The A.V. Club’s songs of the summer 2017 for indoor kids

Image: Nicole Antonuccio
Image: Nicole Antonuccio

The summer is upon us, and everywhere you go, you can expect to hear songs from Drake, Lorde, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, and the like blaring from the stereos of convertibles bound for the beach, soundtracking backyard cookouts and sweaty dance floors alike, and generally heating things up wherever you find open air and sunshine. But as you are a reader of The A.V. Club, chances are you’re also an ashen, desk-bound wraith who will only glimpse the sun through venetian blinds tightly drawn so as to reduce the glare on your screen. For you, fellow Nosferatu, we present this list of 2017’s hottest songs to make your summer feel every bit as dark.

Ryuichi Sakamoto “Fullmoon”

As your neighborhood erupts with block parties, what better time to draw the shades and contemplate the fleeting nature of life with this track from Japanese electroacoustic composer Ryuichi Sakamoto’s new Async? “Because we don’t know when we’ll die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well, yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really,” the author Paul Bowles intones over gently ringing synth tones and somber pianos, an excerpt from Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Sheltering Sky that forms the emotional centerpiece of Sakamoto’s first solo album since being diagnosed with cancer. After all, we’re only granted some relatively scant days of summer fun on this mortal coil; best to spend them meaningfully brooding over every second of them. [Sean O’Neal]

Wear Your Wounds, “Giving Up”

Late-night summer evenings have always been a time for introspection, as when it is warm and lonely, the uncomfortable mind has little else to focus on. Which is why the dreary, laconic piano dirge “Giving Up” by Wear Your Wounds can go a long way toward realizing that it doesn’t matter, and you should just never go outside again. Who doesn’t want to wall themselves up with Converge frontman Jacob Bannon’s solo effort, contemplating what it’s all about and whether it’s worth fussing over at all? [Leonardo Adrian Garcia]

Demen, “Niorum”

If you’re going to spend the summer inside, let it be within the dark, cavernous compositions of Sweden’s Demen (Irma Orm). “Niorum” is a great place to start, as it’s among the most dramatic numbers found on her recent debut, Nektyr. It calls to mind haunted graveyards more than it does peopled beaches, with silence being as important an instrument as any and Orm’s unintelligible melodies reminding us of life’s unknowable darkness, even in the June sun. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Westside Gunn, “Easter Gunday 2”

The Buffalo-born rapper Westside Gunn raps at a high, drowsy pitch, typically over grainy old samples and lurching, zombielike drums. Imagine peak mid-’90s RZA setting his sights on something grimier and more post-apocalyptic and you’re close to Westside Gunn’s oeuvre. And yet even that doesn’t quite set the stage for his eight-and-a-half-minute lament “Easter Gunday 2,” full of wheezing, dissonant organs and a dreamlike attitude toward rapping. It’s the sound of drawn curtains with just enough sunlight creeping in to illuminate an endless swirl of smoke. A lot of rap is paranoid and bleak, but this sounds like the shit you bottle your urine to. [Clayton Purdom]

Tiny Vipers, “Boarding Charon’s Boat”

Summer is the time to get out on the open waters, but let’s face it: Fishing is boring, yachts are for yuppie assholes, and cruise ships sink. You’re much better off closing your eyes and letting the ethereal sirenlike wails of Jesy Fortino draw you into this electrifying trip down the River Styx. Fortino’s voice is shrouded in an eerie stillness that so poetically evokes the lifeless husks littering the waters below you—lifeless, that is, until the song’s final seconds when whiny synths crawl into action, like those poor lost souls rising up and trying to drag you down with them. At least it’s a seafaring nightmare you can wake up from, unlike, say, those 4,200 people who got trapped on an immobile, shit-covered Carnival cruise ship. [Matt Gerardi]

Luca D’Alberto, “Endless”

