Forget 2013: Here Are My 20 Favorite Songs From The Summer Of 2007
It’s now officially the end of the summer of 2013. Back-to-school ads are starting to crop up, the days are getting slightly shorter, the city (New York) is emptying out as people leave on vacation, and I’m beginning to feel that curious sensation of short-term nostalgia for a time period that, up until a week ago, I was still fully ensconced in. It’s a curious sensation that I think many people feel by the end of the summer, one induced by both the realization that only a small fraction of those grand plans made prior to Memorial Day have been fulfilled, as well as the appreciation for those experiences that did happen.
For myself, this summer has felt a little bit odd; not so much for what I did and didn’t do over the past three months, but because of the realization that this will have been my sixth summer spent in New York City (I moved here on December 30, 2006). Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast this summer making new friends, catching up with old ones, exploring the city and experiencing some great outdoor events that are the hallmark of summer in New York.
But this was the first summer that, as it has come to a close, I have started to feel a sense of nostalgia less for this most recent summer, but for a different summer: the one when I first moved here. I can’t say there is anything particular about the summer of 2007 that makes it much different, except for me of course. Yes, the neighborhood I moved to (Williamsburg, Brooklyn) feels much different, much younger, more mainstream, and much more crowded than when I first got here, but as far as the rest of the city goes, there are still movies playing outside in the parks, outdoor concerts occur nearly every night, and there’s a palpable excitement every night as people make their way out into the summer air.
But in the summer of 2007, it was the first summer of “freedom” for me after being in school for a full seven years (four years in undergrad and three years in law school), and though I was working at the time, I felt a certain sense of opportunity and wonder that probably everyone feels when they first move to New York. I was also extremely excited at the prospect of living in the middle of what I believe many people will look back on as a golden moment for music — at least for the amorphous genre known as indie rock — and Brooklyn seemed to be the center of it all. Yes, many of the biggest bands popularizing the genre weren’t actually from Brooklyn — despite public perception — but chances are, if you were having any sort of success in indie rock, you were playing shows in the neighborhood at least a couple times a year, and if you weren’t winning over the residents of Williamsburg, you probably weren’t going to do much better elsewhere.
To make a long story short, as I look back at that summer of 2007 and experience that nostalgia, there’s nothing that brings me back more than the music I was listening to at that time. Though some of it may have come out a little before that summer (and in the hazy rear-view mirror that is memory, some may actually have been released after), the fact is there was some great music being produced around that time. Sure there is some good music coming out now, but of course it’s different. Maybe a little more electronic and a little less guitar-focused, but as all genres do, the music and the band have evolved, leaving behind a time capsule of music that encomapasses a certain time period.
So in honor of that summer, as a late-night endeavor to address my near-nostalgia, I put together this 20-song playlist of what I was listening to around that time period. Again, some may have come out a bit earlier than that summer, and some maybe even came after, but all of it was great, and each and every one of these songs brings back a flood of memories to me. I must stress, this is not a compilation of the “best” songs of the summer of 2007, or the most influential, it’s just my favorite songs and albums that I happened to have been listening to at that time, which given my tastes and interests then, means this list is missing a huge chunk of great music from various other genres (hip-hop, world music, jazz, pop) that probably would have made someone else’s “best-of” list. But again, for purposes of my own nostalgia, I can only focus on those songs lodged in my own limited memory.
So without further delay, here are my favorite songs from the summer of 2007.
Camera Obscura: “Let’s Get Out of This Country”
I love this Glaswegian band, and their Spector-like sound captured me from the moment I saw them play live at the South Street Seaport during the River to River Festival.
I’m From Barcelona: “We’re From Barcelona”
The Swedes were basically dominating great music that year, and I’m From Barcelona — the super band a la Broken Social Scene — played upbeat, catchy tracks that captures the sound of that country’s indie rock scene. I used their song for my Travel Guide to Stockholm video, and every time I hear the opening chords from “We’re From Barcelona” it makes me think of that trip.
The Hidden Cameras: “Death of a Tune”
I discovered The Hidden Cameras — one of the success stories from Toronto’s Arts & Crafts record label — while watching NY1’s New York Noise, which was a local show that — gasp! — actually played music videos. I used “Death of a Tune” as the opening for all of my early travel videos until YouTube told me to stop using copyrighted music, but I could listen to this song every day and never get sick of it.
Vampire Weekend: “Mansard Roof”
It’s hard to imagine a time when people hadn’t heard of Vampire Weekend. I remember reading about them as a “band to watch” in the L Magazine, and when their first album came out, it was as if a bomb dropped in the middle of the indie rock world, filled with both vitriol from the haters, as well as the appreciation that “one of their own” had broken though to the big time.
TV on the Radio: “I was a Lover”
TV on the Radio epitomized the mid-decade Brooklyn music scene, and seeing them live in the once abandoned outdoor pool in McCarren Park (which is now a sparkling new pool facility) and having them point to condos that had sprung up around the park and say, “Things are really changing around here,” made me both sad about the fate of the area, but happy that I was at least able to experience a bit of its tail end.
Band of Horses: “The Funeral”
I saw Band of Horses live at a free show with my friend Dan at the aforementioned abandoned pool. I remember when they began playing their biggest hit, “The Funeral,” and Dan leaned over to me and said, “It’s funny how all these hipsters are trying so hard to be cool that they won’t cheer for this song.” It was either that or the raw power Band of Horses brings to every set that was causing everyone to stay quiet. Probably the “looking cool” part.
