Summer is the prime season for music. With outdoor concerts and loosely flowing wardrobe options, the desire to waste away your days dancing never seemed so tempting. But when temperatures surpass 90 degrees and the whole city all but shuts down, it creates a hazy dream of enforced laziness, and only certain playlists have the perfectly slowed ease to match it. Rather than curating a fresh one, though, here’s a short list of albums that you can play on repeat as a spiritual guide through the endlessly oppressive heat. There’s truly no better opportunity than days like these to strive for that increasingly evanescent patience of listening to a full record from top to bottom.
Astrud Gilberto’s Finest Hour – Astrud Gilberto
The voice of this Brazilian chanteuse melts like honey over the soft perpetual shake of maracas on this album. The second track, “The Girl From Ipanema,” is the most famous rendition of the standard, featuring her husband João Gilberto, and the signature breathiness of saxophonist Stan Getz. Guitars, flutes, and other soft acoustics sound effortless, as if produced by a casually gliding strum of the hand or a quiet sigh into the flute. The music is light, as if knowing not to include any more beyond the sparse necessities in order to prevent disturbing the balance of the humid Brazilian climate under which it came into being. The perfect pairing to Gilberto’s sweetly accented croon is a citrus–based cocktail that lets the mind drift into oblivion at the pace of these slow sambas.
Melody’s Echo Chamber – Melody’s Echo Chamber
This album is the 2013 debut from the French psychedelic–pop pioneer Melody Prochet. Her breathy vocals blanket the sharper synthesized sounds in a gauzy bliss. Singing in both English and French, she blends cultures and styles to make music that is reminiscent of the 1970s, yet also markedly different. Using new technology in music production, she incorporates instrumentation that those artists of the past might have used themselves had they had access to it. Her pretty whispers in the song “Quand Vas Tu Rentrer,” are beautiful in the way that they make her complexities seem simple, as she continually asks the question, “when will you come back?”
Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys
The magnum opus of this 1960s boy band has been the perfect backdrop to every summer since its inception. Brian Wilson’s haunting echoes are an instrument in themselves, blending and building with the psychedelic choruses and bridges of songs like “You Still Believe in Me.” There is an allure to the slow thump of the percussion in songs like “That’s Not Me,” but also in the simple and familiar emotions of the lyrics. Even though the words communicate youthful dejection and angst, the spritely music behind them enchants the listener into singing along. The balanced undulation between fast and slow–paced rhythms makes this album doubly appropriate for hours sprawled under a fan or a windy weekend road trip.
Little Joy – Little Joy
Far from the fast–paced garage rock that made him famous, The Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti joined forces in 2008 with Rodrigo Amarante and Binki Shapiro to deliver one thirty–minute album that channels the acoustics of samba, while also giving it a fresh off–kilter swing that keeps the music at ease in the background. The words are romantic and the rhythms are soothing, making it a soundtrack fit for a slow day spent running through a sprinkler in a linen dress, collecting a bouquet of wildflowers, or sharing a bowl of blackberries over floating candlelight.
Music from Big Pink – The Band
Maybe it’s because they are a long–awaited respite from the harshly cold winters here, but East Coast summers have always felt exceptionally more laid back than those anywhere else I’ve known. I think it must have been out of this spirit that The Band wrote its debut 50 years ago. After playing as the backing band for Bob Dylan, The Band officially released their first original work in Music from Big Pink, and the positive reception was almost unanimous. Listening to it today is like opening a time capsule from when disenchantment with the hippie mentality began to fester across the country. A year before Woodstock, Music from Big Pink came out of a far–off suburb of New York City, and every song drips with this sense of escape and isolation. Though somewhat quaint and old–fashioned to the modern ear, the sweetly sad harmonies The Band gave us 50 years ago still hold the emotional release that always follows the months of pent–up anxiety we spend waiting for warmth again.
Monsieur Guitare – Django Reinhardt
The distinctively French sound of Django Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz guitar is now almost 100 years old. Its endurance alone is impressive, but the intricate guitarwork is even more admirable in light of the caravan fire that left Reinhardt with only three working fingers on his left hand. One listen to any number of his solos will reveal why he is considered one of the greatest musicians of the last century, but the immense concentration he devoted to his music is slightly hidden by its breezy and effortless flow, pushed along by the anticipating bass of jazz. This music fits well behind a dinner with friends in the heat, for it both blends into the rhythm of conversation and fills the gaps with an upbeat ease.
With the Beatles – The Beatles
I was lucky enough to find myself in a heat wave last summer in Paris, a city that doesn’t believe in air conditioning. In the intense sun of the late afternoons, I played a series of card games with my family around a dark wood dining table surrounded by scarlet–curtained French windows that were lazily pushed open. Even casual conversation begged too much effort, and so we let our apartment owner’s collection of mid–twentieth century doo–wop CD’s fill the room through a set of vintage speakers. One album that is now representative of those warm afternoons for me is this second of The Beatles’ career. It finds them still far from their psychedelic experimentation, and tells rather simple tales of love both lusted and lost, all in a way that pulls from and builds upon the enticing sound of earlier girl groups like The Ronettes and The Supremes.