With summer having finally arrived, The Michigan Review proudly presents some of our “Songs for the Summer”, as presented by our staff writers.
Jake Thorne: “La Grange” by ZZ Top (1973)
While its official commencement remains set in stone on calendars, the real beginning of a Michigan summer remains up to interpretation. For some, the mere blooming of tulips signals warm weather on the horizon. Others celebrate the changing seasons on the first truly warm day of the year, as the weary and sunshine-deprived student body of Ann Arbor crawl from under their books and homework to meet in the Diag for a day of lazy hammocking.
For me, the most telling indicator of summer’s arrival comes from one of life’s most understated pleasures – the ability to drive with the windows rolled down.
Irrelevant to many, driving sans the overbearing protection that accompanies glass windows cures the cabin fever of wintry academic life. During the academic year, my days consist of sitting in towering brick buildings, devoid of sunlight or color, cramped in a carrel accompanied only by outlines of papers left unwritten and a dangerous amount of empty Red Bull cans. But with summer, all this changes. Now, through the freedom of automotive bliss, my summer can truly begin with the fresh air and warm sunshine blowing across the open road.
What song, then, can accompany such a liberating feeling? Nothing less than La Grange, a quintessential classic rock icon by Texas group ZZ Top. While its lyrics detail far more hedonistic pursuits, its sound is pure summer. Featuring a slick blues riff overtop iconic and mesmerizing solos, its aesthetic of good times with good friends pairs perfectly with the warmth of summer.
In an industry dominated by paint-by-numbers EDM hits, a trip down nostalgia lane through La Grange gives listeners the well-needed break from Top-40 chaos. Like the joy of the open road or the beauty of tulips, La Grange is a summer classic that deserves to stay.
Cole Carnick: “Shake It Loose” by Astronauts, etc. (2015)
I try not to gush over lesser-known artists (no one wants to look like a pretentious hipster), but I can’t help but praise the work of Astronauts, etc. AKA Oakland native, Anthony Ferraro. When not serving as the touring keyboardist for Toro y Moi, Ferraro crafts his own compelling music. In his 2015 project, Mind Out Wandering, Ferraro borrows upon the inspiration of 70’s soft-rock staples like the Bee Gees and The Doobie Brothers, while simultaneously crafting his own stunning sound. This project will be on constant rotation for me this summer, with the song “Shake It Loose” being a notable favorite. If you want something different to listen to this summer, this is the artist to check out.
Neil Shah: “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin (1971)
Summer offers four months for exploration, self-reflection, personal development, or anything else. For me, Led Zeppelin’s classic “Stairway to Heaven” best embodies this spirit. This masterpiece is imbued with feelings of loneliness, though not of the depressing nature; rather, they seem to exalt the individual’s ability to trek through the uncertainty of this world. Indeed, there is an inescapable mysticism that pervades this song: the journey appears to be fruitless, it ends with no clear answer. In this way, the masterful musical composition in “Stairway to Heaven” generate powerful emotions that resonate with me because I am also searching for truth and beginning to understand my role in this enigmatic world. I am certain that most of you (if not all) have experienced similar feelings, but even if you haven’t, this is the perfect summer song that you will surely enjoy.
Erin Dunne: “Whippoorwill” by Darlingside (2014)
Darlingside, a folk group from Boston, first captured my heart during their performance at the 2016 Ann Arbor Folk Festival. Their music, a beautiful blend of acoustic instrumentation and vocal harmonies is enchanting and lively.
As I grew up in Michigan attending Blissfest, a folk festival held near Harbor Springs, MI, with my family, nothing is so characteristically “summer” as music that seems like it should be wafting through a forest and accompanied by barefoot dancing. Darlingside perfectly captures that feeling and the magic of a warm summer day.
Check out any of their songs – my favorites include “Whippoorwill,” “The God of Loss” and their cover of Tom Petty’s song “Wildflowers” – and enjoy the summer weather. Dancing barefoot and long walks in the woods are strongly encouraged.