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Tunesday: Bittersweet songs to ease melancholic summer

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MAY 09, 2023

As the harsh cold air transforms into relentless heat, the once somber emotions of the winter are now on their exit. Another season is here — summer. With this new era comes abundant reason for the melancholic and wistful to either romanticize or dread the next few months. 

Memories of vacations at the ocean could incite visions of all the relaxation ahead; or they could induce sober sadness about the better times of childhood. Scents of warm concrete after summer showers arouse fondness within most, but to a certain indie listener, they billow silent distress for what once was. Whichever route one chooses — to loathe or to love, to await or to fear — this collection of sentimental and saccharine tunes can ease the travel. Sit under the sun with this musical archive and embrace the bittersweet season.

“Summer Girl” — HAIM

HAIM centers itself at the forefront of faded memories with this slow-burn anthem. “L.A. on my mind/ I can’t breathe,” echoes in the first verse, as vocals from all three sisters hum an infectious ode to the bliss of unconditional love. Coated in warmth, the bass bounces and embraces the harmless — and more often than not, cruel — nature of seasonal, transient romance.

“I Like to Be with You in the Sun” — Bridget St John

Similar to HAIM, Bridget St John commemorates summertime with adoration and desire for another seasonal crush, an evanescent romance. Adorned with memories of sunsets and rides on the bus with another, she incites cinematic visions of some cosmic affair. But this love is not one of clandestine dates or furtive kisses, it is one of wholesome embrace and adolescent ardor.

“Strains of Delight” — Motohiro Nakashima

With an even more earnest, heartfelt cadence, this ballad inflames the embers of red-hot childhood memories. Sounds of water cascade onto the soft-lit acoustics, children snicker with their school friends over vocals and intense sorrow for bygone youth blooms. 

“Trip to Japan” — The Shacks

“I took a trip to Japan/ I was a child again/ And then I flew back to bed,” the band harmonizes as mellow flutes rattle in the distance. Varnished with recollections of an old vacation, the verses summon childhood memories — ones of old troves filled with home videos, of souvenir shirts found in the attic.

“Manhattan” — Cat Power

Summer, for the tireless students and adults who retreat to their hometown out of mere obligation, can lead one to mourn after old friends and classmates. Cat Power canonizes this emotional conflict in “Manhattan” with the tough love: “All the friends we used to know/ Ain’t coming back.” 

“Plum” — Widowspeak

Because if one clings to the final remnants of lost hometown friends, then bittersweet resentment will start to move in — an unwelcome emotion. With verses about the bruises of lost love, this anthem laments “where the softness used to be” — the hole in Widowspeak’s heart notched after an insistence “to hold on to the sweet” instead of leave. 

“Sweet” — Alice Phoebe Lou

In the same vein, minimal friends in the summertime creates an acute, severe sense of abandon. Alice Phoebe Lou’s worries — “Is there nothing for me here,” she hums amid the first minute of the acoustic ballad — often drift in the minds of forlorn students home for the summer. 

“Suddenly” — Drugdealer, Weyes Blood

Summertime R&R can also lend itself to translucence, though. On this vivacious, ’70s-era anthem, vocals bounce with sweet refrain amid blissful acoustic chords. The duo harmonizes as the line “Tempted by the morning sun/ And now I feel like I’m home again” echoes in the outro — a sweet reminder of the alleviation often found within time.

“Cold in the Summer” — Young Guv 

If this vacation inhabits itself with sorrow and an itch for the fall, do not feel alone. “Cold in the Summer” illuminates the hidden chasm behind these months, as one twiddles their thumbs in anxious wait for the next school season. While it is fine to admit to this defeat, Young Guv advises and reassures, “Now is not the time to cry/ Don’t know where you’re going/ Neither do I” — a definitive sentiment to take into June.

Contact Dominic Ceja at 


MAY 09, 2023