In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, with June just heating up, we asked: What song says “summer” to you so far this year?
Ignoring the fact that the correct answer to this prompt is Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” (or, if I wanted to go in a more personal direction, the refurbished yacht-rock of “Fragments Of Time”): A few weeks ago, in the process of relieving mid-Michigan’s finest record store—East Lansing’s Flat, Black & Circular—of used copies of Sandinista! and True Stories (and reissues of releases by The Velvet Underground and Andy Stott), my wife and I abruptly halted our shopping trip. Without thinking about it, we’d art-directed our entire purchase, plucking LPs and EPs whose sleeves were exclusively black and white—but for the spots of red on the Clash and Talking Heads covers. It felt weirdly portentous and totally appropriate, given the gray skies outside and the album at the bottom of our pile of vinyl: Silence Yourself, the full-length debut by recent U.K. breakout Savages.
Songs as stormy and apocalyptic as those on Silence Yourself are an ill fit for “summer jam” consideration. Then again, the immediate aftermath of Memorial Day in the Midwest hasn’t been fit to be considered “summer”—the inevitable follow-up to a winter that refused to start. Those shifting expectations for “seasonal” weather line up with a track like “Husbands,” a torrent of post-punk menace made to soundtrack a summer at the edge of civilization. It’s not that I’m psyched for the end-of-modern-times frontwoman Jehnny Beth and her bandmates conjure with Silence Yourself—it’s just that they’ve whipped up a thrilling, monochromatic (in the highest-contrast, Ingmar Bergman-photographing-the-Swedish-countryside sense of the term) sonic portrait of all the noise of the 21st century suddenly going quiet. In the summer of 2013, climbing temperatures turn The Weather Channel into the web’s most skittish doomsayer; every other blockbuster takes place after a global cataclysm; the biggest, non-Daft Punk record of the season is likely to be Kanye West’s Political Minimalist Paranoid Nightmare. Seems like “Husbands” and other black, white, and red songs in an outdated format are the best defenses for what’s to come next.