This is the second annual installment of the Athens Summer Songs series. Check out the 2013 edition here.
1. Werewolves: "The County Line"
Wyatt Strother speaks with your voice, Athenian. Whether you spend each morning this summer waking up at 6 a.m. to stare hung over into the hot frothing maw of a UGA Food Services dishwasher or lying in bed with ample time to remember the stupid things you said the night before, when he sings, “Everything is just affectation/ About where to drink each night,” he’s got you pegged. Take solace in those sunny horns, and know that when Strother continues, “Just a little more steam/ Might take you across the county line, my friend,” he is offering a measure of hope. [Marshall Yarbrough]
2. Cars Can Be Blue: “Dirty Song”
“Dirty Song” starts off with Becky Brooks singing about holding hands. She's accompanied by jangly guitar and drumming so sloppy it’s adorable. For about 10 seconds, it's a perfectly cute, typical indie-pop song. But then Brooks shouts, “You can sodomize me/ Get behind and ride me,” and the mood immediately shifts. A minute-and-a-half long ode to rough sex is not inherently appealing, but when it’s paired with such a charming sound, it becomes a work of art. This song was a minor hit on Myspace when I was in middle school, and I spent many listless summer days blasting it out of my crappy Gateway computer speakers, wishing I was old enough to drive. [Nathan Kerce]
3. Brothers: "In Fog"
Something about “In Fog,” from last summer’s Street Names EP, feels like a warm, wet day. It probably has to do with all the reverb and the way it makes the trio of percussive taps in the track's first four seconds sound the way a ripple in a puddle looks. As rainy as last summer was, it seems prudent to enter this one with some stormy-day songs in mind, and "In Fog" fits the bill nicely. It's the kind of tune you can putter around an otherwise quiet house to, letting your mind wander. [Rachel Bailey]
4. The Olivia Tremor Control: "Hideaway"
Of course, as Bill Doss sings on "Hideaway," "It can't rain every day." Or can it? Whether it was climate change or cyclical weather patterns, or both, summer 2013 felt like one long deluge. But cue up "Hideaway" on your turntable, and the clouds immediately part, major-chord guitar shine and well placed xylophone beaming brilliantly through. Most of the OTC's catalog screams "summer," but "Hideaway," with its Pet Sounds-aping coda, is particularly suited to the season. "Don't hide away from your dreams/ Or your nightmares," goes the song's chorus, because a sunny day also means more shadows, and Doss never missed a chance to point that out. [Gabe Vodicka]
5. The B-52's: "Summer of Love"
One could pick almost any B-52's song as a perfect party anthem, but this 1986 hit (the only chart-topper from Bouncing off the Satellites) is an obvious standout. Slick and polished compared to the trashier "garage" sound of the band's earliest recordings, "Summer of Love" bounces with very-late-'80s synthesizer licks, crisp drumbeats and clean-toned rhythm guitar. The unusual harmonies between Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson add an effectively exotic flavor. In a bittersweet twist, the tune is significant as the last B-52's single to feature guitarist Ricky Wilson, who died shortly after recording the album. The chant in the final chorus, "It's the summer of love, love, love/ I'm in love with love, love, love," is mesmerizing and reassuring. [T. Ballard Lesemann]
1. Harvey Milk: "Rock & Roll Party Tonight"
To those familiar with the scrungy, low-tuned, glacially-paced guitar-rock of 1990s Harvey Milk, the group's comparatively upbeat 2000 album, The Pleaser, came as a weird surprise. It seemed as if singer and guitarist Creston Spiers, bassist Stephen Tanner and drummer Kyle Spence (who had replaced Paul Trudeau) had taken their favorite Who, Kiss and Zep anthems from the early 1970s and pinpointed the meanest hooks, howls and rhythms. "Rock & Roll Party Tonight" is the strongest beer-bash party song of the collection, from the cowbell count-off and windmill chords through the boogie-woogie verses and fist-raising choruses. Spiers' growly vocal delivery and badass double-guitar solos enhance the party vibe. Perfect for filthy, hot-weather keggers. [TBL]
2. Yip Deceiver: “Get Strict”
Yip Deceiver is one of the best dance-pop bands to come out of Athens in several years, and “Get Strict” is perhaps its best and most danceable tune to date. The song's wobbly synths and hyperactive, pre-programmed drum beat are enough to get anyone moving, but it’s the sticky hook that keeps me coming back for more. Not to mention the crazy music video, which features musician and comedian Reggie Watts showing off some sweet dance moves—as well as a unicorn. What says “summer” more than unicorns? [NK]
3. Blacknerdninja: "Huntsman"
Unassuming IT professional by day, unrelenting rhyme-slayer by night, local MC Eugene Willis has established himself as one of the most vital forces on Athens' emerging hip hop scene. The recently released "Huntsman" is the most persuasive display of Willis' talent to date, a horn-laden, live-drum-samplin' three-and-a-half-minute banger. The song, with its LuB-produced throwback vibes, ends up somewhere between jazz-rap smoothness and backpacker grit and feels like a sweltering August night, still and muggy and vaguely ominous. [GV]
4. Drive-By Truckers: “Tornadoes”
When storms come in the summer, they come suddenly. Endless days of unrelenting sunshine leave you unprepared for the onslaught. You hunker down indoors and listen to the hail hit the roof, a deafening roar at first, later a steady barrage, finally easing to a few staggered pops, like the drums that start off “Tornadoes.” That trailing sound signals that the worst is over. Soon, you’ll feel safe enough to step out onto the porch, watch the clouds clear and, like the Truckers do here, try and grasp the mystery of what has just occurred. [MY]
5. Vic Chesnutt: “Concord Country Jubilee”
It’s the band that sets the scene. The faint organ like a merry-go-round in the near distance; the stand-up bass plodding lazily forward, like a heat-struck toddler trailing a parent; the bright guitar like late-afternoon sunlight angling between Magnolia leaves. In the midst of it all is Chesnutt with a short scrap of a story: a minor loss, a tender gesture of consolation. He leaves off a minute before the song ends. The band picks up; the camera zooms out. We’re left with the memory of some small wonder, and then there’s just the crowd and the noise and the heat. [MY]