Music Playlist Series: The Sounds of Summer

by Laine Kaplan-Levenson

Hola Nola, and hola the long, hot summer. This week sees a top ten mix of what’s been on rotation as spring heads into summer. From underground to top 40 hip-hop, obscure electronic indulgence, old world reggae, and the necessary French remix, there's plenty of bump n grind to either keep our minds off, or better yet enjoy the brutal beast of humid heat.


First up is a catchy instrumental I’ve recently come across by Sonny Moore, aka Skrillex, a boss of the local Bassik party scene; I don’t dabble too ferociously in the electro-house/drum ‘n’ bass scene, but ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ remixed by Gabriell, is a very accessible, night at the Roxbury head nodding tune. This remix was released on June 21st as part of a follow up to his full-length album of the same title, on a mini EP titled More Monsters and Sprites. If we’re diving in with the remixes (and there are many to get through), we may as well turn to the new Yelle album, and her top notch ‘Que Veux Tu’ (What Do You Want). Finally being ‘so over’ Yelle, sick of the once beloved ‘Ce Jeu’ and ‘Amour Du Sol’, (but never this gem) she came out with more a sophisticated and confident sling of songs; the original is excellent, but the Madeon Remix is harder/better/faster/stronger, and is #winning.


Speaking of badass remixes, Danish singer-songwriter and Brooklyn resident Oh Land has been discussed in a previous post regarding the Yuksek remix of her ‘Son of a Gun’; today her ‘White Nights’ is on board, but with Twin Shadow’s tweak. Twin Shadow is George Lewis Jr., a musician born in the DR and raised in Florida. And then guess what…he moved to Brooklyn! Speaking of Crooklyn (again), word on the street is that this song is flying through the NY film and fashion world, playing on film set wardrobe departments in Soho and the like. Maybe now you don’t want to listen to it anymore, but you’ll only be turned off until you turn it on (please believe it).



Moving on, to more remixes..the last one:  ever heard of this television network called NBC? Ever heard of this new show called Community? Neither have I, but apparently there’s an actor on the show named Donald McKinley Glover, and apparently this is the same person as the very talented Childish Gambino. This actor/writer/comedian is, in the humble hola nola opinion, first and foremost a rapper, and a sharp one at that. With wildly inappropriate puns (‘The beat is witches brew, but beware this sh*t is potent, E.E. Cummin’ on her face, now that’s poetry in motion’), to insider musical references (‘I have worked all winter, I will not fail summer, in the back of the bush, like Gavin Rossdale’s drummer’) to straight up wit (‘took the G out your waffle, all you got left is your ego’…get it?!), ‘Freaks and Geeks’ is one punch line after the next, and the slick Star Slinger cranks it up with this crafty re-edit; also check this remix of Alex Winston’s ‘Sister Wife’ to get a taste of this producer’s versatility. 


The remixes are through, but the rap game’s just begun- and yes, I’m about to talk about a Drake song. And no, it’s not anything you’ve heard on 102.9 or 93.3fm (no offense). Here’s the back story- in 2007, British musician/producer Jai Paul released 'BTSTU', a demo that has been receiving consistent and positive coverage since. Drizzy heard the title track, and looped it as a beat on his new ‘Dreams Money Can Buy’. The result sample is unique for Drake’s sound, with new sensitivity and pacing (a but reminiscent of the slow and somber ‘Successful’) but with familiar characteristics interspersed, a la his tendency to break into song (Yeah, I throw my dollars up high, And they land on the stage you dance on, We got company coming over, Would it kill you to put some pants on?’).


Speaking of mixtape marijuana millionaires, Wiz Khalifa is also, as Drake says in the aforementioned song ‘too busy to drive stick’, with all the fortune and fame that’s come his way. ‘Black And Yellow’ and ‘This Plane’ brought him to the mainstream, and his current ‘Roll Up’ plays as often as ‘Iko Iko’ on the Steamboat Natchez (unfortunately), but this lesser known ‘Flickin’ Ashes’ is all soul, considering it samples the late Willie Hutch’s 1974 ‘Overture of Foxy Brown’. Again, good stuff, and not that type he’s rapping about. No more time for rap, so just listen to Big Sean’s ‘Don’t Wait For Me’ feat. Lupe Fiasco, who’s forgivingly respectable on the track, a relief after his abominable Modest Mouse sample with ‘The Show Goes On’, and the underground Apollo Brown’s ‘Desparation’, for more soulful instrumentals.


Moving away from the essence of the beat, Kentucky’s James Friley, aka Idiot Glee, nerdily lays down vulnerable lyrics and meek orchestration, creating a gentle, almost submissive quality that is an ultimately appealing one, to say the least. Think Beach Boys meets Jens Lekman meets Cults meets the Fleet Foxes. Or just listen to ‘Don’t Go Out Tonight’. Watch out for Idiot Glee, the kids be blogging. Speaking of Fleet Foxes, there’s a new record (The Bean Gallery on Carrollton bumps it whenever it needs a break from WWNO, fyi), and ‘Helplessness Blues’ has that same fire flame ferocity from the first self-titled LP. It’s that Grand Canyon recording style- vast, open, loud, hollow, full, ear-shattering, eye-tearing harmony that hits like a hammer to the knee, doctor testing the reflexes style.


To close out with some reggae, as one can only assume Wiz Khalifa does every now and again, we remember and celebrate two monster Jamaican jammers. La premier est Barry Biggs, best known for his covers of Stevie Wonder’s ‘My Cherie Amour’ and The Temptations’ ‘Just My Imagination’, but is represented today with ‘Work All Day’, which happened to reach #38 on the UK Charts in 1976. The next reggae renegade ran on more of a rocksteady root, especially on The Harder They Come soundtrack. “Johnny Too Bad” by The Slickers is just too good, no ifs ands or buts.


None of this isn’t to say that I’m not also listening to Purity Ring’s ‘Ungirthed’, ‘Les Sins’ by Lina, ‘Blanket’ by Bachelorette, the Beastie Boys’ new record, Badu’s new record (and her older ‘The Healer’ every day), and the Kelly/Kelly ‘Motivation’, but there are only so many hours in one day, and so many GBs in one PC. On that note, until next time…

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