Just in time for lazy summer days, here’s a song that conjures the sense of eternity and our fleeting, minuscule place in it. Neoclassical composer Luca D’Alberto has had his music used in everything from Lars Von Trier projects to the Jewish Museum in Berlin, so what better musical accompaniment to the Sunday afternoon barbecue you don’t attend, because, in the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty pointless? On “Endless,” the title track from his upcoming album of the same name, the strings eventually overtake the electronic manipulation of sounds to create a musical tone poem D’Alberto says will cause “emotions which are often avoided, as they might make us feel weak or are difficult for us to remember.” Play it around the pool that you gaze into listlessly, overcome by ennui. [Alex McLevy]

Aldous Harding, “Swell Does The Skull”

One of the very starkest songs on Aldous Harding’s sophomore album, Party, “Swell Does The Skull” is a tale of romance, of velvet and bourbon and music. But more than that, it’s about the ache of love—her yearning is riddled with a massive and vague sense of guilt. Not even beautiful accompaniment by Mike Hadreas (Perfume Genius) can lift the weight of this one, which makes it perfect for getting lost in while the world outside enjoys its summer flings that won’t last. They never last. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Elucid, “She’d Rather Be A Cyborg Than A Goddess”

As one half of Armand Hammer, Elucid has made a name for himself as one of rap’s most clear-eyed, uncompromising essayists, tackling race, spirituality, and American culture in dense, knotty blasts of experimental rap. But this year’s Valley Of Grace goes one step further; it has more in common with Prurient and Fennesz than it does New York boom-bap, and its 10-minute centerpiece, “She’d Rather Be A Cyborg Than A Goddess,” needles weird melodies out of ambient pulses before finding a grinding beat in the back half. It’s like a half-dozen washed-out rap tracks fading over each other, the way you half-remember a weekend spent sprawled out on the couch, watching anything you happen upon in your cable guide. [Clayton Purdom]

The New Year, “Snow”

It’s getting hot out there, so what better time for a heavy-hearted ballad from languid indie-rockers The New Year about falling snow, both literal and metaphorical? Although the title track to the band’s latest album starts out light and jaunty enough to consider playing around a beach volleyball session, don’t worry: By the time it gets to its softly melancholy electric piano-led bridge, and Matt Kadane singing of snow “Cold enough to know / To fall where the lost belong,” you’ll be ready to light a fire and curl up beneath an afghan, to guard against the encroaching July chill. [Sean O’Neal]

Darkest Hour, “Knife In The Safe Room”

“To quote Nina Simone: ‘An artist’s duty is to reflect the times,’ with that we hold a mirror to the face of all things truly horrific and give you, ‘The Knife In The Safe Room.’” That’s how Darkest Hour guitarist Mike Schleibaum describes the song’s fierce, frantic, and forceful metalcore—a sonic pummeling that may not define every summer, but most definitely describes the first summer under Trump. “Drown any semblance / Of power / Of privilege / Of state,” opines the anthem tailor-made for skipping the beach to listen to Senate intelligence testimony. [Leonardo Adrian Garcia]

Endlings, “Osmotic Torrents”

Nothing says “yay summer” like music that’s been described by its creators as “the sound of skin crawling off of your body”—and that’s exactly the kind of nightmare you get with “Osmotic Torrents.” Instead of going outside and dealing with summer’s hives of mosquitos and horseflies, stay inside and allow the reverb-drenched vocals and scratchy underpinnings of this big single from the “horror show collaboration” between Deerhoof’s John Dieterich and noise artist Raven Chacon to make you feel like there’s a cockroach walking around inside your own head. [Matt Gerardi]

XXXTentacion & Ski Mask The Slump God, “What In XXXTarnation”

