Cover Story: Liquid Summer

The music to drink to on those long summer nights

May 27, 1999 at 2:06 pm

Summertime equals music, summertime equals drinking. You've got the stereo cranked, the windows are open, and the only ice is in your refreshing beverage. The twin fuels of tunes and liquor are inescapable. Don't to listen to anything too heavy — just like you don't eat meat loaf when the temperature is in the '80s. Keep the big guitar records off the stereo. Since summer is way too short to spend your time browsing through record stores, here are five light to medium party records coming throughout the summer, coupled with some drink suggestions to complement the records. None of that fake, Swingers, retro-martini crap either.

· The Gentle Waves — The Green Fields of Forever Land (Jeepster).

The solo debut of Isobel Campbell (from hipster touchstone band Belle and Sebastian) is a hushed, acoustic affair. Faraway horns and plinking vibraphones add a hint of baroque to the '60s pop vibe. Campbell's lilting voice is small and subdued, perfectly complemented by the light flutes and simple hand drum percussion.

It's folksy, but not the hippie-sitting-under-a-tree Folk. Like Beth Orton without the drum machines, it has a definite appeal. But The Gentle Waves also has more in common with the delicate and happy quality of Nick Drake. When the slightly distorted electric guitars make their only appearance, nine songs in on "Weathershow," there is a decidedly Velvet Underground twist to the simpleness, and Campbell sounds perfect for the minimalist guitar Pop.
CityBeat grade: B

Drink up:

1 ounce lime juice

1 1/2 ounce vodka

1 teaspoon sugar, powdered

Stir all ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

· Cibo Matto — Stereotype A (Warner Bros.).

Cibo Matto used to be funny and funky, a duo (Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda) who sang primarily about food in heavily Japanese-accented English. Their debut, Viva La Woman, was a produced by Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake (Los Lobos, Soul Coughing) and helped hook them up with tours with Beck, the Butthole Surfers and Everything But the Girl. Singer Hatori even showed up on the last Beastie Boys record. But it was hard to tell if people were into them for the kitsch factor or because the grooves were so deep. The Matto have responded by dropping the goofy cuisine references, replacing them with intergalactic Funk, Pop Funk and some extra Funk, just to be safe. The band is pretty much a quartet now — including Honda boyfriend, Sean Lennon, on bass — allowing them to make Stereotype A cut-and-paste groovy, with live instrumentation sampled and looped into something that crosses genres and time periods. Brazilian rhythms are cross-pollinated with '70s wah-wah guitars, Hip Hop meets Moog-Prog Rock and Hatori lilts like Björk in a '60s girl group. And Stereotype A is more mature and complex because of it.
CityBeat grade: A

Drink up: El Diablo (courtesy of Don)

Jigger of white or silver tequila, 3/4 ounce French crème de cassis, and 1/2 ounce lime juice topped with ginger ale.

· Floraline — Floraline (Minty Fresh).

This is a middle-of-the-party record — it's not energetic enough to get the ball rolling or slow enough to let people know it's time to get out. There is some fast action Disco, new wavish Pop and a decidedly European flavor to this band from Atlanta. Yeah, Atlanta. It's pretty retro — mid-1980s drum machine and Metro-era Berlin keyboards — kind of Stereolab-lite, minus the Krautrock fascination. Vocalist Linda Sharp coos and purrs in the expected chanteuse manner, but it's the driving, Miami Vice theme music that sets Floraline apart. "Picture Show" has that space-age synthesizer, funky bass line, choppy singing and offbeat drums which 15 years ago would have made them the choice of the discriminating acid-washed jeans and collars-up-on-the-polo crowd. That's no dis; today this kind of disposable Pop is rare enough to stand out. Let's just hope it doesn't cause a revival of Euro-trash Pop because slicker, more processed bands lack the wink and nod soul of Floraline.
CityBeat grade: B

Drink up: Angel's Poison

1 ounce Chambord

1/4 ounce triple sec

1 dash lime juice

2 ounces lemon-lime soda

· Luscious Jackson — Electric Honey (Grand Royal/Capitol).

On Luscious Jackson's first record since founding member Vivian Trimble left, the trio gets darker and more electronic, while maintaining a cerebral funkiness and attention to the groove within. Electric Honey, the band's fourth record, has bigger beats and is more dance-oriented than anything else in their catalog. The Luscious ones have been slowly easing into a more electronic sound throughout their career and with Honey they seem to have crossed the imaginary line where a slim majority of their sounds are digital. Analog instruments still have a big place in the blend, though. In addition to the traditional drums/bass/guitar they indulge themselves with flutes, hand drums, violins, horns, and plenty of acoustic guitar. Old school icon Debbie Harry joins the band for "Fantastic Fabulous," while on "Christine," they take a Drum 'n Bass-style subsonic kick drum as the main thrust, they mix in slowly mouthed vocals, weird synthesizer sounds and a slide guitar. Warm and syrupy — just as the album title suggests.
CityBeat grade: A.

Drink up: Rising Sun

2 ounces sake

1/2 ounce grenadine

Orange juice

Fill glass with ice and sake. Fill with orange juice and top it with grenadine. Garnish with lemon slice and cherry.

· Saint Etienne — Places to Visit (Sub Pop).

British trio Saint Etienne makes the kind of light and frothy retro-future Pop that lets hipsters feel more cerebral than they really are. The band references space-age bachelor pad Lounge music, Euro-Pop and girl group cutesiness in a blend that is more Cardigans than Air, but somehow still seems smarter than your average sugar Pop crew. Places to Visit is a quick six-song EP of 20 minutes (more palette cleanser than fully realized record) that at times barely seems to come out of the speakers. On the opener, "Ivyhouse," singer Sarah Cracknell thinly breathes her presence with "Do do do" repeated softly over a spiraling tinny keyboard for two minutes. That's the whole song. With guest assistance from Sean O'Hagan (Stereolab, High Llamas) and jack-of-all-electronics Jim O'Rourke, Places is more Electronic Ambient than Pop, perfect for between dinner and dessert.
CityBeat grade: B.

Drink up: The Delilah

Pour 1 1/2 ounces gin and a 1/2 ounce of Cointreau into a shaker full of ice. Add the juice of half a lemon. Shake hard and serve up, adding a twist of lemon as a garnish.