Yesterday I woke up for work before the sun did. Traffic guards are back on duty at every corner and the local roving Pokemon trainers seem to be going to bed at a reasonable hour. I’m two weeks removed from the last disappointing Hollywood “blockbuster” I’d care to spend money on, and I’ve attended my last outdoor festival of the year (jury’s still out on you, Treasure Island). Summer is officially over.
But not before we queue up one more quick hit of tunes. August’s Tunes of the Month features recent songs from five leading ladies that call to mind beach bonfires and late dawns, winsome smiles and ten-week crushes, and all the speaker crackle and headphone buzz that energize us every summer.
Ette – “Attack of the Glam Soul Cheerleaders (Pt. 1 & 2)”
Seems like nobody knows how to turn overcast skies and marine layer mist into sunshine and fun better than a Scottish pop band. Ette’s debut LP, Homemade Lemonade, is a welcome successor to similarly upbeat charmers by the likes of Teenage Fanclub and Camera Obscura. This track is the lead single from the album, and figures to get a lot of L-O-V-E on all my future summer playlists. Lead singer, songwriter, and keyboardist Carla Easton has a great interview on the Bandcamp blog, including an anecdote about discovering an inspiring collection of Cookies hits at a record shop in Edinburgh.
MNDR – “Kimono”
It’s hard to imagine anyone having a better summer than Amanda Lucille Warner, a.k.a. the talented singer/songwriter/producer MNDR. After Nick Rhodes had to leave Duran Duran’s Paper Gods tour for personal reasons, MNDR stepped up, donned her finest 80’s-inspired outfits, and slid ably behind the keyboard to support the legendary pop band. She also is preparing to release The Mainstream, her full-length follow-up to 2012’s outstanding Feed Me Diamonds. The first single, “Kimono,” was released late last year, but in honor of her stellar summer and imminent album drop (not to mention the fact that I listened to this song a lot these last few months), it earns the right to represent August ’16.
Ladyhawke – “Chills”
New Zealand’s Pip Brown returns in 2016 with Wild Things, and it’s an energetic collection of electropop tunes that unabashedly celebrates the disorienting allure of crushes, flings, and subsequent heartbreak. On “Chills,” the chorus “This is love/This is love/This is everything” seems to acknowledge that every euphoric sunrise is quickly followed by a dusky letdown. Everything becomes nothing, and then summers repeat themselves.
La Sera – “I Need an Angel”
Former Vivian Girl Katy Goodman’s fourth album as La Sera features some of her best work to date. Teamed up with husband Todd Wisenbaker, and produced by Ryan Adams, Music for Listening to Music to marries the reckless fuzz of Goodman’s earlier work to Adams’s alt-country assuredness, with Wisenbaker’s jealous guitar jangle keeping everybody honest. This is most apparent on the duet “I Need an Angel,” the record’s second single.
Kristin Kontrol – “(Don’t) Wannabe”
Continuing the theme of Girls Gone Solo, Kristin Kontrol makes a synthtastic departure from the garage rock of Dum Dum Girls in X-Communicate, an album dripping with black eyeliner and 80’s electronica. While the album’s tone, in general, is more midnight gloom than August sunshine, there is an undercurrent of optimism. On “(Don’t) Wannabe” she challenges eventual relationship flame-out and insists that unhappiness is offensive. It fucking is, you know. And I’ll be just as goddam happy in the fall.