Every summer, I promise myself that I will try my best to live in full sun, to fully express my water-loving, active nature and resist the cool darkness of my apartment, where wasting time is a natural state of being. Every summer, I think about my first days on my own when even the walk from my house to the park was exhilarating, full of novelty and surprise, when I smoked cigarettes and took unfamiliar footpaths just to see where they led. But it's difficult in these times to feel surprised by anything that isn't also accompanied by a sense of dread; that dread is beginning to feel like a grouchy but familiar companion, trotting alongside me on my 100 degree midday walks. Summer 2020 doesn't feel like a moment in time when we can be fully present; it feels as though we are being steadily hastened forward, all the while looking back to see how far we've gone, that glance full of longing, and perhaps remorse.
But enough melancholy; let's think of longing as time travel—and the easiest way to be transported through time is through music.
This playlist is inspired by summers past, it is a tribute to youth and a feeling of momentary blissful lostness. In it, I dip into a sunlit pool of voices I remember from those sweet indie days, sometimes dripping with nostalgia, with lyrics like:
At other times, these songs launch me into the future, where certain nostalgias aren't allowed to follow, as in "Don't Call Again" by Tkay Maidza the single from her latest album, which in my opinion, should win title of the year, Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2:
I said it all, all I need to say
No, don't hit my line
Please don't call again
...as if to release us from the past, to invite new language into the rising days. (Though I highly recommend watching the "Don't Call Again" music video which is some kind of psychedelic comic strip collage that Maizda helped to direct.)
In these songs I feel the proximity of our collective past and future bowing toward one another like willow branches across a dried up riverbed, our past and our future like sibling harmonies wavering in the air. This feels especially present in the music of Ariel Pink, his thick gauzy layers of sound both vintage and visionary—
The story ends untold
My will survives
In a thousand future lives
...and like the R&B synth-pop music of the band Discovery, lost in the undertow of the duo's respective members' more successful projects—Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot—the momentary is all the more substantial because it is impermanent.
The heartbeat of this playlist thrums in the fierce vocals of Sampa The Great, stitched in an intricate pattern through the rhythm of her jazz-inspired beat. Born in Zambia, raised in Botswana and located in Melbourne, Sampa's music is rooted in her connections to those places, these nomadic experiences that have shaped her individuality. In her own words, she's a "picture-perfect bass recital" and like Sampa, I want nothing more this year than to figure out how to bury "my anxiety dead" and walk the world "with the courage to love" and "feel unafraid." May this summer's end be like her song titled "Summer," ending with a mantra "I'm not afraid."
This sort of time travel is not about pining after youth or better days—I don't want to smoke cigarettes, or be that careless, aloof girl with no sense of direction. But sometimes—and I think now is one of those times—I need her to walk with me. It's about infusing the current moment with other moments from our past, letting the echoes of where we're from reverberate through time into the present, when we might need every version of ourselves to pool together in a hot-blooded revival to face the future.
For the rest of these hot, Austin summer days, I just want to roll under the chill, hypnagogic waves of Ariel Pink, under the ambient extraterrestrial waves of Grouper. I want to "pledge allegiance to funk in all its forms," to let "the tide come up" and take me away so that when I'm dreaming, I can "watch the treeline fall away." I want to write your name in the last open space on my sun-kissed dance card, to marinate in the glow of real love that radiates off this golden pond in the heat of the present.