April 26, 2007

Finding a Classic Sound of Summer

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My friends and I were on the roof of Olin Library last Friday afternoon, engaging in two of our favorite Cornell spring pastimes — skipping class to gloat in the sunlight, and shouting at tour groups as they walked by — when I noticed a small boy playing in, sweet lord, what appeared to be the most stubborn patch of snow I have ever seen. Not only was this thing nearly black with caked dirt, but it was clearly refusing to melt in the 70-glorious-degrees of Fahrenheit that beamed down upon the Arts Quad.
I couldn’t tear my eyes away; we had finally been released from the clutches of winter, and this thing was an abomination against all things beautiful and life-giving. Admittedly, I am a sun-worshipper. For me, springtime in Ithaca has always been celebrated by first hunting down an outlet, hooking a few extension cords together, plugging in my iPod and speakers, and spending four hours attempting to make my obscenely pale body a few shades darker. As I mentioned last week, my favorite album to lie in the sun to is The Avalanches’ Since I Left You, sixty minutes of what my housemate and I have come to deem “decoup-hop” in reference to its unique sampling and hip-hop undertones. Released in 2000, Since I Left You was the collaboration of six relatively unknown Australian musicians who presumably are never going to record another album again, making it a precious jewel of contemporary dance music. The rhythm has a little bit of a kick to it, perfect for playing “Chicken” in the pool or starting an impromptu game of volleyball on the Quad.
A close second in my warm-weather playlist is simple, quiet lounge music. This can range from Kruder and Dorfmeister’s spacey K & D Sessions to Koop’s Waltz for Koop, the best thing to come out of the Swedish jazz scene since, well, ever. Inevitably, I always end up turning to the Brazilian lounge of the Gilberto family: songwriter and guitarist João of bossa nova fame; his wife, Astrud, whom most would recognize from her vocals on “The Girl from Ipanema;” and João’s daughter Bebel, who updated her father’s style with electronic accompaniment. These three are the Holy Trinity of Brazilian pop music. I discovered Bebel Gilberto in one of those rare, “Hey, what is this?” moments during my stint at Pixel, when my manager put on “Tanto Tempo,” Bebel’s first solo album. Her work with the Thievery Corporation, that infamous trip-hop outfit from D.C., led me to Astrud Gilberto, whom they remixed on the 2002 Verve Remixed compilation. Astrud’s cheerful, airy vocals were world-renowned in the ’60s. “Beach Samba” and her performance on “Getz/Gilberto” with Stan Getz and husband João are ideal for spending a quiet afternoon splayed out on a beach towel, preferably wearing oversized sunglasses and a polka-dotted bathing suit.
The guilty pleasure of this summer selection, however, is my indiscriminate love of classic rock music. When my FM transmitter died over winter break, turning my five-hour drive up to Ithaca into sheer static hell, my housemates soon learned that every button on my car radio is programmed to a classic rock station. I know the lyrics to every remotely-famous rock song released between 1960 and 1980. I once sang vocals for a one-time performance of “Freebird”. I have even used AllMusic.com to ensure that I own every piece of music ever released by Led Zeppelin.
After spending those long, winter months driving through Ithaca, forcing my housemates to listen to me whine along with I100 or 96.3: The Wall, I have come to realize that being a classic rock junkie is just not cool. That is, until now.
Summer in Ithaca means driving around in pick-up trucks (which I did for the first time two weeks ago) and cooking white-hots for dinner. With visions of barbecues and tailgate parties dancing in our heads, Led Zeppelin’s II now seems the perfect soundtrack to celebrate the rural landscape of our alma mater.
Whatever you end up choosing to listen to as you spend these last weeks of school basking in the sun, I urge you to keep in mind the winter hellscape from which we have all just barely emerged. One week ago, I was trudging through a blizzard. Right now, I am sitting on my front porch in shorts, eating mozzarella and tomato on a baguette. Clearly, the Ithaca weather-gods giveth and the Ithaca weather-gods taketh away; live every warm day like it may be your last, and pray for the future of those pre-frosh who were (un)fortunate enough to visit on one of these seasonably beautiful days.