There’s something about summer that always makes me super nostalgic about my childhood. I’ve got a ‘90s R&B type of heart and look back at this era of music fondly. The first album I ever bought myself—picked it out at the music store at the mall (remember those?) and paid for it with my own money—was SWV’s It’s About Time. “Weak” and “I’m So Into You” are forever favorites in my book. Explore essential SWV on Freegal.
Iration and chill. It’s summer all year round with this pop reggae band. This year’s Coastin’ and 2018’s self-titled album are their best albums yet. Indulge in Iration music past and present on Freegal.
"Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles is the ultimate summer track of 2020 and a modern pop classic. The Fine Line album is a delight, and is available to check out on CD or for stream/download on Freegal.
- This summer I watched season 2 of one of the best mini-series I ever saw, My Brilliant Friend. The story, adapted from the novels by Elena Ferrante, traces the intense relationship of two girls in Naples, as they grow into women and their paths diverge. It takes place in post-war Naples, and has the feel of the neorealism films of De Sica and Rossellini. It features a tremendous cast, and as a bonus you get to hear the stirring music of Max Richter at the start of every episode. In Italian and Neapolitan, with subtitles. Season 1 is available on dvd.
- Another fabulous series is Fosse/Verdon: an inside look at influential choreographer Bob Fosse and great Broadway dancer Gwen Verdon's romantic and professional partnership. Michelle Williams won a Golden Globe and Emmy for her uncanny portrayal of Verdon. The production is very creative, using their art (Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity, Cabaret) in a unique way to tell their story. Available on DVD.
- The Metropolitan Opera offered free streaming of many operas this summer, and one that stood out is Verdi's Macbeth. Anna Netrebko won accolades as Lady Macbeth, especially transfixing in the chilling sleepwalking scene at the end as she sings “Una macchia è qui tuttora” (Out, damned spot!) Luckily, you can see this opera and every Metropolitan Opera HD recording on bluray and dvd. On a side note, if you're an opera fan, check out Aria Code, a podcast hosted by Rhiannon Giddens.
- Lastly, if you like British detective shows, you'll love Broadchurch. I don't usually watch this genre, but I tuned in to this 8-part series on the recommendation of a friend, and it didn't disappoint. In the close-knit seaside community of Dorset, a young boy's murder brings out many secrets as local detective Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) and out-of-towner Alec Hardy (David Tennant) try to solve the case. This addictive series keeps you guessing while exhibiting the subtle characterizations and strong acting we've come to expect of British television.
I found Sex and Broadcasting when I was searching for strange things to feature. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this radio station that features some of the weirdest music (?) I've heard, enough that I looked up their website so I could listen to it online sometimes. This documentary feels like a real life UHF.
For some reason, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion popped into my head recently as one of those movies I loved when I first saw it, and it's been such a long time that it was time for a rewatch. It's still hilarious all these years later and I definitely recommend placing a hold on it if you're in the mood for something silly and lighthearted on DVD.
I have two stand-out favorites of the summer to share. The first was a little movie that I stumbled upon in Kanopy called THIS BEAUTIFUL FANTASTIC, on Kanopy, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I found it to be both beautiful and fantastic with an unpredictable fairy-tale like charm. I especially appreciated the quirky main character who works in a library (I mean, who doesn't appreciate libraries and the people who work in them-lol)!
Then, with all the ups and downs we have been experiencing this summer, I escaped it all and went to an Italy in times gone by. Essentially, I discovered MY BRILLIANT FRIEND , which rescued my summer and absolutely transported me! It follows the friendship of Lina and Lenu from childhood to maturity with all of the ups and downs of their lives in Italy. I binge watched season 1 in July, and then was inspired to read the quartet of books by Elena Ferrante, including the audio books.
So now in August, I have been immersed in this quartet of books and the characters whose lives echo unspoken thoughts and feelings that we all have inside. As much as I want to watch the next upcoming seasons, for now I am content to be reading this well written series and highly recommend it. I even almost feel like I can speak Italian now myself,tutto bene, ciao for now.
4 Decades of Summer Favorites
Movies have always been a Summer Favorite for me. As a child, the first Summer blockbuster I saw was Batman in the Summer of 1989.
A decade later, teenage me was driving to see Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace.
Another decade later I was crying while watching Up.
Finally, a decade after that I was watching Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in the Summer of 2019. These titles are all available at SCCLD!
I wonder what I'll be watching in the Summer of 2029.
Released on the cusp of this summer, Phoebe Bridgers' Punisher has been on heavy rotation for my summer soundtrack. Be sure to take a close listen to "Chinese Satellite" and the epic closer "I Know the End," which chronicles Bridgers' fears of an uncertain future. It's the sadly perfect song for our current times.
As the season begins to wind down, it's nice to take a moment to reflect on all my favorite things that are uniquely summer and the songs that celebrate them.
The first thing that comes to mind are cold, fruity popsicles, a perfect treat on a hot day! The Lucky Band (formerly Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band) dedicated an entire delicious song to this refreshment with Paletero Man from their album Made In L.A. Yo quiero bailar y disfrutar más y más.
Secret Agent 23 Skidoo brings the beats to help us all Unwind in the sunshine (from the album The Perfect Quirk), slowing down to enjoy corn on the cob, tag and capture the flag, Marco Polo in the pool, and so many more adventures. You'll be feeling just fine.
And, finally, what I wouldn't give for a slow, calming Summer Rain to clear the air right now. Mr. Jon & Friends brings us a sweet lullaby of the same name from his album Rock & Rhyme. Soft and sweet.
It has been a summer of discoveries but two really stood out for me, one brand new and the other very old.
R&B Grammy darling H.E.R. came out with the fantastic track, "Do To Me" which is one of my favorite songs of the year so far. The song builds from sampling Sister Nancy's song "Bam Bam" into something smoother and sunnier. It's altogether sublime and worth a listen. Both songs are available on Freegal.
Director James Whale is famous both for being the director of Frankenstein and as the subject of Gods and Monsters. Less well known is that he also directed the movie adaptation of the groundbreaking musical Showboat in 1936, my summer rediscovery. Seen from the perspective of 2020, the movie is powerful, painful and worth seeing. I had only seen clips of Paul Robeson's powerhouse performance but seen in the context of the whole film, and his life story, it becomes overwhelming. Relatedly, that helped my discover Songs of Freedom - Musician and Activist, Paul Robeson on Kanopy.
Movies & Music - Question of the Week
The 1991 hip-hop song “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince was sampled from the 1974 instrumental jam “Summer Madness” by this funk band.
Earth, Wind & Fire0
Kool & the Gang0
Last week's trivia answer was: Roger Waters