Mutual Benefit’s Summer Memories Playlist

Mutual Benefit’s Summer Memories Playlist

The link between music and memory is a powerful one, and as another summer comes into full swing here in New York, I’ve been reaching for the songs that feel connected to that feeling of sitting outside and enjoying the complex patchwork of the city all around me.

Allen Toussaint, “Southern Nights”
I had been really appreciating Toussaint’s production on so many fantastic New Orleans soul records that go back over the past 50 years, but I just recently found his old solo work. This song feels perfect for finding a porch and enjoying the onset of summer with a cold drink. Or, in my case in Brooklyn, finding a stoop and Googling natural remedies to avoid mosquito bites.

Rihanna, “Higher”
ANTI was one of our tour van jammers when it came out a while back. For me, modern pop songs can lose their appeal after a couple of listens but this one has stuck around in my life. Rihanna’s voice gives me chills. I love the way the music stays way in the background and wobbles like the fading of a memory as last call approaches.

Ray Charles, “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying”
What an intro! The choir and strings kind of follow their own rhythmic logic and then it fades into flute. I love the way that Ray Charles was subverting music genres. Like turning old gospel songs into music for heathens. This kind of feels like he took one of those overwrought love songs of the ’50s and then infused a ton of soul into it.

L’Rain, “Stay, Go (Go, Stay)”
L’Rain at Silent Barn was one of my favorite live performances I’ve seen this year. The songs build from these found sounds and little experimentations until the energy just feels ecstatic. I can’t wait to hear more.

Zimbabwe Shona Mbira Music, “Nhemamusasa: Instrumental Excerpt 1″
I was really enchanted the first time I heard recordings of the Shona people playing the mbira (or thumb piano). This song is an excerpt from a larger piece, but the panning really shows off the way that the melodies interlock in and out of each other to create a kind of musically intoxicating feeling.

Justin Timberlake, “Morning Light”
OK, I know this song might be a surprising inclusion, but here’s what happened. I got all four of my wisdom teeth pulled out and I was deep in a painkiller haze when I heard Alicia Keys’ voice and it sounded like an angel and for one moment this song contained the whole universe and Justin Timberlake was personally making sure my teeth didn’t hurt as badly. Ever since then, I’m not going to fight it, this song is undeniable.

Karol G, Ozuna, “Hello”
It seems like in Brooklyn you form a special relationship with the people who run the bodega on your block. We have a really cool family-run spot around the corner where there is always this chaotic energy and kids and cats running around. I have a nice memory of this song coming on and everyone bopping along all of a sudden. I asked the person behind the counter who it was and now it is a summer jam.

Terakaft, “Itilla Ihene Dagh Aitma”
One of the people who collaborates with me sometimes spent a couple of years playing music in Mali and introduced me to some of the sounds made by the Tuareg people. Unfortunately, the political situation has become much more precarious since then. The region has an amazing legacy of ‘Desert Blues’ music like Ali Farka Toure or more recently Group Bombino, but I was really drawn to Terakaft’s own electrified take on the genre.

Binker and Moses, “The River’s Tale”
I feel a bit like Goldilocks when I listen to jazz. Like, I want it to be a little melodic, but not smooth and expressive, but not completely angular. So I was really happy to come across Binker and Moses who really have that ability to transport me with their music. Also, check out Zara McFarlane; they play in their band sometimes.

Laraaji, “Lotus Collage”
Laraaji is a true visionary. Supposedly ‘discovered’ but Brian Eno in Washington Square Park in the ’70s, he turns the zither into some sort of cosmic, ambient instrument. I hope to one day catch one of his laughter workshops, but until then I’ll let this playlist float off with ‘Lotus Collage.’

(Photo credit: Ebru Yildiz)

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