUSICAL WALLPAPER?!!”  It was a very mellow two hours, but hopefully some people enjoyed it*.  The best ambient music can work as foreground or background, and few do it better than GAS on a record called Pop (quite the cheeky title for an ambient album.)  It is meant to be subjective, but all of the inscrutable sounds on this album bring me to the edge of a large pond at dusk.  Fish are hopping, bugs are buzzing, and somehow I can hear the humidity in the air.  This is summer as an ineffable sound blanket.

(*Editor’s Note: Gundel’s lead-in of, “Welcome to my radio show. This is the show where I play ambient music. And hopefully some people will enjoy it.” Remains one of my favorite introductions/lead-ins of all-time.)


Bikeride — “A Dancer’s Feet Are Not So Neat” from The Kiss

This band has just about the saddest story of any that I’m aware of.  They put out four albums of very good, thoughtful rock music (especially Morning Macumba and The Kiss); popular success eluded them, and then their songwriter/singer Tony Carbone died of brain cancer.  What a bummer.  Carbone had that innate knack for perfect melody that is impossible to learn, and there are about a dozen joyful, summery Bikeride songs to prove it.  I’ve changed my mind about which one to select multiple times while writing this blurb.  Uhhhhhhhh… this one?  Seriously, check out this band. 


Gastr Del Sol — “The Seasons Reverse” from Camofleur
(Sorry for the kind of dumb video, it’s the best I could find.)

I’ll use just about any excuse to mention Camofleur by Gastr Del Sol, the superduo of David Grubbs and Jim O’Rourke.  It is both a pop record and a totally unique piece of sonic experimentation.  This tune culminates with dueling trumpet/steel drum solos atop super jazzy drumming and field recordings of fireworks.  Sounds good to me! Oh, and the lyrics mention the word summer.  Like I said, any excuse. 


The Go-Betweens — “Head Full of Steam” from Liberty Belle & The Black Diamond Express

I know that it’s probably because they are from Australia, a muggy, tropical land in my mind, but the only season I associate with the Go-Betweens is summer. They also include a lot of imagery of rain, lightning, diving, and heat.  And when else could you fall for a girl in such a way that your head starts steaming like an old Looney Tune? I love the exuberance of this one, how the band starts loud and doesn’t diminish in the slightest when the vocals come in.  A fantastic love song by a great summer band.


Miles Davis — “Black Satin” from On the Corner
(Skip the advertisement at the beginning of this video. C'mon, don't be lazy. It's worth it.)

If you have lived in New York or any other populous city for an entire summer, you know that summer heat lingers a bit differently when you are surrounded by concrete. It sticks to the tar like stink on poop, the buildings stifling any breeze that might bring relief. Sometimes I can sense everyone reaching closer to the brink of insanity, or perhaps I’m just speaking for myself. Judging by the album cover, the eponymous Corner probably held a more nefarious meaning for Miles, but to me, this song really captures that summer insanity of a city.  The woozy funkiness of it, the way the guitar sometimes sounds like a passing truck horn, how incessant and unrelenting it is.  Right now, it looks like rain in Brooklyn. Here’s hoping!

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