top 5: summer collaborations
  • WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2009

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Summer is all about kicking back, enjoying the weather, and spending time with friends. New York has a ridiculous amount of things to do at any possible moment, but whether you're fluttering around a rooftop party, rocking out at a free concert, or just sitting on someone's stoop late into the night, it's not about what you do, but who you do it with. For artists as well, summer is a time to crawl out of dusty basement studios and collaborate with fellow songsmiths. Not all of these are as in-your-face about it as the Justice and Simian track screaming "We! Are! Your friends! You'll! Never be alone again!" but hey, the message is the same. Hot months play host to unlikely duets at festivals, traveling Round Robins take towns by storm, supergroup side projects form and disband, and a ton of great tracks are born. Here are a few of our favorites. - Nina Mashurova

1. Atlas Sound & Panda Bear - Walkabout
Merriweather Post Pavilion was a winter CD, so "Summertime Clothes" was played out before the first warm day even appeared on the fringes of your weather widget. But to replace its place in your ears on those long, sunny walks, Animal Collective's Noah Lennox alter ego/solo project Panda Bear teamed up with the Bradford Cox solo project Atlas Sound to bring us this easygoing song. Less obnoxious than most Animal Collective offerings and far happier than anything by Atlas Sound, this will put a smile on your face as you fall in step with its friendly beats.

2. The National & St. Vincent - Sleep All Summer
Matt Berninger's somber baritone and Annie Clark's hauntingly tender voice dance around each other in this bittersweet duet that worms its way into your head, the pit of your stomach, the outliers in your heart. A Crooked Fingers cover, this song flows as lazily as its characters, lamenting a love slipped away but not quite gone for good. Lyrics like, "And every time we turn away it hits me like a tidal wave / I would change for you but babe, that doesn't mean I'm gonna be a better man," earns your empathy, finds you alone and grasping for something familiar on a cool summer night, struggling with nostalgia as irritating and irresistible as the mosquito bites running up and down your bare legs.

3. K-Os - I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman
This is cheating, since it's not so much a collaboration as an extended sample. But when Canadian rapper K-Os samples that irresistible hook from Phantom Planet's "California," he hits something sweet. That little piano progression got way played out when the O.C. was a big deal, but enough time has passed to make it elicit less rage and more sweet summery associations. K-Os probably decided to unearth this for its penchant to get stuck in your head and never leave, but the result is a bit hilarious, a bit ridiculous, and lots of fun. Summertime's the perfect time to indulge these guilty pleasures, so drink a lot of cold beer, break out your most absurd dance moves, and sing along before overexposure quickly makes this track infuriating. Besides, who doesn't wish they knew Natalie Portman?

4. N.A.S.A. Ft. Santogold, Kanye West, Lykke Li - Gifted
Hip-hop producers N.A.S.A. have outdone themselves, packing in a serious all-star lineup for this catchy ode tothemselves. Kanye does what he does best, dropping smooth self-centered rhymes about how great he is. It's surprising to find minimalist pop crooner Lykke Li on a hip-hop track, but the girl doesn't shy away from a challenge, and after all, she's been known to cover Tribe and Weezy tracks during her crazy live shows. She throws in her trademark breathy murmurs and duets with Santogold on the chorus, singing, "With mics in hand / we'll stand against the test of time." I'm not sure if it's quite that epic, but for once, all this boasting is warranted this is a great summer dance track, and the Treasure Fingers and Aoki remixes are even better.

5. Feist & Ben Gibbard - Train Song
Ok, so Dark Was the Night came out in February, so it's no longer newsworthy, and it's not at all a summer album. But the double-disc compilation is so full of brilliant tracks that we're still poring through it. The easy winner on here is Dirty Projectors & David Byrne's "Knotty Pine," which we've played and overplayed so much, we might start twitching if it comes on without proper warning. Now that we've got that out of the way, we can start devoting time to the album's quieter, more underrated tracks, and that's when "Train Song" steals our hearts. People love to hate on both Feist and Gibbard, but in this beautiful song their voices are understated, never cloying, and completely appropriate. The song (originally by Vashti) is about traveling to surprise a lover, but with lyrics like "Suddenly now I know where I belong / It's many hundred miles and it won't be long," it slips into your head on extended road trips and late night subway rides, gives hopeful promise to the uncertain hours of poorly planned excursions, and sweet comfort to the blessed return home.

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