Page Three: Summer Songs

Soundtracking the summer

For our Summer Fun issue, we’ve created themed playlists to go with each story. Find more playlists at austinchronicle.com/summer-fun.

Love, to me, is like a summer day
If it ends, the memories will stay
Still, and warm, and peaceful,
Now the days are getting long
I can sing my summer song
– "Summer Song," Louis Armstrong & Dave Brubeck

It's hard not to fill your head up with so much gunk. Every day presents new opportunities to cram every could-be contemplative space with noise from morning to night. The news scroll you thumb through still in bed, podcasts for the commute, social media's endless feed to fill the lunch break, a Netflix binge to see you to bedtime, Words With Friends to wind you down into sleep.

Page Three: Summer Songs

Sometimes the gunk is a coping mechanism.

In my late 20s, I was marooned in L.A. for a couple of years, trying to break into screenwriting. To pay the bills, I worked a night shift closed-captioning shows like America's Funniest Home Videos, grasping for the right words to best describe a pungent fart. That wasn't a happy time. On my night owl's hours, I rarely spoke to anyone in daylight, just walked my dog up and down the Hollywood Hills – not the ritzy version but the low-rent land of sitcom day players. In the very worst of my depression, I obsessively listened to old This American Life episodes on these walks to block out the sound of my own thoughts. The jacaranda trees snowing purple blossoms on my head, so pretty and perfectly timed it was like they were set-designed – they would have been even better set to music. But I couldn't stand to listen to music, because I couldn't stand to be alone in my head, to follow whatever thought might spring from a song.

I got out of L.A., but I didn't get out of getting older. One of the many depressing facts about my own aging is that playlist-making and -naming has become more utilitarian. I'm not an ancient, but I am old enough to still intensely remember what it was like to mixtape-woo, with an emphasis on "tape" – to obsessively curate a string of songs via audiocassette, build a kind of narrative arc from A-side to B, all advancing the singular cause of "this is why you should love me." The mixtape-woo is eternal; it's cycled from cassette to CD to flash-drive and streaming. But these days my mixes are just for me: hastily assembled grab-bags of songs with the right BPM and bearing boring names like "jogging mix" and "walking the dog mix" and "going to sleep mix." Too often even the most basic mix gets pushed aside – for the news scroll, a podcast, social media, the Netflix binge, Words With Friends. It's a different kind of gunk, but gunk nonetheless. Why is it that we work so hard at not being alone in our heads?

Sometimes the gunk is a cop-out.

Then summer arrives – that season of slowing – and the fireflies come out to play. I live far enough away from city center where they come to me unbidden, but really you can lie down in any green space and quietly wait for them to flit onto dusk's stage. Choose a song – any song! – and it feels like the fireflies have choreographed their dance expressly for your pleasure. Their light show never lasts for long, sometimes just the length of your average pop song, but I've been making a ritual of it. Tracing the fireflies, I get lost in the song. Instant gunk-be-gone.

This is our Summer Fun issue. Because summer is when so many of our best memories are made, and music is essential to the imprinting of those memories, our staff has gone overboard making playlists to go along with our Summer Fun stories. Whether you're diving off a party barge, settling into your seat at the Paramount Summer Classic Film Series, or just watching fireflies do their thing, we've got the perfect playlist to get you in the spirit.


Find Spotify playlists with stories online, or find them all at austinchronicle.com/summer-fun.

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