It’s easy to overthink a mix tape. Whether you’re showing off for a friend or giving one as a de facto flower bouquet for a new love, assembling a collection of tunes says something about you and you want that something to be good. But the rules change slightly when you’re building a summer playlist. You just kind of throw together whatever’s making you feel good in the moment.
And that’s what I’ve done. There’s not a lot of cohesion to the list. A lot of genre-hopping. All I’ve tried to do is take the tracks I’ve been listening to since the start of London’s punishing heat wave and assembled them in a way that minimizes sonic dissonance.
Does it flow? Not as much as I’d like it to. Is it summery? As fuck.
Stay On It – Julius Eastman
A punchy opener as it’s over 20 minutes long but this early exercise in post minimalism is glorious. All but forgotten since his death in 1990, Eastman’s reach is growing thanks to the efforts of fellow composer Mary Jane Leach who’s dedicated a lot of time and energy to preserving his legacy.
The Jungle Line – Joni Mitchell
A perennial favorite that just sounds sweaty and propulsive. To me this is summer in the city. It’s discomfort. Being smothered by the skin of others on a hot train carriage.
My Queen is Ada Eastman – Sons of Kemet
An assault of energetic euphoria courtesy of Shabaka Hutchings, one of the most exciting talents in jazz music’s recent revival.
The Family – Nina Simone
This is from the Baltimore record, produced by Creed Taylor who, at the time, was particularly into reggae. Simone famously hated the album and thought it sounded corny. I think time has been kind.
No One’s Little Girl – The Raincoats
One of The Raincoats’ poppier efforts in spite of the contrarian lyrics.
Recollections of the Wraith – Shabazz Palaces
Spacey, laid back cool.
Soul Vibrations – Dorothy Ashby
Spacey, laid back cool with an addition of harp.
Butterflies – Kacey Musgraves
A little Texas flavor via Nashville, this is one of many great tunes from one of 2018’s best albums.
Them Changes – Thundercat
Slap bass is a tricky thing to pull off without sounding shit. Thundercat’s managed to make a career out of it. He’s probably most famous for playing on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly but his solo work is worth digging into.
From the Air – Laurie Anderson
The opening track from Big Science. I actually prefer it to O Superman, the most celebrated song from the album.
Work Out – Chance The Rapper
This is one of four new tracks Chance released last month. It’s probably not the best of the lot but it’s so listenable and easygoing that it puts a smile on my face every time I hear it.
Inspiration Information – Shuggie Otis
This is a summer classic for me. The sound of baking pavement and hanging out on sun-bleached street corners.
Adventures In Success – Will Powers
A spoken word oddity from photographer Lynn Goldsmith. She recorded a comedy album parodying self-help entrepreneurs but it was surprisingly danceable and a couple of singles from it charted as a result.
Make 1,2 – Arthur Russell
I have no idea why Arthur Russell is so inextricably linked to summer in my mind but I almost never listen to him between October and June. And the sun has to be shining. I could’ve built an entire other summer mix purely based on his output.
Constructive Summer – The Hold Steady
Shifting gears with a fist-pumping slice of guitar rock punctuated by stabbing, rolling piano.
Raise Your Voice Joyce – Fucked Up
The new single from the Toronto hardcore outfit doubles down on the previous
bop’s change of pace.
If You Know You Know – Pusha T
In my opinion this is best track from Kanye’s recent GOOD Friday drops. It’s probably my official song of the summer too.
Courtyard – Bobbie Gentry
Calming things right back down again we have the gorgeous closer from Ms Gentry’s oft overlooked The Delta Sweete. Filled with bonkers, over-the-top production that changes from track to track, it’s the American country equivalent to Sgt Pepper. But this track is like lying in lush green summer grass as a cool breeze blows gently over you.
Sea Calls Me Home – Julia Holter
A sumptuous bath of melody from a restless, experimental mind. Julia’s work can be impenetrable one minute, and inexplicably hooky the next. A favorite.
Nautilus – Anna Meredith
Anna Meredith’s is great at opening salvos. Her new piece kicked off this year’s Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and Nautilus – a triumphant blast of horns – is the first and best track off her album Varmints. I think it works well as a closer too. It’s slightly counterintuitive but I like to finish a mix with energy.