Monday, 2 August 2010

Things To Shout At The Sky

Summer doesn't get more summery than when you're in California.

Okay, yeah, so fine, this isn't always the case. I know my San Francisco readers are probably right now flipping a thermal-gloved middle finger at the above sentence and even those down here in San Diego are probably not all jumping to agree. Despite what you may have heard, Southern California does not have the best climate in the world, it isn't always sunny and, despite what Snoop Dog and Katie Perry may tell you, sometimes it's not warm enough to only wear bikinis and cut-off jeans. Unfortunately even in the summer San Diegans sometimes have to find alternatives beyond just eating tacos and daydreaming in Balboa Park.

Nevertheless, that generic ideal summer you have stored in your head of a sunny carefree day spent beside a pool is not too difficult to come by in California. Sometimes in the darkest depths of British November it is this image alone that keeps me from ripping off my fifteen jumpers and eight pairs of sweatpants, breaking free from my snowbound house and running naked into the welcoming arms of hypothermia. It doesn't matter that once July rolls round and I'm back in California I have to gently guide my mother back into the house after she's spent a good chunk of the day waving an angry fist and cursing at the disappointingly overcast sky. The most important part about The Perfect Summer is waiting for it to come. I've always found that the feeling of warm sunshine on my chest and chlorinated water at my toes is so much more visceral when I shut my eyes in a damp lecture hall in Bristol than when I'm actually lying by the pool in California.

So how do we make up for this disproportion? How do we keep ourselves from being disappointed by the beaches that are never quite as secluded and iced beverages never quite as
alcoholic as we had imagined them to be? Do not fret my friends. The answer, like so many things in life, lies in music.

We all love a good soundtrack, that set of songs that have been carefully selected to accompany a movie, crescendoing here, pianomissimoing there, bringing emotion and colour to a silent stage. Of course this leads us to ask, why shouldn't we add soundtracks to our lives?

Think about one of your favourite songs (it doesn't have to be folk; don't worry, we don't judge at STFU), that song that's been played so many times in your head that it's become grooved and smooth and warped with age. These songs drag nets behind them that scoop up and attach themselves to memories, memories of the first time you heard them, of the people you love who you've shared them with, of the things you did while listening to them. These songs get tangled up with thoughts and places and smells and feelings until they've adopted a totally new, multi-dimensional meaning in your head, a collage of sensations that you could quite never explain to anyone else.

Let's take control of this informational synesthesia. Add a soundtrack to your summer that will not only paint the unfinished parts of your perfect sunny day, but will leave you with a aural cue that will take you back there on some generic Tuesday in February.

If you're a folk purist this may be a little tricky. The twin sister had asked me to charge her iPod before her roadtrip last week to Florida and, never one to pass up the chance to force my musical tastes on others, I decided to surreptitiously sneak on a little playlist of all the pretentious and trendy music I had painstakingly discovered lately. The problem is, folk doesn't have a great track record of upbeat, summery songs. With a history grounded in political protest, disgruntled cowboys and heartbreak, folk has never quite been conducive to a relaxing afternoon on the beach. Maybe something to do with the Cold Weather Theory?

Nevertheless, the endless flexibility of folk means that there are plenty of tunes that go great with sunshine, though you might have to search a little bit to find them. Here is your chance to help build Shut The Folk Up's Great Big Folkin' Soundtrack To Your Summer. We're in August now, but of course it's not too late. The sun is still shining and there are plenty of burgers and hot dogs to be eaten. Plus, my Australian readers haven't even started their summer yet, though they're probably too busy riding kangaroos around Aussie Rules Football pitches to realise. Or, you know, whatever it is that Australians do in the winter.

Shut The Folk Up's Great Big Folkin' Soundtrack To Your Summer will be a collaborative effort. Submit the folk songs that you consider conducive to summertime, and next week I'll bundle them together for us all to download and collectively enjoy. Don't worry about MP3s. Just give me a title, a name and maybe a firm handshake and we'll be golden.

In the meantime, I'll start you off with a few sunny tunes to keep your summer moving. If you're in San Francisco, make sure your remove your ear muffs first so you can hear them

Good Old War - Coney Island

Zorbing - Stornoway

A Few Honest Words - Ben Sollee

Becoming a Jackal - Villagers

Bullet - Scarlett Johansson / Steal Train

Homes - The Magnetic Zeroes


  1. I'm going to be gratuitous and list four songs. You can pick and choose:

    Ragged Wood - Fleet Foxes
    Wagon Wheel - Old Crow Medicine Show
    Animal Tracks - Mountain Man


    Juzzie Smith - Good Music
    very simple lyrics but captures Australian summer vibes perfectly

  2. I'm gonna plug for Josh Ritter, cos really, who doesn't love Joshie?

    Snow is Gone from Hello Starling
    Me & Jiggs from Golden Age of Radio

    I look forward to the finished list..

  3. The first song that came into my head was 'Big Jumps' by Emiliana Torrini - fantastic track. Upon consideration though, I'd say 'Yellow Brick Road' by Angus & Julia Stone is my stand-out song for this time of year!

    I'm badly in need of some fresh folk over here, cannot wait until your playlist is all done...

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  5. I have two:

    Unwritable Girl -- Gregory Alan Isakov

    5/4 -- Clogs