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Category Archives: Music

2014’s Inevitable Songs of the Summer: A Field Guide

I’ve gotten my first sunburn, sandal blisters, and fire ant bites of the year, which means that it’s officially summer. Those of you who aren’t suffering from the same seasonal ailments may be looking for other signs that summer is underway, and for that, I’d like to point you towards the endless articles debating which pop song is going to be everybody’s jam for the next few months. Seriously, there are so many. Google “2014 song of the summer” and go nuts.

Most of these articles pit various pop songs in a musical battle royale, where readers can cast votes and only one song will emerge with the hearts and minds of the people. Others are a little more egalitarian and just document a whole bunch of songs that will be part of the cultural zeitgeist this summer. I’ve decided to take a different approach this year. With only a very loose understanding of what a field guide is, I’m presenting a field guide of 6 of this year’s inevitable songs of the summer (and by “inevitable” I mean the songs you truly won’t be able to avoid if you live within 50 miles of other people). I hope you find my insights as useful as I convinced myself they were while writing them.

“Problem” by Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea


Genre: catchy

Natural habitat: Already queued up on your little cousin’s phone (and your phone, who are you kidding?)

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

Where to play it: The next time you’re ghostriding the whip… or sitting inside reading a book because you saw an article talking about the dangers of ghostriding

Additional notes: Normally I hit a maximum limit for the number of times I can listen to a song in the course of a day, but I haven’t hit that limit with “Problem” yet. Only time and incessant radio play over the course of the summer will tell, though.

“Turn Down for What” Lil’ John and DJ Snake

Genre: Trap

Natural habitat: The dingy, fire exit-less basement of a fraternity house

Wine pairing: No wine, just Four Loko

When to play it: Whenever you’re feeling nostalgic for LMFAO’s “Shots”

Additional notes: I managed to not hear this song or any references to it for quite a long time, but then I heard about 5 people use the phrase “turn down for what” in the course of one afternoon and did not approve. Also, the first time I heard the actual song was in the context of this adorable kitten video, which is the best way to hear it.

“Summer” by Calvin Harris

Genre: Electronic dance

Natural habitat: The yacht parties that I imagine are primarily attended by young professionals more financially stable than me… also sometimes found blasting in the cars of 16-year-old girls who haven’t found themselves yet

Wine pairing: Franzia (you can choose the box color)

When to play it: When you’ve exhausted all other options

Additional notes: I kind of feel like Calvin Harris is cheating by trying to win the Summer Song Battle with a song called “Summer”. It’s like when musicians get the audience to cheer by yelling out the name of the city they’re in, only Calvin Harris made it more universal by repeating the name of the season we’re all in. Points off for pandering, Harris.

“Am I Wrong” by Nico & Vinz

Genre: Norwegian pop (because yes, while the song sounds like it was inspired by a warmer climate, Nico & Vinz are from Norway)

Natural habitat: Backyard barbecues, your dad’s house when he puts on the “Adult Alternative” Sirius station to seem with it

Wine pairing: Vintage port

When to play it: The next time you want to get a drum circle going

Additional notes: Does anyone else feel like Shakira should have come in for a verse? Even just some “oh ohs” or “nay nana nay nana nay nana nays”?

“Sing” by Ed Sheeran

Genre: Justin Timberlake

Natural habitat: high school graduation parties, overly air-conditioned malls

Wine pairing: white sparkling wine

When to play it: when you’re ready to branch out from The 20/20 Experience, but not that ready

Additional notes: This upbeat, light-hearted song might seem strange in the context of Sheeran’s other two most well-known, coffee shop songs, “Lego House” and “The A-Team”. However, if you dig deeper on his first album, you’ll also find a bouncy song called “You Need Me, I Don’t Know You” that features the line, “They say I’m up and coming, like I’m f***ing in an elevator”, so maybe this new single isn’t so out of character.

“Fancy” by Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX

Genre: Electro-rap

Natural habitat: An iPhone placed inside of a cup in an attempt to make the speakers louder

Wine pairing: Riesling

Where to play it: The next time there’s an awkward silence on your girl’s night out

Additional notes: I tried really hard to resist Iggy Azalea at first, but I’ve given in. This is clearly her summer, and I’m completely fine with that.

Honorable Mention Songs of the Summer*:

“Hideaway” by Kiesza

“I Will Never Let You Down” by Rita Ora

“SuperLove” by Charli XCX

“Stay with Me” by Sam Smith

“Chandeleir” by Sia

“Rude” by MAGIC!

