Chill and Natural [Monthly Mix]

I had this mix ready to go back at the beginning of the month (I promise!!) but never quite got around to posting it. I have been enjoying this one too much to let it linger in obscurity forever, so…here it is!

SUMMER DANCE PARTY ALRIIIIIIIIIGHT. Let’s get this started right, and by right I mean with “Life Itself,” my current favorite dance jam. I’m a sucker for a funky beat (aren’t we all?) and this song may not be game-changing but it is fun, and that’s what I’m all about this month.

The final addition to the mix is probably my favorite–“Watching the Waiting” is the first single off Wye Oak’s surprise new album, and it is happiness in a song. No matter what I’m doing when it comes on, I find a smile creeping across my face and then I have to stop whatever I was doing and just enjoy it for a few minutes. What is life, if we can’t stop every now and then to enjoy the beautiful things?

The thing I’m always looking for, when I’m listening to music, is a new sound. Something I haven’t quite heard before, something that could only come from this one person. Xenia Rubinos is a perfect example of this. Within ten seconds I could tell that “Black Stars” would be on my mix, and that I had to hear more from her.

Back in May, I saw Punch Brothers at Thalia Hall, and while I was OF COURSE completely blown away by their insane musicality and technical wizardry, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the opener, Gabriel Kahane. He’s funny and charming and his songs take you by surprise. Each song on his most recent album, The Ambassador, takes its title from a specific street address, and tells its stories through the landmarks of LA. The most fun and memorable song from that set was this one, “Villains (4616 Dundee Dr.)”

When I think “summer jam,” I think of a song like “Chill and Natural” by White Hinterland. I can’t help but start dancing in my chair and imagining myself driving with the windows down. Bonus: the “chill and natural” in the title references the many, often conflicting, expectations men have of women.

Believe it or not, I took dance classes for a good ten years of my life. I was definitely terrible, but I didn’t quite know it yet, and I still believed I could be a graceful ballerina if I just tried hard enough (I didn’t try hard enough, either). I have shockingly few specific memories of that phase of my life, but the one song that takes me back there immediately is Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever.” Our teacher ALWAYS played this song during stretches, and, having pretty much zero exposure to secular music, I genuinely thought it was this obscure song only my ballet teacher knew. I really loved it, but had no way of finding out what it was, or how to listen to it even if I found it, but I thought about it often over the years, until sometime in my teenage years, when I finally realized it had been a massive pop (okay, adult-contemporary) hit. Anyway. This cover by Betty Who is beautiful and reminds me of a more innocent time in life. Both very good things.

Chance the Rapper’s new mixtape is perfect and basically a gospel album, if you haven’t heard. This song features Kirk Franklin, for goodness sake, and there is straight up a cover of “How Great Is Our God” earlier in the album.

That’s all, folks! Get out there and enjoy the summer while it lasts!!

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