A Soundtrack for Your Summer Fling

  • Post Author
    by Talk
  • Post Date
    Mon Jul 03 2023
By Ria Dhingra

Pt 1. Songs For That Situation You Promised Yourself You Wouldn't Get Into

“Wait A Minute!” WILLOW

Picture this: it's early June and you're single. Very single. You've reassured yourself that it's fine, that it's Summer, that you're not in the mood for anything — let alone anything serious. This Summer is about being casual, being young and figuring out who you want to be. But then you see a couple having a sunset picnic at the park, shopping for groceries and grabbing drinks at the bars you go to when you feel lonely but don't want to be alone. Suddenly, things don't feel as fine anymore. You realize you're craving comfort, convenience, care — craving somebody that you haven't even met yet. Considering you're still at the bar, you're now unconsciously looking for anybody to live up to your somebody. You start talking to, dancing with, someone. In the back of your mind, you know this isn't going to end well…

“Some things don't work. Some things are bound to be.” WILLOW's 2015 sleeper hit couples funk inspired production with laid-back sounding vocals to create a song that feels like a lazy summer afternoon. The groovy track is sonically fun and lyrically self-aware, admitting, “I think I left my conscience on your front doorstep.”

“Valerie” Amy Winehouse 

At this point, you've committed to your decision and you're hoping it's not a mistake. The someone you found is temporary, only in town for the Summer. They're interesting without being intimidating and like playing Amy Winehouse's “Valerie,” listening to them has you walking with a slight skip in your step. You spend the days doing your own thing before waiting for a text or call along the lines of: “Won't you come on over? Stop making a fool out of me.” One morning you end up staying to have breakfast, which quickly turns into lunch and walk around the park. You consider asking them to go grocery shopping — “In my head I paint a picture” — before changing your mind in fear of ruining whatever it is you're doing. As you both turn the corner, you question if the someone you found might be perfect before reminding yourself it's temporary. 

“Armistice” Phoenix

This is not good. June's coming to a close. You've met their friends, shared your insecurities and are embarking on a three-day road trip. You both have feelings, and you both have verbally admitted it (once) on accident. “For lovers in a rush, keeping promises.” They're leaving in six weeks and you've agreed to end it then. Life's too busy, complicated, for long distance in a way that's fair. Yet, things feel complicated right now. Things already seem unfair. Phoenix captures this restless desperation to make the most of the time that's there in “Armistice.” The post-punk track relies on blaring instrumentation to showcase the angst of suppressed feelings. “Look what you wasted… Our daily compromise, it is written in your signed armistice.”

“Touch Tank” quinnie 

You're hopeful. You slipped up and mentioned them to your parents on the phone (and you didn't instantly regret it). That's how you knew. You're hopeful, you have butterflies and you're the one who always texts and calls first. You don't mind this because you know they're hopeful too; they just show it instead of saying it, and you're not stupid enough to misread the social cues. quinnie's delicate vocals and bedroom-pop sound sink into your mind as you both start to showcase more and more sentimentality. “'Cause I preach a freedom, but you're a f*cking great excuse… Do you wanna wake up to me?”

“Tel It” Cafuné

“How much can I be expected to tolerate?” Something happened. You should have seen that coming; that's how these sorts of things always go. But you've done all that before and this time it really feels different. Still, you've reverted to meeting at nights, no breakfast and no mentions of the road trip. “We were talking the same language… You'd be holding… admit that I am hoping.” In any other situation, you would have said something by now, but it's mid-July, and there isn't enough time to deal with potential fallout from a conversation gone sour. You keep moving forward, living your life and trying not to feel pathetic as it gets closer to midnight and there are still no missed calls. Cafuné's longing lyrics and layered vocals express it best: “I watch the moon. Let it run my mood. Can't stop thinking of you.”

“Green Light” Lorde

All flings must come to an end. That's sort of the doomed premise of a no-labels relationship. Yet, you're left hoping that, just this once, maybe a Summer of fun can actually turn into something capable of surviving the cold. “Did it frighten you, how we kissed when we danced on the light up floor?”

