Waking Life: A Music Mix For July 2017

Photo: Arcade Fire press image
The Arcade Fire

Summer is for hitting the open road. But a lot of the music that speaks to me the most comes with transportation included. I liked to be moved. With that in mind, this month's Waking Life can be the soundtrack to your transport, or the transport itself. ("It finds you a job, it is a job," to quote Tom Waits.)

To claim that a record or piece of music is "transporting" can mean different things to different people, and even different things to the same person. For example, I told you all about how The Mountain Goats' "Goths" took me places last month. But those are entirely different places than the driving, intense, politically-charged new record from Algiers, "The Underside of Power," takes me. The sophomore record from the trio is soulful and unwavering. It throws you over its shoulder and sweeps you away to show you things it's not always easy to see. It's not a fun record, exactly, but that's not its aim.

It's unlike the first single from The Arcade Fire's upcoming "Everything Now," which seems to put fun front and center. It borrows in equal parts from Swedish pop stars ABBA and fairly obscure African electronic musician Francis Bebey -- the latter of whom they sample, borrowing the flute from his "The Coffee Cola Song." Yet it also feels like it contains a statement with substance.

Those are two highlights in a 35-song playlist full of them. It's a particularly good time for new music from artists we have known and there are many returns here (some of them long awaited, as seems to be popular these days). Rainer Maria, The Clientele, The Church, Stars (who get two spots), Chad VanGaalen, St. Vincent, Amadou & Mariam, Washed Out and Benjamin Clementine are but a few of the established names with new work here.

Iggy Pop, meanwhile, guests on someone else's piece, adding his voice to Oneohtrix Point Never's soundtrack to the film "Good Time" on the "The Pure And The Damned." It's truly gutting.

Lots of fresh faces here, too, with names like Earl St. Clair, Cigarettes After Sex and the Denver-connected GVGrace making memorable first impressions, and the likes of Torres, Big Thief, Japanese Breakfast, Alvvays, Kacy & Clayton and Curtis Harding continuing to build on a good thing they started.

Summer's here! Go outside. Take a roadtrip. See where these songs take you. As always, this playlist is best enjoyed set to "shuffle."