After four weeks and well over 150 submissions, it's time to announce the winners of our first annual Salon Summer Soundtrack Contest. It was a difficult but quite enjoyable task to work through all these playlists of free music downloads -- with their clever concepts and terrific free music finds -- and pick the very best. There were so many excellent submissions that I'm going to continue posting standout playlists for weeks to come, so keep coming back.
A few stood out from the pack though, and here are my picks for the five top playlists, counting down to the winner of the contest - and of a 20 GB iPod.
"A Hazy-Hot Letter to the Hipsters," by Erich Pelletier
[We've previously honored Pelletier's fine submission here. Here it is again:]
Caught somewhere in the hazy no man's land of June, we sit. We wait for the merciless Sun to deliver us to terror, to ecstasy, to that playful Summer of childish myth. The Trial of the Century has ended and he was found not guilty (though maybe not quite innocent) on all ten counts. All of this together brings us a mild melancholy ... moody enough to commit Idecide? Perhaps. Whatever that is.
And still we wait, expectantly cowering, for the heat to really set, to firm and become touchable ... and I, for one, Do Dream You lovely scruffy music types could be there fanning me with feathers while those ubiquitous Anorexic Freaks frolic around us on the beachy sand. But we love those freaks, because If You Can't Say Love, one is truly mute in this world. Saying love brings Balance to us, to the Sun, to the Summer and the sand. Shimmery keyboard guitar voice notes filter ringing high and reedy through waves of heat across the city's concrete and Blah Blah Blah... whatever...
But when the real heat does arrive, even though the Sun sometimes makes us grumpy and we act like Shitty Bums, please don't send your vengeful Missile of hipster retribution down on our sweaty bunker, our shelter of fun from the Sun. Don't cast your mystical Dutch Hex on our summery parade ... Just don't, OK? Because we know how those hexes work -- they call the Ghost Riders in to attack us and drink All the Wine, all of our beautifully chilled sweaty-glass wine that is our final defense against the tenderest mercies of the heat. Please, only love us instead, thou literate and beautiful children of fashion and taste. Let go of your cynicism and dance. Summer is a happy time, though a difficult one. Quiet and love (and luck) will help us all through these trying times until crispy Fall. Until then, when we are lucky, we may lie in the grass and gaze up at leaves overhead and drift off into a long slow Diamond Sea of hazy reverie.
1. "The Trial of the Century," the French Kicks
2. "Idecide," What Made Milwaukee Famous
3. "I Do Dream You," Jennifer Gentle
4. "Anorexic Freaks," Kinky
5. "If You Can't Say Love," Visionaries
6. "Balance," Crown City Rockers
7. "Blah Blah Blah...," Cartel de Santa
8. "Shitty Bum," C-Mon and Kypski
9. "Missile," Blonde Redhead
10. "Dutch Hex Manhattan Version," Professor Murder
11. "Attack of the Ghost Riders," The Raveonettes
12. "All the Wine," The National
13. "The Diamond Sea," Sonic Youth
"The Sun Is Down, The Girl Is Gone, And I've Got Sand In My Crack," by Jeff Meyers
01. "Hey you. Yes You," Ben Lee
02. "Party Of," Peter Elkas (download from here)
03. "Talking to Myself," Cousteau
04. "Drunken Tears," Quasi (download from here)
05. "Something to Talk About," Badly Drawn Boy
06. "Mastercontrol," Graeme Downes
07. "Rollerskate," Call & Response
08. "I hope this makes it easier for you," Actionslacks
09. "Linoleum" Tweaker
10. "Oogum Boogum," Alex Chilton
11. "Iron Woman," Devin Davis
12. "Waiting for the Sunset," Belulah
13. "Alternative to Love," Brendan Benson
14. "Bittersweet Valentines," Pete Krebs
15."Across the Bridge," Great Lakes Myth Society
"Travel Around the World This Summer," Lisa Brockmeier.
1. "Miyaabele," Baaba Maal
2. "Orgasmatron,"Albert Kuvezin Yat-Kha
3. "Man's Word," Natacha Atlas
4. "Don Quijote Marijuana," Brujeria
5. "Buah,"7 Notas 7 Colores
6. "Dzungla Na Kaldrmi," Vlada Divljan
7. "Justo N," Control Machete
8. "Ganges A Go-go," Kalyanji Anandji vs. Automat
9. "Okean," Veliki Prezir
10. "El Indio," Charanga Cakewalk
11. "Otpisani," Boban Markovic Orkestar
12. "El Tambor," Radio Mundial
13. "Malarae," Kulisch And Vana-Veli
14. "Livingston Buzz," Radio Zumbido
15. "Balkan Rumba," Ognjen I Prijatelji
"What I Did On My Summer Break Music Mix," Jared Toporek
01. "Shave," Enon
I got a haircut. Need to look respectable according to my uptight parents.
