We Could Stay Gold: 14 Songs for Summer 2014

The sweet languor of summer days pairs perfectly with the mellowness of indie folk. This playlist features some of my favorite new albums from the first half of 2014. Hope you enjoy.

summer mix album art

The sweet languor of summer days pairs perfectly with the mellowness of indie folk. And when the road beckons — when you roll down the window and taste the freedom in the air — those moments call for sunny, glossy indie rock. This playlist includes some of my favorite albums from the first half of 2014. It starts with shades of folk (Americana, folktronica, folk-pop), makes side a excursion into pop and neo-soul, and closes with ebullient, sunshiny rock. Hope you enjoy.

We Could Stay Gold — Summer 2014 Mix
First Aid Kit • Damien Jurado • Sylvan Esso • PHOX • Vandaveer
Lake Street Dive • Conor Oberst • South Rail • Mimicking Birds •  Ha Ha Tonka
Beck • The Rosebuds • Damon Albarn • Hamilton Leithauser

If you like this music, please support the artists by purchasing their albums.
Just click on the track listing to go to the online store.

1. First Aid Kit — “Stay Gold”

The Swedish folk duo’s charming, ambling song may be my theme for summer. It seems so fragile on first listen, but the lilting vocals convey lyrics of surprising heft. To borrow from my favorite Byronic hero: “I did not then know that it was no transitory blossom, but rather the radiant resemblance of one, cut in an indestructible gem.”

2. Damien Jurado — “Silver Timothy”

This song has nestled in my subconscious and refuses to leave. It’s a little bossa nova and a little psychedelic, and it makes me feel like I’m floating on a breeze of melodies.

3. Sylvan Esso — “Coffee”

Sylvan Esso is the Durham, North Carolina folk-electro-pop project of Amelia Meath (Mountain Man) and Nick Sanborn (Megafaun). Meath’s voice is warm and weary as she takes us on fast-forward through the seasons, sketching vignettes: Wild winters, warm coffee / mom’s gone, do you love me / Blazing summer, cold coffee / baby’s gone, do you love me? Sanborn provides the electronic texture — the skittering synths, the chimes between verses. There is something different about Sylvan Esso. Something delightful.

Continue reading “We Could Stay Gold: 14 Songs for Summer 2014”

July music recommendations

Pennsylvania Ave, sundown

It’s summer in D.C. The heat radiates off the sidewalks. Your morning runs might as well take place in a sauna. And your World Cup bracket is in shambles. Happily, live music cures most ailments, so here are a few suggestions.

Continue reading “July music recommendations”

South Rail: Music for wandering souls

“After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own.”

Oscar Wilde’s reflections on music came to mind as I was practicing a Chopin prelude earlier today. What he describes is part of what I love about music — its power to communicate emotions that burst through the confines of mere words, to transmute sorrow into something beautiful to be shared.

South Rail’s music has that power. When I put their self-titled debut EP on, I’m swept away by Lara Supan’s rich, dusky voice, which is captivating both alone and in harmony with Jay Byrd, who plays guitar. South Rail’s sound is part folk, part alt-country — think Neil Young meets Wilco meets Eva Cassidy. I saw South Rail over the weekend at Gypsy Sally’s in Georgetown, and I’m excited both for the future of the band and the new live music venue.

South Rail blog1

South Rail typically performs as a trio with Ben Potok on drums, but they were joined by bassist Wes Christenson for the evening. Watching the quartet banter during sound check, it’s clear that these guys love music and love performing together (they met when responding to a Craigslist ad for a band that they didn’t join).

Up-tempo songs like “Everybody Knows It” made me wonder why nobody was dancing (my excuse — knee surgery). But the song that really caught my ear is “Wandering Soul,” which Lara introduced as a song about being on the road and reflecting on the life that you’re missing back at home. The song opens with keyboard and unfolds slowly and deliberately, with Lara’s soulful voice interspersed with plaintive guitar solos. Combined with gentle percussion, “Wandering Soul” evokes the image of a weary traveler, the color of his clothes made indistinguishable by dust, placing one boot in front of the other, following the railroad tracks back home.

This is a song about long winding roads and finding home in a face and an embrace. “I spend my days dreaming of what’s yet to come” — but even in times when we don’t know where to go, a good song can remind us that others share this seemingly lonely road.

South Rail blog2

South Rail is about to start recording some new music, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for this band. In the meantime, if you live in the DC area, sign up for their mailing list so you can catch one of their local shows.