Angel Olsen, Yaya Bey and More on Their Favorite Summer Songs
Many of us still remember the labor of love that was the mixtape, those countless hours of hitting record, stop, rewind and play. But, while less time-consuming, curating a digital playlist, rather than relying on an algorithm-powered compilation, can still be a thoughtful move, one that could make all the difference at a dinner party. Song choices can be a way to share (or forget) what’s going on in the world, start a conversation, and most importantly, set the mood.
Personally, I treat any reunion as cause for celebration, especially after the last few years, and I tend to start the night off with margaritas (2 ounces of mezcal, 1 ounce of Cointreau, and the juice of a lime, shaken with ice cream) and country songs old and new—Miranda Lambert’s “Scenes” is a guilty pleasure and, lately, everyday. To relax into dinner, I’d suggest Psychic Ills’ “Another Change,” or Johnny Thunders’ usually louder, “Diary of a Lover,” the stripped-down acoustic song. What about the post-meal period? If you’re looking for a downtime dedicated to deep conversation, consider “Mother of Earth,” a dark, swampy song by The Gun Club, followed by “Boku wa Chotto” by the incredible Haruomi Hosono. If, however, you wish this was just the start of a long, raucous evening, read on. For this story, we asked musicians and other types of creators what they listen to and play for friends, and there’s something for every type of party.
Emily Bode, designer
“Angeles”, “Pitseleh” and “Someone I Used to Know” – Elliott Smith
“To me, Elliott Smith feels like summer – driving with the windows down after a swim and thinking back to my childhood in Atlanta, summers in Cape Town and college in New York.”
Cass McCombs, musician
“Mysterious Woman” – Kolumbo
“Frank LoCrasto, hands behind Kolumbo, is a wonderful musician as well as a friend and collaborator. Frank also invited me to dinner before. He made lasagna.
“Baby Hallelujah” – Weak Signal
“Weak Signal are close friends and their music gives me hope. Their last album, ‘War and War,’ came out in March. Not much background music, though. Play loud.
“Sometimes it’s relaxing to put on a local radio station and free myself from the weight of choice. Follow the eccentricities of a DJ Learn to love static. Switch to AM and check the score of the game, then switch back. There are so many great independent stations around [where I live]like KPOO San Francisco, OZCAT Vallejo, KCSS Turlock, KALX Berkeley, weekends KPFA, KPIG, WFMU, KXLU, etc.
Pierre Kwenders, musician
“Obomi Nga” – Moonshine, MC RedBul, Uproot Andy and MC Azas
“Because a great amapiano song always sets the mood. It just happens to be one of my favorites lately.
“Party (feat. Andre 3000)” – Beyoncé
“There are those songs that feel good and come at just the right time – that time when we need a little reminder that the party is alight. Queen B, always!
“Law” — Koffi Olomide
“Anthem of the Congolese National Party. Law means “law”. So we must obey! You can never go wrong with this track.
Henni Alftan, artist
“Weekend in Rome” — Étienne Daho
“This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” – Talking Heads
“Sound and Vision” – David Bowie
“We have the impression that time almost stops in the middle of summer. Maybe that’s why I often feel so nostalgic right now. In any case, my song choices are definitely nostalgic.
Rosie Assoulin, Max Assoulin and Cédric Nicaise of Vivanterre wine
“Such a Good Day” – Lewis OfMan
“Summer Girl” – Haim
“Summer Breeze” – The Isley Brothers
“Cranes in the Sky” – Solange
“We think they speak for themselves.”
Angel Olsen, musician
“Mamata (Affection)” – Ananda Shankar
“A friend sent me this song and said she always listens to it in the morning. I absolutely loved it and listen to it myself every summer morning. It gives me peace of mind. hope just hearing it makes me want to move my body.
“Why, Buzzardman, why?” — Alabaster Feather
“This song is just very sweet and makes me think of attending a beautiful ceremony. It’s a big ceremony in the energy of Amalfi.
“Andalusia” – John Cale
“I listened to this song on repeat while driving in the mountains. It has the best production and I love John Cale’s voice so much – it’s like a great cover.
Yaya Bey, musician
“Angel” – Anita Baker
“It makes me look even prettier than I thought no matter what outfit I’m wearing, which is key for dinner party confidence.”
“Love, Love, Love” – Donny Hathaway
“It always makes the room happy.”
“I’m in Love” – The Gap Band
“It’s one of the most romantic songs I know. And summer is for romance.
Beverly Nguyen, Fashion Stylist
“Hentai” – Rosalia
“A song for driving on the Pacific Coast Highway after the beach and at sunset.”
“Strawberry Letter 23” – Shuggie Otis
“A summer classic for all moods. I especially like it when cooking at home. It sets the tone for frozen drinks and all-night grilling.
“Beyond” – BFRND
“Play late at night at an outdoor dance party for best results.”
Jack Parlett, writer and scholar
“This Is My Home (12″ Remix)” – Diana Ross & Jimmy Simpson
“Playing this song as a party host might sound a bit on the nose, but there are plenty of reasons why this is the perfect track for hospitality. It exudes both warmth and glamour, evolving into the drama and then walking away from it.
“Soft Talk” – Jessie Ware
“A dinner calls for music that oscillates on the edge of excitement but does not dominate the atmosphere, a gateway to dance. In its sleazy and its nostalgia, ‘Sweet Talk’ sits perfectly on this boundary.
“That’s the Way Love Goes” – Janet Jackson
“Lush, layered and full of desire – a flame that lingers in the background.”