MusicMusic Features

Athens Summer Songs: A Classic City Mixtape


1. “Summer Heat” by The Whigs

Although The Whigs may have left Athens to put down roots up the road in Nashville, the band’s “Summer Heat,” from last year’s Enjoy the Company, still works as a reminder that there’s no escaping the blazing temperatures in the South. Nevertheless, the song is an inspiration to get out there while the sun is still beaming. Featuring lyrical references to driving around with the windows down and shirtless fist-fights, the tune just doesn’t feel right played during any other season. [Dan Mistich]

2. “Better Alone” by Grass Giraffes

I’m not sure where I first heard “Better Alone,” but my best guess is those first chiming guitar notes hit my ears somewhere on Loop 10, because the tune is now inextricably linked in my mind with summer driving. It seems appropriate, since summer always makes me feel weirdly nostalgic for the present. It’s Eddie Whelan’s moody singing on this track that I love most, and while Steven Trimmer is still making great tunes as Glasscrafts, this version of his music seems to have flown the coop when Whelan did the same. So long, Grass Giraffes. We’ll always have summer. [Rachel Bailey]

3. “Weather Radio” by Pylon

The funky, indelible Gyrate is a classic summer-in-Athens album, mostly because—and don’t tell the kids this—it’s the season when the real fun starts. The streets of downtown, free from UGGs and full of hugs, comprise a veritable townie playground in the warmer months, an open-air party market where folks are free to really let loose. In terms of total population, the Classic City in the summer may be as sparse as the playing on the instrumental “Weather Radio,” but there’s a near-constant party within the negative space. [Gabe Vodicka]

4. “Shine (in Your Mind)” by The Apples in Stereo

Not all summer songs are about beaches and pool parties. As the Apples demonstrate on “Shine (in Your Mind),” summer can be a state of mind. Sure, frontman Robert Schneider sings about beauty all around, spotlighted by beaming sun and flourishing nature. But the sunny pop anthem also contends that “Your mind is falling from the trees” and “pouring from the sky.” That is, you can always have a bright, sunny adventure without leaving the comfort of air conditioning. [Bobby Power]

5. “St. Summercamp” by Futurebirds

“St. Summercamp” captures the essence of days where it’s too hot to function. The slow, dreamy song is perfect for lying on a float, sitting on the porch with a beer or driving aimlessly around. The tune evokes the most carefree days of your childhood, spent “happy as a pile of clams.” It exceeds eight minutes, yet it passes quickly, matching the contradictory pace of summertime. Likewise, the idyllic imagery of the lyrics paired with a somber melody express what it’s like to both experience and then look back on the best season of the year.  [Jodi Murphy]


1. “Cozy Space Mugz” by Green Gerry

If you keep waking up on the couch at noon, somehow sunburned from the light shining through the window, then let “Cozy Space Mugz” be your anthem. It’s late, you’re dazed, you look around but find “no faces.” Never fear. Play along to the plinking click track—any of the unwashed dishes in your sink will do. You’ll recover enough equilibrium to make it out the door, at least. Step outside, full of promise, Gerry’s insistent voice in your ear: “Ba da ba da ba da ba da.” It only lasts a minute, but it’s enough, and now you’ve got the rest of the day. [Marshall Yarbrough]

2. “Swim” by The Glands

Every track on the The Glands’ self-titled 2000 record screams summertime, but with its lush string arrangements and bouncy keyboard lines, “Swim” is especially of the season. Singer Ross Shapiro’s voice has a bright and shining quality throughout, and if the song’s sirenlike opening lines (“I can hear the ocean and it’s calling you to come,” et al) don’t make you want to hop in the nearest body of water to cool off, I don’t know what would. [DM]

3. “Sunshine” by Quiet Hooves

It’s a weird kind of woman Julian Bozeman loves. She’s got “A heart that ticks like clicking teeth”; she’s got “Skin that bends like purple wine/ Against the rim of a golden glass.” “Sunshine” is all description: three verses, just a quatrain each, the last line pointedly unrhymed. The song plays like a skewed sonnet. Mercer West’s fall-down-the-stairs drumming leads the band into the chorus, languid and lurching all at once. There’s a twinge of violin that hints that the clouds are about to clear, and when they do, the horns pour over you like—well, you know. [MY]

4.”Occupation (Demo)” by Carrie Nations

The guitars are loud, the tempo is up and the playing is as sloppy as a drunk cruster: “Occupation” is the sound of a summer Athens house party to a T. For several years during the early aughts, Carrie Nations was at the heart of Athens’ DIY rock scene (they’re reuniting for a show later this month—more on that in this weeks Threats & Promises). But listening back to the group’s early demos, it’s shocking how accessible their music actually was. Like Bob Pollard and Lou Barlow before them, Carrie Nations’ sharp-edged exterior belied their pop core. Sometimes, punks just wanna have fun. [GV]

5. “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel

Superficially, “Aeroplane” sounds like a summer day spent frolicking through a field. The acoustic guitar, resolute horns and flying-machine singing saw, combined with the lyrics of the first two verses, justify the carelessness that comes with youth. “But, for now, we are young/ Let us lay in the sun/ And count every beautiful thing we can see,” goes the second verse, an excellent suggestion for how to spend a summer day. As the lyrics take a turn for the surreal, the song reflects the season’s inevitable end. [JM]

6. “Nightswimming” by R.E.M.

Any number of R.E.M. tunes would be fitting inclusions on this mix—”Gardening at Night” and “Cuyahoga” come to mind—but none convey the spirit of summertime in Athens better than the obvious choice. The penultimate track on Automatic For the People is, more explicitly than most of the band’s catalog, the sum of its elements: the plaintive piano, the swelling string arrangement, the repetitive vocal patterns. When Stipe invokes the past and sings “of recklessness and water,” nostalgia washes over like gentle swimming-pool waves. [GV]


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