Lorde's “Green Light” is the kind of song that encapsulates burning out in style rather than fading away. Its shouting chorus and clean pop production makes the track a perfect background for a montage of your greatest hits or to serve as the score for what you both know will be the last time. The abrupt, fast-tempo start and prolonged seconds of silence at the end culminate to represent you and them, suddenly together — loud, booming, crashing, beautiful, fast-paced, overwhelming — and falling quickly apart. The song's an earworm, perfect pop you find yourself returning to over and over in lieu of memories. “Cause honey I'll come get my things, but I can't let go”

“Nostalgic for the Moment” Kathryn Gallagher 

It's the next morning. You've come down from the night prior, and the reality of loss starts to really hit you. There is a calling for closure and you realize three things. One: you fell too hard. Two: they knew it. Three: you knew they knew — and you let it happen anyways. “You know just what you're doing. Leaving me wanting more. But I like it when you touch me. And I like it when you call.” Like the song prior, this one's a ballad, but it's rawer. Gallagher writes of lost love, the sick pit you feel in your stomach the moment after nostalgia wears off. “Tell me you don't love feeling adored… Get nostalgic, for the moment. I can't hide. I can't hold it back.”

Pt 2. Songs For The Aftermath. Note: NOT A Break-Up Playlist.

“ceilings” Lizzy McAlpine

This is a sad song. A clutch-your-chest-and-turn-the-volume-up-while-sitting-in-the-passenger-seat-and-

being-driven-in-endless-circles sort of sad song. Lizzy McAlpine just gets you. The hopeful tone in her initial, almost acoustic, vocals and the crescendo of strings spells out the symphony of anger, longing, heartbreak and confusion that's starting to consume you. She summarizes your summer with a scary degree of accuracy, “You kiss me in your car, and it feels like the start of a movie I've seen before.

A tonal contrast to Lorde's “Green Light,” the recurring motif of being in someone else's car is also present here. Whereas “Green Light” focuses on getting out of the car, driving forward, moving on, “ceilings” lacks that level of autonomy. This song is about being driven home, being dropped off and being told by someone that they're done with whatever you both were. “But it's not real, and you don't exist, and I can't recall the last time I was kissed. It hits me in the car, and it feels like the end of a movie I've seen before.”

“Amoeba” Clario

You finished your cry in the car. You had a fling. It was casual. It's over now. So what? You pull up to a party towards the end of July and hear “Amoeba” by Clario start to play. You've heard the song before, it's whimsical yet somehow jam packed with self-loathing. “Nobody yet everything, a pool to shed your memory… Could you say you've even tried?” Composed of the sounds of literal glass shattering hidden under soft piano and funk, Clario sings of how being starstruck made her prioritize all the wrong things. She's wasted her time, gotten lost and she's disappointed — most of all, with herself. Suddenly, you get why this song is so popular. “I show up to the party just to leave.”

“Somebody's Baby” Sidney Gish

Time for a tone shift. It's mid-August and Summer's coming to a close. In hindsight it hits you that you did all the “couple things” you once admired from a distance despite saying you weren't a part of one. You danced in bars. You did end up getting groceries. You even figured yourself out a little more. The anybody you found ended up being somebody to you and — for a short while — you got to be theirs. “Well, just, a look at that girl with the lights comin' up in her eyes. (She's) got to be somebody's baby.” Maybe, summer flings less are about a person and more about the chance to be someone's person, to not be alone. Sidney Gish's breezy cover of Jackson Browne's pop rock hit “Somebody's Baby” swaps both genre and perspective, allowing the lyrics to suddenly become a lot more introspective. 

“Fake Nice” The Aces

It's time to face the music: you sort of disappeared for most of the summer. Now, you're spending a weekend at home with your parents, grabbing brunch with friends and picking up extra shifts at work. “Oh I'm naive. If I wanted simplicity why'd I move to the city.” Funk/rock inspired track “Fake Nice” is all about navigating adulthood solo, about “not have(ing) the time” for relationships. It's a song with an attitude, nonchalant in a way that almost feels forced, about how to act after a breakup-that-wasn't-a-breakup-because-you-never-labeled-it-in-the-first-place. The opening baseline and electric guitar behind the chorus creates an instrumental soundscape perfect for pool parties and pretending you don't care when you're asked questions about them.

