Although autumn is right around the corner, the summer heat doesn’t seem to be budging. While the days may leave you sweaty and sunburnt, the nights around this time of year can be some of the most pleasant evenings of the year. If you want to make the most of these nights, the following songs are perfect for lounging in the twilight air, strolling around while taking in the sights and sounds of Berkeley.
Rises the Moon by Liana Flores
There’s no song I can think of that invokes quite the same feeling that this one. It provides a beautiful mix of melancholy, nostalgia and joy. It is reminiscent of a moonlit walk along the Seine or the smell of roses in the night air. The sound and vocals have a slightly amateurish tone, but I find that this quality makes it feel even more comforting and personal. It’s the perfect background music to allow your mind to float away.
Águas de março by Elis Regina and Antonio Carlos Jobim
While the literal English translation for the Portuguese song Águas de março may be “waters of March,” I find that this jazzy ensemble works well for this month as well. In fact, March is the beginning of Autumn in Brazil. The voices of the two singers blend together like smooth coffee and cream. It tells the story of the cycles of life and nature, one lyric translating to “even while the waters of March bring an end to Summer, there is still the promise of life in my heart.” It’s beautiful and perfect for a night spent dancing on the street (or in the rain, if we ever get any).
Sitting on the Dock on the Bay by Otis Redding
This song by Otis Redding, one of America’s most prolific soul vocalists, is a Bay Area classic. It captures the sorrowful story of a young man, sitting by the San Francisco Bay, reflecting on his loneliness and hopelessness. Despite the unhappy lyrics, the peaceful sound of the waves hitting the shore, the upbeat melody and Redding’s rich voice makes for an impactful and tranquil listen.
ヱンド-オブ-ア-ホリデヰ/ End of a Holiday by Lamp
The ambient instrumentals and dreamy vocals of Lamp’s “End of a Holiday” make for a relaxing listen. While I unfortunately could not find a translation for the song lyrics, and therefore don’t exactly know what the song is about, it gives a feeling of calm mixed with slight wistfulness. This song comes off of Japanese indie band Lamp’s album’s Lamp Genso. While the band remains difficult to categorize, they draw on elements of bossa nova, city pop, and Shibuya-kei, a kitsch-inspired microgenre of pop music popular in 90’s Tokyo.
Wicked Game by Chris Isaak
The brooding and conflicted voice of Chris Isaak and the haunting, reverberating guitar riffs dominate this 1989 single. The tension simmers and the longing broils beneath the surface as Isaak tells the story of his attraction to a woman he knows will not be good for him. The song’s claim to fame came in 1990 when it was featured in David Lynch’s black comedy “Wild at Heart”, whose production shot the song to #6 on Billboard’s Hot 100 almost two years after its original release. The song is perfect for a ruminative night walk or a pensive, music video-esque stare out the BART window.
One Headlight by the Wallflowers
“One Headlight” by the Wallflowers is a song about finding hope in a broken and ugly world. It’s moody and anthemic, perfect for driving home after a long day or night. On nights full of disappointing parties, reflective nostalgia, bouts of homesickness or cram sessions for the next day’s quiz, you can always return to this song. Interesting fact: The bandleader and guitarist, Jakob Dylan, is Bob Dylan’s son.
September by Earth, Wind, and Fire
While I may be breaking the vibe slightly with this 70’s hit, there’s no song about September that could be more iconic. The song is so iconic, in fact, that it was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, which features songs that are deemed to be of cultural, historical or aesthetic importance. It’s impossible to listen to this song without dancing a little bit. While this song is great any time of the year, it’s definitely best when listened to on these warm autumn nights. It’s a groovy classic that is bound to make its listeners smile.
With the return of school and the end of summer, September is a season of change and reflection. These songs are perfect for the introspection and nostalgia that this time of the year inevitably seems to bring. So go out your door, put on some headphones and drift through these pleasant nights.