WOLFSONGS is back from hiatus for its first full installment of the summer.
Living in our northern climate, the year’s seasons come to shape our lives in ways we probably don’t fully appreciate. In the long drawn days of July, their seemingly endless supply of daylight, it’s easy to forget the darkness of winter — living only indoors, under layers, our affects suffering their seasonal lows.
As Old Nan would say to us summer children, “What do you know of fear? Fear is for the winter…”
It is not to say that winter lacks its own beauty — it’s certainly owed its due. But this space is for celebrating summer, when everything is just a little easier. What better way to commemorate this easy living than with a soundtrack that just makes us feel good.
“Swimming Pool Summer,” Capital Cities (JH)
Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian formed Capital Cities in 2011 after a stint together writing jingles for commercials and ad campaigns. They found Top Ten success with their first single, “Safe and Sound,” and made an impact on this WOLFSONGS crew with another jam from Summer ’13.
Capital Cities have been largely missing from my life since winning my song of the summer 2013 with “Farah Fawcett Hair.” They have now returned shooting their shot at my song of the summer 2017.
In this season of smash hit after smash hit from huge names working largely in collaboration, “Swimming Pool Summer” comes through as a bit of an underdog, yet manages to make a strong case for itself as a memorable summer jam. They establish an easy groove from the opening stanza, hitting many of the buzzwords one might expect from a summer song: “swimming pool,” “summer” (I mean it’s right there in the title), “party,” “champagne,” “heat.” It’s all so very seasonal. Overall it is one of Capital Cities’ more straightforward efforts, without any heavy sampling or electronica. But its simplicity plays to its advantage, capitalizing on more simple instrumentation with strings, horns, and guitar leading the charge to create a pretty soothing tone.
Simply put, this song makes you feel just like you’re at a swimming pool in the summer. Feels good, man.
“Something to Tell You,” HAIM (EJ)
Our most recent Belt-Winners return this week with the release of their album, represented strongly here by its title track.
“Something to Tell You” shines through as an upbeat highlight from the strong new album from the sisters HAIM. The addition of this track as my weekly winner, plus the two you’ll find downstream in Jake’s Hons, rounds out a total of six of the 11 tracks from Something to Tell You on the WOLFSONGS playlist (I’d call it unprecedented, but Calvin Harris landed six tracks from Funk Wav just last week). We are clearly in ‘Album of the Year’ consideration territory here.
HAIM is just doing everything they do well on this track. A three-pronged attack with percussive vocal melodies, Danielle leading the way with her pensive yet confident, hushed yet powerful tone.
Este is popping and slapping that bass like Flea in all the right moments; you can just see her making the patented bass-face.
And don’t forget about Baby Haim Alana, not overtly featured on this one but holding her own on guitar, keys, and backup vocals.
HAIM’s appeal is so simple and pure that it’s almost too good to be true. Three sisters with infectious personalities writing excellent rock songs with massive appeal, expertly playing their own instruments and killing every single live performance. It almost brings a tear to my eye how beautiful the whole thing is. They often draw comparisons to Heart or Wilson Philips, undoubtedly due to a shared female predominance, but the fact is that they hold up to just about any group, past or present, male, female, or otherwise.
I really hemmed and hawed on the winner for this week. “Swimming Pool Summer” exemplifies the theme for this week so perfectly, and it’s certainly a win-worthy song. It would provide some nice variety in what’s been a HAIM-heavy last couple weeks. But in the end, the quality of “Something to Tell You” overcame all; it’s just too good! Although they do currently hold the belt, a win this week for the album’s title track feels an appropriately symbolic ode to the greatness of the album as a whole. This does set up a HAIM v. HAIM showdown for the belt, which isn’t ideal I guess, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Your winner of the week…
HAIM ::: Something to Tell You
- “Walking Away,” HAIM
- HAIM has a very strong bid for my album of the year with Something To Tell You. The album is fantastic from front to back and I tried my best to not have all my Hons just be songs off their album this week. I’m legit counting down the days until September when I get to see HAIM live in Chicago. Be jealous.
- “Nothing’s Wrong,” HAIM
- More HAIM, just go listen to the whole album already.
- “Get Low,” Zedd ft. Liam Payne
- This was a very good week for summer jams. EDM mainstay Zedd has had a lot of success working with pop artists in the past like Hayley Williams, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, etc. Here he taps in Liam Payne from One Direction and it’s legit. If you are sitting poolside you’ll want this playing.
- “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” John Gibbons
- Shouts to friend of the blog Kylie on this one. High energy cover of the musical MJ, good luck not bobbing your head to this one.
- “Turn Up The Love,” AlunaGeorge
- AlunaGeorge is an electronic music duo that has done quite a bit of remix work while also working with bigger names like Flume, Disclosure, and ZHU. I haven’t listened to a ton of their solo work but I do really like this single.
- “Going to a Place,” Joywave
- Another strong release from Joywave, which has had representation on our playlist with nearly every single it’s released this year. Its second album, Content, comes out 07/28, leaving one wondering if they’ve saved any heaters for the full release, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see. This track starts out tonally rather ‘in-your-face,’ but later finds its strength in the smaller, more delicate moments, ending with soft falsetto over a light beat and dulcet keyboard tones. It does a great job showing off the band’s skill in composition and mastery of tone.
- “Girl Friday,” Capital Cities ft. Rick Ross
- The companion release to Jake’s winner of the week, this track captures that summer vibe we’ve been talking about to a ‘T’. Rick Ross is tapped to do what he does best, a great complement to the catchy chorus.
- “Thinking ‘Bout You (Sleepless in Cairo),” Sufyvn ft. BJ the Chicago Kid
- Sudanese beatmaker Sufyvn provides the backing track for this R&B jam. I’m a big BJ the Chicago Kid fan, and I absolutely love this pairing. This track was released as a part of Spotify’s ‘I’m with the banned‘ series, in which they feature music from artists native to the countries affected by Trump’s travel ban. The artists collaborated with American artists to exhibit the transcendence of music and to remind us that our commonalities and connectedness lies much deeper than country of origin.
- “helpline,” Mura Masa ft. Tom Tripp
- This single slides in a week before Mura Masa’s album release and follows some previous singles with big name features (Damon Albarn, Desiiigner, Charli XCX, Christine and the Queens). Yet this track featuring the relatively unknown Tom Tripp holds up strongly to those previous (all of which also made our playlist) with its upbeat summer vibe. Keep in mind that Mura Masa a.k.a. Alex Crossan is 21 years old. This up-and-comer is looking at a pretty sunny future. Damn, Gina.
- “Horror Show,” DJ Shadow ft. Danny Brown
- DJ Shadow returns with the EP The Mountain Has Fallen, tapping the unique voice of Danny Brown for this track. It legit sounds like the theme song for some sort of demented horror show — a testament to DJ Shadow’s ability to create a mood. The minor keyed pipe organ tones throughout the song evoke a classic horror film vibe, and Danny Brown comes off sounding quite believably unhinged. There aren’t enough good Halloween songs, so I welcome this one in July with open severed limbs.
SHOWDOWN FOR THE BELT
Well…this is awkward.
Is it like a clone vs. clone situation? Some sort of evil twin circumstance? Or maybe the three sisters are just pitted against one another? This feels complicated.
I think what should be gleaned from this is that HAIM can’t lose.
I’m not sure I can make an ironclad argument that “Something to Tell You” is a superior song to “Want You Back” (a tough hill to climb for any individual track), I think we can apply the Kendrick treatment to HAIM here and give them dual representation on the Belt Playlist. Like I said, they can’t lose.
The HAIMs have it!