Listening to XXXTentacion is a PhD-level exercise in separating the art from the artist: The 19-year-old rapper was, until March, serving time for assaulting his pregnant girlfriend, a crime that did not stop his catalog of haunted, violent music from dominating the most-played charts on Soundcloud. (His biggest hit, “Look At Me!,” has some 80 million plays on the service, and his flow on the track is one of the most copied in rap right now.) Since his release, he’s continued to leak out music that alternates between tender and suicidal, and—in the case of “What In XXXTarnation?”—intensely, cataclysmically violent. The best way to approach it is the way one approaches black-metal groups like Burzum or Mayhem: as an engagement with art made by an inconceivably awful person. Whether or not the music transcends its creator is up to you, but it’s hard to imagine a better way to spend a summer afternoon than cooped up indoors, grappling with these issues while listening to music that sounds like a primal scream from the depths of hell. [Clayton Purdom]

Horse Lords, “Remember The Future”

Sure, you could let one of your friends drag you to some loud, annoying backyard party, but better yet, you could take this 21-minute sound collage for a spin. With lots of spoken words—including chanting from the Women’s March—played under funky guitars, plus five minutes of nonsensical rapid-fire “dialogue” between the band’s drummer and sound artist Bonnie Jones, it’s almost like actually being at a totally lame summertime fête, where you’re left feeling lost and isolated and eavesdropping on bits of all the conversations going on around you. They come together into something resembling coherent thoughts, but it’s garbled and confused, and before you know it, you’re tuning out, staring into your Solo cup with all the pensive nervousness of the song’s remaining 12 minutes of skittering, broken rhythms. Just don’t bail too early, or you might miss the part where everything comes together into a euphoric country-tinged jam session! [Matt Gerardi]

The Ruins Of Beverast, “Exuvia”

Do you wish you could wind down a hot day with the icy, runic black-metal atmosphere of Hvis Lyset Tar Oss-era Burzum, but can’t stand that “Nazi survivalist and convicted murderer” aftertaste? Well, look no further, because the Pan-pagan German black- and doom-metal project The Ruins Of Beverast has got something for you. On the new full-length Exuvia, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and sole constant member Alexander Von Meilenwald draws on the German-speaking world’s longstanding cultural fascination with all things Native American (see: Karl May novels, Karl Bodmer prints, East German Westerns, Franz Kafka’s “The Wish To Be A Red Indian,” etc., etc.) to create an ambitious fusion of styles. The 15-minute title cut offers the best of both worlds, in that it uses stomach-crushing repetition to trancelike effect, but also has a clear dramatic structure. Enjoy this summertime retreat into the darkest recesses of the soul, now with none of the guilt. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

The Caretaker, “Surrendering To Despair”

On the second installment of his planned six-album retirement of The Caretaker name, ambient artist Leyland Kirby captures the gradual onset of dementia through hazily reverbed recordings of ancient ballroom music that gradually dissolves, as though crumbling through fading memory. “Surrendering To Despair” has a typically lovely, wistful melody that’s intruded on by what sounds like the staticky skipping of warped vinyl. Crank it up while not going to the park with your friends. They’re just making memories that time will render irretrievable anyway! [Sean O’Neal]

Valgeir Sigurðsson, “No Nights Dark Enough”

All three works on Dissonance, the latest album of droning atonal majesty from Icelandic producer-composer Valgeir Sigurðsson, are fantastic companions for personal journeys, both inward and outward. But only one truly shuns summertime’s tyranny and embodies the smoldering darkness in humankind’s heart: the restless, hopeless four-part suite that Sigurðsson calls “No Nights Dark Enough.” It’s inspired by the brutal melancholy of John Dowland, one of the Renaissance’s hottest lutenists, so you know it’s good. And if you’re looking to get extra dark, jump straight to “Learn To Contemn Light,” the suite’s beautiful, squealing banger of a finale, and never touch sunlight again. [Matt Gerardi]

Mount Eerie, “Real Death”

Phil Elverum’s A Crow Looked At Me is a gut-wrenching, unsparing response to the recent death of his wife and mother to his young child—an album that’s filled with heartbreak from the very opening notes of “Real Death” and its frank, devastatingly banal depiction of a family life irreparably interrupted. It’s the kind of song that renders whatever summertime fun might be happening around it instantly hollow. This year, there is no summer. There is only pain and grief. [Sean O’Neal]