As the sultry musk of summer gets ready to coat our bodies like a clammy dishrag, here are a couple of homemade mix tapes to keep you cool in the midst of all that global warming, sticky sex and melted ice cream. The first tape is made up of some of the best acts -- domestic and imported, known and unknown -- making music today, while the second is a sizzling sampler of ten of Colorado's finest. So go ahead, stick your toe in -- the swelter's fine.
A Heatstroke of Genius
"It Takes Two"
Value Series Vol. 1: Fool's Gold
The recipe for a perfect back-porch cocktail: Pour the Summer Hymns' wispy, Deep South psychedelia over Johnny "Guitar" Watson's soul classic "It Takes Two." Stir briskly with a sprig of the Band's Music From Big Pink. The result? A long, cool drink of pop intoxication.
"Summer's Gonna Be My Girl"
The Go, The Go
Even though the White Stripes' Jack White left the band years ago, this Detroit quartet still knows how to kick out the shit. "Summer's Gonna Be My Girl" resembles the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" being melted down by Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac: catchy, stewed in the blues and as funky as a ripe armpit.
Peopled with buoys and dirigibles, this song showcases Joanna Newsome's whimsical, elegant embroidery, a cross-stitching of doe-eyed folk and dulcetly strummed harp (yes, harp). Imagine picnic lunches, bong hits and long afternoon naps in the grass. Up, up and away.
"Deckchairs and Cigarettes"
The Thrills, So Much for the CityAlthough Irish in origin, on "Deckchairs and Cigarettes" the Thrills sound squarely situated between Grandaddy and the Carpenters. The breezy, gull-haunted cut was inspired by a sunny sabbatical in California's Big Sur. You can almost taste the salty air in your sinuses.
"Bored With Summer"
Roy, Big City Sin and Small Town Redemption
The hardcore kids in Roy, a side project by current and former members of heavy-hitters like Botch, Harkonen and These Arms Are Snakes, take the gentle, rustic route here. Instead of gloom and gravity, this instrumental interlude between country-tinged indie-rock vignettes conjures a warm and lonely wind straight off the best Built to Spill.
"Let Your Earth Quake, Baby"
The Thermals, Fuckin A
Portland's spaz-powered trio unleashes an almost hoedown-level tremor on its patented pop formula. Registers a full ten and a half on the summer-anthem scale.
The One AM Radio, A Name Writ in WaterNeed a soundtrack for a high-country brush fire? Tune in to singer/guitarist Hrishikesh Hirway, otherwise known as the One AM Radio. Kindled by violin, upright bass and downbeat electronics, Hirway's ashen voice is the perfect backdrop for marshmallows being toasted over burning dreams.
Need New Body, UFO
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the beach, Need New Body shows up with a big, fake fin strapped to its back. The Philly-based prank squad is infamous for the artiness and theatricality of its live shows, but this recording is just as cleverly chaotic, an oddly danceable pileup of free jazz, new wave and raucous irreverence.
"Open Your Eyes"
United States of Electronica, United States of Electronica
There's nothing like a dance floor all lubed up with perspiration, and there's nothing that'll get the pores flowing like United States of Electronica. But don't let the name fool you: This cadre of disco revivalists converts the standard rock-band paradigm into a lean, mean boogie machine on par with Komeda or Junior Senior. Prepare to wet yourself.
The Free Design, Heaven/Earth
What better way to round out the tape than a jazzy rendition of Gershwin's classic "Summertime"? Originally released in the late '60s, the Free Design's catalogue has recently been reissued, showing that the obscure coed combo is the missing link between the Association and Stereolab. Funky, fuzzy and fun, this is the pulse of summer.
If Nick Drake had grown up on a steady diet of Kurt Cobain, he'd be embroiled in a plagiarism lawsuit with Patrick Porter. "Kolorado" is a gorgeous, listless folk dirge as hallucinatory as a brain fever in the middle of July.
"Sleeper Hit of the Summer"
Grace Like Gravity, Nothing We Say Leaves This Room
Although the song title is meant ironically, Grace Like Gravity's epic collision of pop, emo and arena rock is gigantic enough to rank up there with chart-climbers such as Thrice and Coheed and Cambria. Worthy of being blared at your next pool party or half-pipe session.
"I Never See the Sun"
Bambi Lee Savage, Matter of TimeLike a storm cloud drawing across the noonday sun, Bambi Lee Savage's voice can make the happiest person shudder with apprehension. This onetime collaborator with Nick Cave's Bad Seeds unleashes a lament to heartache, empty packs of smokes and long afternoons locked in dark rooms.
"Made in the Shade" The Reals, Majestic
A full pitcher of lemonade isn't enough to match the bracing, lip-puckering twang of the Reals. With male/female harmonies intertwining like tree branches overhead, the rustic sound of "Made in the Shade" is guaranteed to regulate your body temperature as it washes over your soul.
Illuminated by haunting bass tones and vaguely Brit-pop-accented melodies, "Firefly" flashes like heat lightning across a fluttery beat while voices echo into the torrid night sky. Put down a blanket and watch them buzz.
"Fat Man Gas Balloon"
O'er the Ramparts, Radio 1190 Local Shakedown Vol. II
Taking a breather from its usual hyperactive pop, local indie-rock stalwart O'er the Ramparts pumps out a blob of psychedelic whimsy that beams with all the helium-infused bewilderment of Syd Barrett and Sgt. Pepper's. Whip out the shades for this one.
"Drag Through Dust"
Deadlock Frequency, Traffic
Neurosis and Agnostic Front get in a playground fight, grinding each other's teeth in the dirt until blood flows red on the jungle gym. Heavier, meaner and more desperate than a pack of distemper-stricken rhinos.
"Smiles and Photographs"
The Fifth Utility,
Ultra Nylon Life of Ease
What's summer without snapshots and memories? Of course, they needn't all be as melancholic as "Smiles and Photographs," an acoustic, Radiohead-esque remembrance of things past -- especially the kind that should have been left where they were.
The Gamits, Antidote
Chris Fogal has long been one of Denver's undervalued songwriters, but this track might be the one to finally turn heads outside the punk arena. As catchy and accomplished as Weezer's best, "Open Window" is a fat lungful of fresh air.
Breezy Porticos, Keep It Crisp
To top off the local mix and send you packin' off into the sunset is the Breezy Porticos. Swimming with imagery of orange juice and Technicolor pictures, "Cloudninin'" revels in the glory of daydreaming your summer away. If you like the smell of mown grass, listening to the Shins and/or eating peach cobbler off paper plates, this one's for you.