The Hold Steady: “Stuck Between Stations”
I had never heard of The Hold Steady until I moved here, but this album was near the top of basically everyone’s list for the best albums of 2006. Rumor had it that they often wheeled a keg on stage during shows to help fuel the party atmosphere every time they played — an odd mix for a band known to sprinkle literary quotations and references into their song lyrics. Seeing them play “Stuck Between Stations” live in Prospect Park was one of the most exhilarating experiences I had that summer. It was also great to know that if you ever wanted to meet the bass player, all you had to do was to head to Hi-Fi bar in the East Village — he tended bar there at the time.
The New Pornographers: “Twin Cinema”
Yes, their name tended to stick with you, but the name also was one you read on almost every “Best Of” end-of-the-year list as well.
Ra Ra Riot: “Each Year”
Ra Ra Riot’s debut EP was recorded in Brooklyn and released in early 2007, and the buzz around them was enormous that year. They’ve since gone on to release several highly regarded (not to mention well selling) albums.
Peter Bjorn and John: “Objects Of My Affection”
Did any band represent the indie Swedish invasion better than Peter Bjorn and John? Yes, they’d been around for years, but it wasn’t until the song “Young Folks” came out that they really hit it big. I dare you to take a time machine back to mid-2007 and walk into any bar or restaurant and not hear this song blaring from the speakers within 20 minutes. I dare you. It wont’ happen. That being said, the song clearly was overplayed, and I much prefer to listen to the first song from this album, “Objects of my Affection,” to “Young Folks” any day.
La Strada: “The Sun Song”
This one may be a little esoteric, but La Strada was a local band in Williamsburg who unfortunately broke up a couple years ago. I actually discovered them when I answered a Craigslist ad for a band looking for a drummer. It’d been, oh, 10 years since I played the skins, but I gave it a go and auditioned for them at a rehearsal space on Roebling Street. They didn’t choose me, and several months later they were picked as one of the bands to look out for in 2008 by the L Magazine (the same one that had also recently mentioned Vampire Weekend), and there was their new drummer front and center on the magazine cover. It was okay though, I stayed friends with the lead singer whom I’d see at my local coffee shop often, and I used their song for the backing of my Travel Guide to Tallinn video. I still love their sound, and I’m surprised to this day they’re not headlining festivals around the world.
Beirut: “A Sunday Smile”
If I was heading to a desert island, Beirut’s The Flying Cup Club would be one of the 10 albums I would bring along with me. This album’s klezmer meets chanteuse sound hooks me in every time I listen to it. I also heard that the lead singer lives down the street from me, but I haven’t run into him yet. And yes, celebrity sightings in Williamsburg consist mostly of indie rock band sightings.
Neko Case: “That Teenage Feeling”
Neko Case was new to me that year, but her album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood was hugely popular at the time, and helped catapult the alt-country sound into the mainstream.
MGMT: “Time to Pretend”
My friend Dan (we went to a lot of shows together) and I were invited to an after-hours show during the College Music Festival in 2007 while at an earlier show. The young label employee put our names on the list and told us the band we were going to see later was going to be huge. I don’t remember much of consequence after that. The next year, I began telling Dan about this band called MGMT and how he should really check out their album. “Yeah Matt, we saw them last year at CMJ, don’t you remember?” So much for me spotting raw talent.
Los Campesinos: “You! Me! Dancing!”
Los Campesinos is as energetic live as they come across on their recordings, and when I saw them perform “You! Me! Dancing!” at Bowery Ballroom, I remember the entire venue jumping around, going — what scientists who study this type of thing call — “nuts”.
Cat Power: “Lived In Bars”
Cat Power was another musician that had been around for years, but whose breakthrough album, The Greatest,opened her up to a much larger audience. The Greatest was one of those albums that you would imagine was queued up every night around 2 a.m. at all the neighborhood dive bars. The slow grooves, melodic sounds and haunting lyrics was a sort-of exorcism for Chan Marhsall a/k/a Cat Power, whose own personal problems were well documented. If there’s one album I’m putting on late at night to chill out to, this is it.
Spoon: “The Underdog”
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga was Spoon’s sixth album, and “The Underdog” was performed everywhere from Conan O’Brien to SNL, which given the caliber of the song, was fine with me.
M.I.A.: “Paper Planes”
Can you remember a time when people hadn’t heard of M.I.A.? Critical darling, mainstream crossover, possible snob, M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” was her most commercially successful song from her second album, and was probably the beginning of her end as the backlash against her success began. I remember hearing this song when it first came out and instantly being hooked. I inserted it into the background of my Travel Guide to Santiago video, not thinking much of it. Little did I know the song was about to blow up and become ubiquitous (it was later to be featured prominently in Slumdog Millionaire).
Blonde Redhead: “23”
Blonde Redhead was everywhere in 2007, and I think they must have played at least 10 free shows around the city that summer in support of their album 23.
St. Vincent: “Marry Me”
Singer/songwriter Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, released what has become one my favorite albums of the last decade, Marry Me, an album that caught the eyes of everyone from music critics to David Byrne (who was to record an album with her a few years later). Despite being a fantastic song, I love the fact that she was inspired to reference Arrested Development for her album title.
By Matt Stabile
About the Author
Matt Stabile is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Expeditioner. The Expeditioner began in 2008 and is headquartered in New York City. You can read his writings, watch his travel videos or contact him at any time at TheExpeditioner.com. (@TheExpeditioner)