Its 2 a.m. The weatherman warned about a heat wave tonight. You have to wake up early to pick something up at the store before work tomorrow. Youre lying in your bed, the hot summer air pounding against your closed window. Why isnt the air conditioning working? you wonder to yourself. Your dry, scratchy comforter grows tangled around your limbs as you toss and turn, in search of some level of comfort. Your body feels wet from perspiration, and you want nothing more than for your bed to transform into a bathtub filled with cold water.
Yes, it is the summer… and it can get uncomfortably hot. Weve all had those undesirable summer nights, when somebody screwed with the A.C. and your home has turned into a sauna. The humid summer scorcher is inevitable for most, and its the one downside to an otherwise glorious season.
Luckily, music can provide us with some sort of sonic remedy. Well, not really, but there are a whole bunch of songs out there that possess a somewhat-aquatic characteristic. Whether its the subject matter, production values, or a complex combination of everything, many songs can transport listeners into a dark, cool, underwater safe haven. For this edition of List Em Carefully, I have compiled what I believe to be the best songs of this type. They are cool, refreshing, murky, and as far from that hot bed as it gets. The songs are ranked by water-likening qualities. Of course, this is a very subjective list, so feel free to throw out songs you think would fit the mold. Thanks, and drink up!
10. Reefer May Baleen
Reefer 2008 Alpha Pup
This track is an obvious one. One of the many side projects of former Unicorns/current Islands frontman Nick Diamond Thorburn, Reefer sees the songwriter teaming up with hip hop producer Daddy Kev for a record crafted in isolation Hawaiis Maui island. The tune begins with the explicit sound of waves and water, and features wah wah vocal effects to capture the Hawaiian spirit. Pretty contrived, but nonetheless fitting. It fades out with the tides and is a good conclusion to a relaxing, refreshing list.
9. Mercury Rev Opus 40
Deserter’s Songs 1998 V2
Soft strings emit a chilly, serene aura at the tracks start before Jonathan Donahues whimsical lyrics depict a woman who tossed all night like a raging sea and collapses down upon the ocean floor. Then drum cymbals and synthesizers crash into you like a tidal wave of tranquility. This song may not have the same aurally wet feeling as some of the others on the list, but it certainly is every bit as refreshing and cool.
8. Yo la Tengo Damage
I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One 1997 Matador
Everything about this track drifts and swashes amidst an overall dissonance thats hard to process. Its like Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan threw a bunch of noises into a whirlpool, turned off the power, and recorded the sounds of it slowing down. Muffled drums provide the rhythm as Kaplan whispers his words. Layer upon layer of screeching feedback and muted distortion surround Hubleys haunting vocals, a blend of sounds that will simply cut into your soul. This track is what Sonic Youth would sound like at the bottom of the ocean.
7. Pink Floyd Speak to Me/Breathe
Dark Side of the Moon 1973 Harvest/Capitol/EMI
Once the sounds of cash registers, sinister chuckling, and a spine-chilling scream pass, a flourish of jammy psychedelic rock smacks you over the head. Beginning the now legendary Dark Side of the Mood is a short, dreamy trip through a sea of psychedelia. Balanced on the biggest wave, Gilmours voice is like a floating feather on a rocking ocean of bass, delicate guitar, and eerie volume swells. Its no surprise stoners will never shut up about this album. Not to mention, one of the dudes’ names is Roger Waters.
6. Grouper Heavy Water/Id Rather Be Sleeping
Dragging a Dead Deer up a Hill 2008 Type
Liz Harris recorded this song in a room walled by water. Either that, or shes really good at making it sound like she did. I guess itd have to be the latter. Harris blankets everything with fuzzy air, causing all else to sink beneath the surface. Her echoey vocals, resonating acoustic guitar, and the static droning that surrounds it make this short track as refreshingly chilly as they come.
5. Radiohead “Nude”
In Rainbows 2007 XL/TBD
Backtracked Thom Yorke enters, crooning. Colorful Phil Selway drums join. From the onset of Nude, were hit with an impossibly luxuriant underwater lullaby. Volume swells sound like dolphins picked up on sonar. Echoed tones cling on to Colin Greenwoods sexy bassline, and fingerpicked electric guitar drips into the open spaces. As the warm strings grow louder, you can almost picture Yorke and the guys floating underwater, Selways cymbals crashing waves. “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” may have the lyrics, but this track captures the murky ambiance.
4. Panda Bear Take Pills
Person Pitch 2007 Paw Tracks
Noah Lennox found some sounds of water drums, thunder, weird machinery, and people splashing in a pool. He edited these splices together, looped them into a crazed-out musical backdrop, and sang over it all. The result is sheer brilliance. The noises found here could be from all over the world, but youd never know. Lennox makes you feel as if all these songs were made to coexist with one another, threading them together to form a lush, Brian Wilson-infused track that sounds the auditory equivalent of your childhood summers at the pool. He may be singing about the downside to over-medication, but as far the tracks sound goes, you can swim around in it.
3. Animal Collective Loch Raven
Feels 2005 Fatcat
Though the majority of Animal Collective songs retain an oceanic feel, one of the best of their water-fueled psychedelic tracks has to be the lovely Loch Raven. I could name dozens of other songs from any AC era that fits the mold, which made the decision a difficult one, but Loch Raven seems to capture the sounds of cooling off best. Id love to pick Summertime Clothes or a dozen of other AC tracks, but I think Loch Raven is a good starting point. Its hard to tell just what instruments and sounds are being sculpted into this liquid dream, but whatever they are, the outcome is magnificent. Before the electronics took hold and made everything noisy, Animal Collective was pretty damn good at capturing serenity on tape. Of course, the boys probably spent a lot of time listening to the number one spot on this list, but they brought something new to the table with it.
2. Sigur Ros Glosoli
Takk… 2005 Geffen/EMI
From 2005s Takk , this song actually sounds as if it were recorded at the bottom of the Icelandic ocean. What comes across as somebody thumping atop the water’s surface combines with Jón Ãór “Jónsi” Birgissons gloriously sharp falsetto to create a place that could only exist on an auditory level. Clicks, chimes, instrumental whale cries, and xylophones all add to the tracks dreamy soundscapes. The thing wraps you up in a haze of water-drenched static and doesnt let you go until youve drowned in its depths. If this is what Iceland sounds like, book me a one way ticket ASAP.
1. The Beach Boys Cool, Cool Water
Sunflower, 1970 Reprise
What begins as an exercise in Beach Boys a capella soon turns into a tripped-out exploration through the sounds and feelings associated with cooling off in, well, water. The soft, breathy vocals play with each other and fade out before static builds into waves that wash against your eardrums. Close your eyes and for a brief minute it actually sounds like you are underwater, with the Beach Boys whispering in your ears. From 1970s ever-so-psychedelic Sunflower, its one of the trippier Beach Boys tunes, with the boys harmonizing with onomatopoeia galore. The clever drip, drip, drip combines with actual water drips and Wilson and Love chanting, cool, so cool, cool. They sing: In an ocean or in a glass/cool water is such a gas… When the nights are too hot to keep cool/I keep on dreamin bout a swimming pool. The effects and production on the track are ethereal. Its an all-over-the-place song from the Beach Boys that can cool you off and weird you out in equal parts. Its no Shes Going Bald, but still, this is crazy stuff.