The summer sun is waning, giving way to the muted, orange-hued tones of autumn. So whether you sit on a blanket unfurled upon a four-story rooftop, lay supine on one of the countless meadows strewn throughout campus or simply spread out on your apartment’s prickly bedroom carpet, set aside the time to bask in the golden-hour glow of this set of tunes and take in the last few sunsets of the summer.
“You Send Me” — Sam Cooke
Classic, stately and sweet, “You Send Me” is the quintessential love song, replete with cooing doo-wop harmonies and staccato guitar picking that buttress Sam Cooke’s dulcet tones. With disarmingly wholesome lines such as “Darling, you thrill me” delivered with total earnestness by the father of soul himself, it’s no wonder that Cooke earned that title and went on to inspire legions of crooners across decades. From the Reddings and Gayes of yore to the Marses and Legends of today, they are all indebted to the legendary Cooke himself — the man who invented soul.
“Vapour Trail” — Ride
“Vapour Trail,” the closing tune off Ride’s seminal debut album, Nowhere, meanders without intent or purpose — apropos for the album’s namesake. The opening riff drifts into thin air with a weightless, hypnotic repetition. Once the phantom jangling sensation wears off with the din of layered strings, the guitar’s drone-like ambience relaunches itself into the soundscape. A crescendoing violin ambles off into an unexplored distance near the song’s tail end — a summation of the unearthly, feather-light atmosphere of “Vapour Trail.”
“When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” — Father John Misty
Father John Misty’s 2015 album, I Love You, Honeybear, revels in the gray area between forthright sincerity and biting snark: The album is a loosely conceptual memento of a newly minted marriage through the eyes of a jokester turned lover. As with most jokers, humor is a guise to veil a deeply internalized anguish. The swaying, waltzy “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” contemplates this anguish — a sadness ostensibly formed by past abandonment. Backed by a hymnal chorus and a swooning string-guitar interplay, Misty muses, “I can hardly believe I’ve found you, and I’m terrified by that.” It’s an elegant couplet that languishes in Misty’s aching sadness — a rare instance where he allows his thickly guarded vulnerability to rear its head.
“Song for Zula” — Phosphorescent
Phosphorescent’s “Song for Zula” blooms with a beautiful sadness, thanks to the melancholy lushness Phosphorescent (the working moniker of Alabama musician Matthew Houck) executes within the track. “Song for Zula’s” literary wordscapes and cinematic backing recall vast expanses and intimate spaces at once, like an auditory equivalent of French painter Henri Rousseau’s “The Sleeping Gypsy.” The song’s fluttery, uplifting violins and echoing drums capture an elegiac nostalgia. “I will not open myself this way again,” Houck contemplates. It’s a harrowing prospect, but “Song for Zula’s” near perfection can’t be replicated.
“Glass in the Park” — Alex Turner
“Glass in the Park” is a hushed affair, all tender acoustic picking and pining delivered by Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner. The centerpiece of Turner’s soundtrack to the 2011 indie sleeper hit “Submarine,” the track encapsulates a young, fruitful romance depicted onscreen with a wistfulness befitting the film’s Polaroid elegance. Velvety smooth and whispery, “Glass in the Park” feels like listening in on a pair of enamored lovers stage-whispering their boundless love to each other — poetic platitudes mouthed with foolish abandon that are impossible not to listen in on.
Contact Joshua Bote at [email protected].