“Missing U” Robyn

It's starting to get cold out. You need a sweatshirt in the evenings. So, on what you presume is the last nice, warm, weekend of the summer you go dancing. That's when you hear this. An ABBA-soundalike fused with 80's disco influence, a hot-person-summer-moment-of-a-song that's belting out some seriously relatable lyrics. “Baby, it's so real to me now it's over. The space where you used to be. Can't make sense of all of the pieces of my own delusions. All the love you gave, it still defines me.” Just as you begin to feel the music, you see them standing on the other side of the room. 

“Cherries“ Hope Tala, Aminé

“Look at the state we're in.” You're going to walk over to them. Just to say hi. No, no, you're not going to do that. You're going to demand an explanation. Maybe text them? Or leave? Move on? But you paid the cover fee to be here. They should be the ones to leave. You should make them leave. But that's irrational. Right? Meanwhile, Hope Tala sings of fruit, alluding to what's always been forbidden — and your tongue is now twisted like a knotted cherry stem. The r&b/soul influenced track is sonically carefree, with instrumentals that manage sound airy, leaving plenty of room for other sounds to be added. You don't know what to do with all this space. You don't even get to decide — they're suddenly gone. “Don't leave me here alone. Drink up the tears I cry.”

“Hungover” Eloise 

It's 3am. The night, the Summer, all of it, is over — it has been for a while. You check your phone and see the date stare back at you: September 1st. Like a hangover, you've let your situation, the night before and your summer tan carry over into Fall like a lingering headache. “I've stopped thinking 'bout our sun-kissed love.” Eloise's aching track is produced in a way that echoes through headphones, making you feel woozy as the metronome of snaps ring through your ears on the long, stumbling, walk home. “Why can't I feel things to a smaller degree? ‘Cause right now I'm hurting Enough for both you and me (oh…)”

“Summer's Over” Jordana, TV Girl

“Isn't it cool how the summer fades? But I'm still here whispering your name. Guess the heat drives people crazy. Slip up and I call you baby… (It was) nice to know you.”

“Always Forever” Cults 

The sun is rising. You have work in two hours. And you have no regrets, for any of it. Of course, you just ran into them. You'll probably run into them again — there isn't going to be any real closure. You get it now, and that is a sort of closure itself. 

Your headphones start to play a psychedelic track and you can't tell if it's happy or sad, but you don't skip it. It was, honestly, the best summer of your life. Despite everything, you still owe them that share of credit. So, now what? What next? The song washes over you with haunting vocals, giving you goosebumps. Like the sun waking up a sleeping city, this track is beautiful, peaceful and bittersweet. It's emotive in a way that's hard to clearly characterize. 

You pass the park and watch a couple walk along the path. You remember that you did that too. You feel an ache in your chest as you turn up the volume just in time to feel the guitar crash at the 2 minute and 45 second mark. You don't necessarily miss them, but you miss it — the feeling of crashing into someone, intertwining fingers and lives — even if it was only temporary. 

Your hand is empty right now, but you're not longing for somebody, anybody, to hold it. That's new. And it's really confusing in a way that isn't bad. It's going to take a while to recover, but maybe you don't have to recover — you just have to keep going. 

The song ends like a transition — with two progressing chords, and it feels like there should be a third one. It's open ended, but still finished — a question mark, no, an ellipsis… Normally, this would annoy the living daylights out of you, make you play the song over and over. Yet, Cults's “Always Forever” is satisfying as a stand-alone, it doesn't feel like a cliffhanger calling you back. 

You've decided that the song is too cinematic to be solely an unhappy one. That the missing chord is both a cue that this particular song is over and a prompt to press forward instead of rewind. 

You take a break to press pause instead. You take off your headphones; then, you keep walking. 

“You and me. Always forever. We could stay alone together.”

Bonus Track:

“Cruel Summer” Taylor Swift

 Feel free to just listen to this song six times instead of reading this piece.