Music of the month: July 2021 (Part 1)

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A series revival – featuring members of Palatinate‘s editorial team creating playlists of songs that are special to them. This month, find Books Editor ’s top picks.

Spotify Code – scan to hear a specially curated playlist to go with this article:

Who hasn’t experienced the cosmic pressure felt as DJ of a group of unsuspecting people, and tasked with choosing the next song (although I write with admittedly a degree of melodrama)? To translate people’s mood into music is no easy task. I have many a time misread the room, and whilst I live to tell the dreadful tale, the grimacing faces and attempts to outbid my control over the speaker’s Bluetooth (which is a common occurrence within my house) have left me feeling rather more wary of picking just any song for the crowds (once again, a great degree of melodrama).

With that being said, I have derived great freedom and joy in collating the songs I’ve listened to so much over the past few months, and will continue to enjoy. Music has offered me, and so many others, I’m sure, an escape during the doldrums of exams and the wistful thoughts of what-could’ve-been without Covid-19 kiboshing them. I hope you, too, can listen to the songs with fond nostalgia and optimism for what’s to come, and maybe even find some new tunes worth adding to your summer playlist.

  1. So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings – Caroline Polachek 

For an ambient and electro song, that’s both elusive and catchy, give So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings a listen. It combines ‘chilled out’ with ‘urging you to dance’ perfectly, and the title alone is enough to mark it out as a totally unique and obsession-worthy song. Polacheck discusses the meaning behind the song in a Genius lyrics video, saying that she wrote it in a sneeze-like instinct, both about unrequited and long-distance love, and of someone looking – as she coins herself – painfully hot.  I love the eccentricity of the song accompaniment – Polachek’s honeyed vocals and stitched synths, that emulsify in the lines of the mesmeric outro: Show me the banana. 

  1. Inbetween Days – The Cure 

The Cure, for me, are the acme of the 80s, the ultimate nostalgic sound. Inbetween Days handles poignant themes, for example starting with the lyrics: “Yesterday I got so old/I felt like I could die/Yesterday I got so old/It made me want to cry” with a bitter-sweet edge via the upbeat instrumentals and distinctive, almost pitiful, voice of Robert Smith. Whilst their other songs (namely, Friday I’m in Love and Boys Don’t Cry) are more well-known, this song is particularly wistful without being depressive and is a great tune for a relaxed summer evening, with especially thought-provoking lyrical highlights (and it’s tempting to include all the song’s lyrics): “And I know I was wrong/When I said it was true/That it couldn’t be me and be her/Inbetween without you”.

  1. Tequila Sunrise – The Eagles

The most gentle and atmospheric song, Tequila Sunrise is – contrary to its name – perfect for a warm evening with an apricot-coloured sunset stirrin’ slowly cross the sky. Although The Eagles are often pegged as musky or cheesy-sounding country music, the tender acoustic guitar and heartening lyrics make it a soft, cheerful and catchy song to simmer away in the background, or indeed take centre stage during the long, crepuscular hours of July.

  1. Make Me Smile (Come up and See Me) – Steve Harley 

On the theme of nostalgic tunes, Make Me Smile is one of my all-time favourite songs released in the 70s, with a jolting rhythm that feels uniquely uplifting and cool. Steve Harley’s lyrics “Blue eyes, blue eyes, how come you tell so many lies?”, the opening ascending guitar twangs and background “Oh, la, la, la”s are iconic. 

  1. Held Down – Laura Marling 

2021, for me, has been marinated in the Joni-Mitchell-esque mystical sound of Laura Marling’s Held Down. Its choral and echoing harmonies intertwine and overlap with her piercing and folk-like vocals, making it into a symphony of truly majestic sound that is most definitely worth a listen. 

  1. Rock the Casbah – The Clash 

In stark and quite disconcerting contrast to the dulcet melodies of Laura Marling, the Clash’s Rock the Casbah is the ultimate grungy and bellicose rock song for a good cathartic listen. Its imagery invokes Arab legend and mythic saga, with its mentions of Bedouin and Muezzin, yet sets this against a heavy punk and contravening drum, and the addictive repeated lines: The Sharif don’t like it. Surprisingly, recommended to me – my Mum as a token of the music of her youth in the 80s (sorry Mum), I haven’t been able to turn it off for the past few months, and foresee it being a staple soundtrack for road trips in July. 

Image by snd63 from Pixabay

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