Fiery Furnaces and Silver Apples
Based on the Hollywoodian calendar (the practical successor to the Julian and Gregorian models), summer is upon us and we should be spending our time in air conditioned movie theaters or lounging poolside, drinking flavored rums from the hollows of coconuts. But we’re not because it’s still like 40 degrees out there for some reason! What is going on, Nature, and why do you hate us?
Still, I wanted to share with you two songs that remind me of summer’s better days ahead. I found both of these songs on one of my best days of musical discovery. Last year I was sitting in a beer snob bar with a friend from out of town when “Here Comes The Summer” by The Fiery Furnaces came on. I’d never heard the song, so I furtively Shazam’d it under the table. From the jump-start initial chord, the song is like sipping distilled nostalgia sprinkled with the essence of summers gone by. It makes me think of my Pittsburgh past. I hear it and I think of barbecues and beers on Dawson Street, of iced teas and a book club that met on Murray Avenue. I think of the Washington, DC version of myself and how March 2012 was so warm that it really did feel like summer. Daylight savings time had toyed with my body clock, so I jogged in the mornings and evenings and discovered that I could run five kilometers.
The other song I unearthed that day, “Oscillations” by Silver Apples, was truly ancient, having been released as a single in 1968. I acted coolly with “Here Comes The Summer,” but I became an obnoxious smartphone geek the moment that “Oscillations” hit my ears because I feared losing the song forever. It just sounded so damned cool and yet I couldn’t place it at all. The recording was primitive, but the music was so modern. It was dancy and psychedelic, but electric guitars had been replaced with synths. Silver Apples project leader Simeon used so many synthesizers/oscillators that he rigged together his own device to control it all, apparently also called The Simeon. This work places Silver Apples at a pretty influential spot on the electronic music timeline. Musically, you can hear a little of what will eventually become Radiohead and Simeon has Thom Yorke beaten on the digitally disaffected front by about 40 years. The group had a big impact on Portishead as well, who do a spot on Silver Apples impression on their tribute, “We Carry On.” Other recommended songs are “You And I” and “I Have Known Love.”
The same friend at the bar with me that afternoon moved to Washington, DC recently. We’ve known each other since we were both little and we’ve spent many summers at the park, first fighting monsters, and later on talking about life and love and just trying figuring out who in the hell we actually were at 13 years old. We haven’t seen each other consistently for 17 years, but with the best friends you don’t have to. This is the same kid that I figured out music with and watched the 1994 World Cup with. The same kid whose elbow I broke in pursuit of a bouncing rubber ball and the one I learned how to do an oil change with. The last time we watched a Knicks playoff game together OJ had just killed a guy. We have a lot of summers in our past that I look back on fondly. We’ll be adding another.