Though the temperature continues a cycle of climbing and falling, the safe pronouncement is that Summer has finally arrived, bringing with it the annual parade of outdoor festivals, back porch conversations, and endless yard projects. Whether playing from the outdoors speakers on our deck or blasting from my car stereo as I head down the road, I turn to a particular type of song in the warm months. These are the songs best played loud, both to feel the music in my chest and to drown out my own singing for others nearby. These are the songs that pump the blood and raise the spirits. Though they will often find their way onto my playlist year-round, it is in the summer that this music displays its full potential.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are almost exclusively played during the warmer months in my world. No season fits better Flea's dance-inducing heavy basslines and Anthony Kiedis' hopeful yet melancholy storytelling than that of summer. In the “Stadium Arcadium” transition track, “Wet Sand,” the art of the build is on full display, with the entire band uniting in vocals and rhythm in the song's final 30 seconds. “Make You Feel Better,” from the second disc of the same album, is also a favorite, if only for the defiant message in the repeated lyric and one of my favorite quotes, “somehow we'll make it, 'cause that's what we do.” The entirety of the now classic “Californication” album is a reminder of the staying power of not only the band but, released in a time when “rock was dying,” that of relevant, sustainable modern music.
In my years prior to living in Niles, I purchased a house at a young age in my childhood town of Bridgman. There I lived a unique lifestyle of independent adventure, spending much of my free time at Weko Beach and the surrounding dunes of Lake Michigan. I traveled with hiking friends or on my own seeking all life had to offer a single, career-less individual. With friends or alone, I would return home to my hammock and my front porch, with music on the stereo and a cerveza in my hand.
Often the air on those nights was filled with the relaxed songs of carefree life by local favorite Hello Dave. In many ways, I was much like the protagonist of “Biminy,” living my life “with no need to hurry, no need to worry.” It was in that time, I converted from a small-town kid hoping to escape to an adult appreciating all Michigan had to offer. Hello Dave's own “Michigan” reflected that appreciation, praising the “cool water,” “the art in Ann Arbor,” and even “St. Joe in a blanket of snow.” In those summers, it served as my soundtrack to waking up to the many beauties available right here in my home state.
A summer song list would be incomplete without the music of Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers. As my favorite band since the age of 14, they are a constant part of the soundtrack of my life, but in the summer they hold a particular relevance. “Heaven On A Paper Plate” is the most obvious track, an ode to cook-outs, squirt-gun fights, and the friends and family brought together in the gatherings of the hottest days of the year. “Manana” recalls the relaxation previously discussed, opening with a To-Do list anyone would claim, containing simply “fiesta number one, siesta number two.” The entire Peacemakers catalog is a celebration of life in both good times and bad, with “Mekong” as their flagship tune. It's chorus signifies the entire philosophy of the band, encouraging a love for one another and a love of life in the most excellent lyrics to cross this listener's ears, “if your bottle is empty, help yourself to mine, thank you for your time, and here's to life.”
In these summer months especially, but in life always, be sure to seek out the songs that remind you to free your spirit, relax your pulse, and embrace your neighbor. With bare feet and a light heart, turn up the music and enjoy. Here's to life.