“Rather Be” by Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne

*because let’s face it, you’re going to be hearing a lot of these songs, too


Situational Summer Playlist (2013)

With Memorial Day weekend firmly behind us, there’s no way to deny that we’re into the summer season. And what does that mean? Summer playlists (if you answered barbecues or pool parties or anything else, you were wrong). The Internet is chock-full of playlists for every warm weather occasion, from cook-outs to summer romances to wacky adventures surrounding disruptions of the space-time continuum. Actually, a quick Google search has revealed to me that there aren’t a lot of playlists in that last category, so I’ve constructed my own summer playlist that I think will be perfect the next time you decide to spend your summer break time-traveling.


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SXSW 2013: Waiting in Linefest Comes to an End


South by Southwest played out much differently than I imagined it would, but largely in a good way. It didn’t follow the music festival schema I was used to, where there are maybe 4 or 5 stages within a contained space and a clear schedule mapping out which bands are playing when. South by Southwest was much more of a deranged Easter egg hunt with venues all over the city, secret shows, and really no way to outline when and where the hundreds of bands are playing (unless you’re crazy organized). There are a few things I regret about the week, such as not being able to get in to see Major Lazer and not having Justin Timberlake e-mail me the location of his secret show after I signed up for his precious New Myspace. In general, however, it was an amazing time. Below are a few of the bands that stood out to me, my favorite free events, and things I would do differently next year.

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SXSW 2013: Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

Crowd outside of the Viceland Andrew WK show

Crowd outside of the Viceland Andrew WK show

South by Southwest (aka Austin City Explosion, aka For the Love of God, Don’t Try Driving Downtownfest) kicked off this weekend, and a bunch of my friends and I have been taking advantage of the event. Most of us moved to Austin from out of state 7 months ago and have never been to SXSW before, so we’ve made a few rookie mistakes, but the learning curve is steep and I think we’re going to be much better equipped to navigate the giant music festival by the end of the week. Below are some of the highlights (and just generally notable moments) of my first weekend at South by Southwest.

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So…there’s a lot of stuff going on in Austin

Bruce Springsteen - 2012 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival

In nigh on 2 days, South by Southwest, one of the country’s biggest film and music conferences/festivals/clusterf***s, is kicking off in Austin, Texas, where I am conveniently living. When I first realized that I was moving to the city that South by Southwest takes place in, I was like, “Aw yeah, I’m gonna save all my money by eating only air and be a concert VIP!” Then I looked at how much wristbands cost, looked at my most recent pay stub, looked longingly back at the price of the wristbands, and allowed a single tear to drift down my cheek. Then I found out that there are HUNDREDS of free events at SXSW, which is apparently what all the non-journalist people do anyway, and I was like, “Yeah, I’m back in the game!”

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Music Video of the Week: Cold Mailman

I know no one really likes hearing about other people’s dreams, so I’m not going to segue into this post by talking about any of my recent dreams (except for the one where I had a turf war with David Bowie on my family’s farm…that one was great). Instead I’m just going to let this awesome music video and its dream imagery stand on its own. I hadn’t heard of Norwegian band Cold Mailman or the video’s director, Andre Chocron, before seeing this clip on Stereogum, but I hope this slightly surreal footage gets them some notice in the US.

And if you like this music video, you should check out the video that director Andre Chocron did for another Norwegian act, Mikhael Paskalev. I’m oddly entranced by this video of an underwear-clad guy dancing around what looks like an IKEA-furnished model home.


Menomena, “Plumage”

Hey all, it’s going to be a short post this week because I’m kind of ill…actually, the ridiculous volume of Emergen-C that I’ve consumed over the past few days has done a pretty good job of suppressing my cold, but I’m still going to use it as an excuse to be lazy for a couple more days.

I do at least want to share this music video because it’s the best thing I’ve seen in ages. Yesterday I burnt my pizza while I was watching this because I was too absorbed to check the oven. Then I took out my burnt pizza, ate it, watched the video again, and had no regrets.

I’ve known of Menomena’s existence for awhile, but I’d never really listened to their music until they lured me in with this clever music video for the song “Plumage” (off their latest album, Moms). Thanks to “Plumage”, I’ve gained newfound respect for both their music and the band members’ ability to pull off waders and an Evil Knievel jumpsuit. Not many people can rock those particular looks, so good work, Menomena.

P.S. I really wish I could have a fast-wardrobe-change showdown with someone in the middle of a desert. I’m adding that to my bucket list.