August in Five Songs
(Alternatively: “I Swear I’m Not Just a Music Recs Blog”)
Welcome to This Month in 5 Songs. I do apologize that this series is the only writing I’ve been able to muster in the past few months. I have many a near-completed draft of bigger reflections I’ve had from this summer… but they’re still a bit half-baked and need more time. Soon!
I’m a bit in denial that it’s already mid-August.
I think we all have objective views on how we experience time as the year moves through us. For me, I find that January through May chugs along at a painfully slow pace with hardly a break in sight. June hits and the pace picks up, though I try to savor that relaxed mindset of the summertime (an illusion?). Come September, it feels as though I’ve made it to the apex of a roller coaster’s steepest drop, and the rest of the year is the downhill madness until I return back to the station. No matter the events of the year, this cycle has more or less played out throughout my life, much of which I’m sure was shaped while I was still in school.
As I think back on this summer, on one hand, I felt like I had taken a pretty big break from art making (more on this later). But at the same time, I don’t know how true of a break I actually ended up taking, where self-made stress and anxiety dominated much of my waking hours, leaving the weirdest residual effects on my physical health. The waves of this season reminded me that I still have a lot to process and that I’ve been carrying a lot, whether I’ve been fully conscious of it or not.
I’m ambiguously going to leave it at that, as I’m ambitiously going to try to capture the arc of my summer in this month’s song recs:
Doesn’t this sound like the opener to a weird side show you don’t know if you want to sit around and witness? The completely instrument-free harmony throughout the whole song creeps me out and comforts me all the same. I can hear the impatience and frustration in the enunciation of the lyrics, and I found myself latching onto how the duality of experience can be beautiful and miserable simultaneously and being “so over the confusion.” And the way it ends so abruptly I just—
First and foremost, this song is a bop. It’s gonna make you want to dance. But what I truly love about this is how beautifully two languages are interwoven throughout the entire song, even within the same sentences. I recently visited my parents and I marveled at how easily they combine English with their native tongue when speaking with me, how I can hear and understand them, and how unique and beautiful all of this is as someone who is very much “third culture.” As a kid, I don’t think I would have appreciated this (I may have even resented it)—but now when I see it in my own life and in broader pieces of media, it really touches me—that being multicultural is something worth celebrating.
The arc of this song left me speechless. It perfectly lays out this mental push and pull we have where we want to comfort ourselves but the pressures of the world also give way to a self-critical, frenetic voice. But since it’s sung by the same person, you almost can’t tell if the negotiation is happening between two internal voices or an internal and external voice. The swell in 2:50 leaves you almost dizzy until it all comes back down with the final line, “You’re doing alright.” that leaves a glimmer of hope. God, am I intimately familiar with this song and dance in my life. Welcome to the human condition.
There’s a version of this song without Suki Waterhouse, and while I think both are excellent, I love the addition of female vocals that makes the song mellower and the harmonies richer (1:08 onward is a good example). In the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time in the car in places with excessive heat (very much not my usual). This song is what I imagine blasting through the heat waves out of an open window.
A song I’m really loving right now. It also feels like a good “summer’s ending” kind of tune, so I’ll leave you with this.