On the Beat: Searching for the summer jam

Sofia Talvik w/ Milk and Eggs / CSPS / Aug. 4 / 8 p.m. / All Ages

Although it is my least favorite season for any variety of reasons such as boredom, I do look forward to the summer. It’s the traveling season as well as a time to enjoy all the city has to offer. Unfortunately, this summer brought no relaxation at all. Instead, this season has bred a seeming insanity in me. For weeks, all I saw was no escape from an all-encompassing, all-engrossing heat. The fans only circulated misery while fabrics attached themselves to my skin with a vise-like grip. My eyeballs sweated as my hand ran across any surface that could possibly bring me a momentary respite from Mother Nature’s fury. Often, these efforts were in vain.

I tried to listen to music to alleviate some of those feelings from my days, but on a lot of days, that only made it worse. This is when one desperately needs to find a summer jam, something that will take your mind off the summer heat. I found some eventually, but mine were mostly about death and sadness. I don’t know what that says about my lifestyle, but they are all top-notch tracks:

The first is Wild Nothing’s “Live in Dreams.” With the lovely chorus “because our lips won’t last forever / and that’s exactly why / I’d rather live in dreams / and I’d rather die,” this song is pretty perfect for the summer. It might be a sad song, but the slow tempo—replete with plenty of the sounds that were popular when it originally came out two years ago, like lo-fi guitar sounds, hazy production, slightly mumbled vocals and a verse/chorus/verse structure—will get your head slowly nodding, helping your body forgets that it’s 100+ degrees out, and your steering wheel is burning your hands.

The second song is “The Fountain” from Veronica Falls’ self-titled 2011 album. Although it is about a break-up, “The Fountain” really gets at what is magical about this band. They are able to mix these very dark lyrics with fast, post-punk style guitars and lovely boy-girls vocal harmonies to create something magical, a piece of music that—like a clear, blue sky full of UV rays—both haunts and soothes simultaneously. As well, it’s a really good singalong, which is helpful on so many different levels in the summer. The heat can always be dissipated with a good chorus.

The last track is also a singalong and is, unlike the past two, actually sort of happy. This is Seapony’s “Dreaming,” a song about being the only love that is as innocent as a pop song should be. Although it is certainly not the most creative song, it is one that sticks with you long after you listen to it, making it perfect for any day when the browning grass and dying trees leave you feeling a little bit down.

While the summer of 2012 has brought me a nice serving of hell on earth save these few songs, it has also delivered me a series of excellent shows. From Destroyer and the Firecracker 500 Festival in June to Cloud Nothings and Quintron in July, this summer has produced concerts that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. (Un)Luckily for all of us, the season isn’t over yet, so there is still time to make that memory that will keep you going until it’s warm again next May.

August will feature two singer-songwriters who have rather captivating backgrounds of their own. The first is Sofia Talvik. Hailing from Sweden, Talvik has been gathering a worldwide fan base since the release of her first songs in 2001. Talvik’s music is rooted in the Americana tradition as she writes beautiful acoustic songs that come from the heart. The overall result is music that is engaging and organic, delivered by a voice that is expressive and powerful. Talvik will be performing at CSPS in Cedar Rapids on August 4.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Eleni Mandell is a bit harder to pin down than Talvik. While she also pulls from America’s acoustic roots, Mandell also integrates jazz, country, pop and indie rock into the overall sound. Rather than being overwhelming, Mandell uses her hushed vocals to bring a necessary order to her music, which ranges from slow, dark ballads to upbeat sunshine pop songs. As indicated by her song about this town from her album Country for True Lovers, Mandell is a pretty big fan of Iowa City. She’ll be playing on August 3 at The Mill.

August 27 brings THEESatisfaction to The Mill. The Seattle-based duo of Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White share similarities with recent visitors (and collaborators) Shabazz Palaces. While Shabazz Palaces likes to space out, Irons and Harris-White keep their music much more grounded. This does not mean that their music is straightforward or anything of the sort. Their production and delivery is reminiscent of space-age soul artists like Sa-Ra, Frank Ocean and Georgia Anne Muldrow. They have a solid understanding of R&B and hip hop’s past and use it to take their music to the next frontier. Given the quality of their 2012 release awE naturalE, THEESatisfaction deserve everything that will be coming to them in the coming months.

If you love the summer, savor its last days for it is fast coming to a close. If you hate the summer like I do, don’t worry. It’s almost over. In the meantime, stay cool and listen to your own summer tracks during the day. When the sun sets, come out and join me on the beat.

A.C. Hawley wants to know what you listened to this summer. Tweet him your summer jams at @acethoughts. Do you have a lead on a show? Email it to

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