02. "The Hook," Stephen Malkmus
Take the sail boat to summer house with the parents. When did buccaneers go out of existence? I hear they still exist somewhere off the coast of China. I gotta find something else to do beside hang out with my parents, or else this summer is going to suck.
03. "Your Little Hoodrat Friend," The Hold Steady
After arriving, meet some sketchy new friends at local arcade. Smoke some mary jane behind the arcade with 'em.
04. "On to You," The Constantines
Meet adorable mysterious goth girl in group. Maybe this summer won't suck.
05. "Amplifier," Jucifer
Local need bass player. I got one, but no amp. Have to borrow from a friend of sketchy friend. Play a gig at the local bowling alley.
06. "Communication Breakdance," Rye Coalition
Time to rock out with my cock out. Goth girl shows up, try to score more alone time with her after gig.
07. "Graverobbers," Comets on Fire
Find nice quiet place, away from nosy parents, with goth chick -- The cemetery. We make out. Goth chicks love graveyards.
08. "Panda Strong," The Oxes
Bonding time in a trip to the zoo the next day with goth girl proves to be most successful. Zoo isn't my thing, but it's cheap and close by. Walk goth chick home.
09. "Suspect," Viva Death
Apparently goth girl's parent don't seem to like me.
10. "Space Humping $19.99," Lifter Puller
Night out w/ goth girl + 2 fake id's = drunken debauchery. Liquid courage fuels me to...
11. "Let Me Come Back," Girls Against Boys
...plead with her to take me back into her bedroom. Get in, then get busted by parents. Arrested and arraigned.
12. "Young Lawyer," French Kicks
Assigned public defender. This guy is fresh from passing the bar. I think I might be screwed.
13. "Goin' Down South," R.L. Burnside (with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion)
Now might be a good time to leave the country, maybe head to Mexico? Play this tune on the '68 Chevy Impala Convertible with top down, as I make my way to the border. One problem -- Where am I going to find a '68 Chevy Impala convertible?
The winner of the Summer Soundtrack Contest -- and a shiny new iPod -- is Heidi Williamson, for her playlist "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," a beautifully compiled tribute to the sweaty underbelly of summer. It doesn't have a clever concept, and it doesn't stray much outside the confines of modern indie rock - something that a number of the other submissions I've highlighted did, and which I greatly appreciated, knowing how difficult it can be to find much quality music from other genres available for free, legal download on the Web. But, better than any other playlist submitted, it creates a mood, a very palpable and potent one, and draws the listener into its own world. It starts out fresh, but soon the sweat and humidity start to seep into the songs and they become soggy and heavy, dripping with lethargy. As the mix continues, things get increasingly warped and woozy and surreal; songs I know well are recontextualized, so that what had seemed like a dreamy reverie becomes a sunstruck hallucination. It also brings some new artists and songs to Audiofile, including especially great tracks I'd never heard from Castanets, the Occasion, Charlemagne and Baxter Dury. Mostly, though, this is the winner because of all the playlists submitted it's the one I keep coming back and listening to, over and over again. And I hope you will, too.
"Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," Heidi Williamson
Summer isn't all bubblegum pop songs and ice cold lemonade -- it's also sweating through your clothes, buzzing cicadas, melting tar and frying pavement, crunchy grass, a layer of smog settling around you like a poncho; it's opressive and exhausting and it demands constant attention; it's the electric energy of the midday sun, the early afternoon burnout, the complete and perfect lethargy of an evening that brings no relief, the promise of doing it all again tomorrow. This playlist is a love song to those days.
1. "The Dark Don't Hide It," Magnolia Electric Company
2. "Three Days Four Nights," Castanets
3. "Quattro," Calexico
4. "Tropics of Love," The Black Heart Procession
5. "A Dulcimer's Fantasy," The Occasion
6. "Bad Luck," Royal City
7. "Heaven Adores You," Earlimart
8. "How It Ends," DeVotchka
9."Casimir Pulaski Day," Sufjan Stevens (download from here)
10. "Kansas City," Okkervil River
11. "August Evenings," Charlemagne
12. "Open Ocean Sailing," Radar Bros.
13. "You Make Me Feel," Dios
14. "Fungus Hedge," Baxter Dury