While it may be difficult to conjure up words of comfort during these uncertain times, music can graciously fill this void. It is a language spoken in universal emotions, and its unique ability to heal seems limitless. In that spirit, Modern In Denver is launching the HOMEBODY Series, which features playlists curated for specific rooms in your home.
With summer on the horizon, we’re loving spending more time outside and our Patio playlist, curated by music critic Clarke Reader, is the perfect soundtrack for enjoying your slice of the outdoors. Clarke Reader, music critic and cultural columnist with Colorado Community Media newspapers and admin of The Ambassador, an arts and music website, selected these songs to get you outside and soaking up some Vitamin D without even leaving your house.
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For many people, their backyard is a custom-made oasis. A place where we build our getaways – patios, swimming pools, hammocks, grills. A soothing summer breeze will rarely feel better than it does in your backyard. Pop-blues guitar extraordinaire John Mayer’s seventh studio album opens with this sonic embodiment of that breeze; cool and rippling – you can practically see the sailboats floating along on Otis Redding’s ‘Frisco Bay.
Lyrically, the song doesn’t cover any new ground – Mayer is having a hard time moving on from a relationship – but it’s the R&B-drenched music that’s capable of just carrying you away, especially in the right weather. The piano gets more of the spotlight than the typical tune from the guitarist, and it’s almost devastatingly lovely. Combined with Mayer’s falsetto, subtle guitarmanship and a taste of the familiar – that interpolation of Primitive Radio God’s “Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth” is aces – it hits all the right notes. Just like the perfect backyard, or shared afternoon with your favorite people.
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I don’t subscribe to any particular life philosophy, but falling for anything that kicks off with The Persuasions’ vocal stylings wouldn’t be a bad way to go. Particularly when what follows is as infectiously exquisite as this sun-soaked slapper from England’s Jamie xx.
The best single of 2015 is an immaculately balanced blend of electronic, soul and dancehall – a perfect happiness machine, where every element glistens. The aforementioned Persuasions sample provides the backbone of the track, allowing Jamie xx and his collaborators plenty of room to play. And they all seize the moment – Jamaica’s Popcaan keeps the hook both classic and modern, while Thugger’s laffy-taffy yammerings reach new levels of delightful free association. The whole thing hangs together thanks to Jamie xx, whose studio wizardry reaches its pinnacle – that bassline! the crispness of those fingersnaps! Whenever the song comes on, you know there’s gonna be (good times).
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Want to know how comforting guitar tones can be? Scotland’s Finley Quaye answered the question back in 1997 with this reggae/trip-hop hybrid. The throbbing bass is the driving element of the song, but it’s the guitar that really transports the listener. During the solo it’s slick and nimble, but for the bulk of the track it shimmers like a mirage, almost like you’re hearing it while floating underwater.
That weightlessness is the primary vibe of the song – Quaye warmly intones his mantraesque affirmations (“You just survive, soldier/And your soul is beautiful” and “Man, just feel satisfied/No competition, no competition at all”) while wafting over this sonic cloud. The end result is a quintessentially effervescent outdoor anthem.
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I’ve lost track of how many songs have been written as paeans to the pleasures of hours spent lounging in the sun. But what about those of us who are always looking for a spot of coolness outside – the shade of a tree or umbrella, or preferably refreshing, running water? Katie Crutchfield, and her band Waxahatchee, know exactly how that feels, and turned it into 2 minutes of calming guitar work and cascading vocal interplay. There’s a transfixing simplicity to the song, a repetition that quickly and efficiently lulls the listener into a nearly therapeutic calm. Think of it as a koan for the refreshing wonders we rely on to keep us sane.
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There’s an art to picking the right music to play when hosting a gathering of friends, particularly when you’re hanging out in the backyard. You don’t want it to be so intrusive that it interrupts conversations, but it should have something for people to hook into during the quiet moments. Brooklyn’s warm-hearted rapper Kota the Friend created the perfect solution in “Backyard,” which has, more than anything else, bounce.
The track is infectiously stripped down, and Kota gets credit for being the most polite of hypemen with his reassurances of “It’s a vibe, you can dance if you want to/Put your hands high up in the air if you want to.” Aptly, his verses celebrate living a simple life with friends and family, which notably includes chilling in the backyard. And just try to stop your shoulders from bouncing along.
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When strings are used in the right way, they add a deeper dramatic heft to any song. However, using them to make a song catchier is a trickier endeavor, one Damon Michael Gough – otherwise known as Badly Drawn Boy – pulls off admirably on this glimmering gem. Slippery guitar lines chase a rising and falling string section, and somehow the end result is an effortless propulsion that you can just float away on. It’s a bit like riding a river to a waterfall, and flowing over the edge is the most sublime free fall. A perfect sonic accompaniment to a sunset observed from a patio.
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People don’t often include “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” at the top of the list of classic film musicals (blame it on the acid-drenched, pseudo-torture chamber vibes the movie immersed itself in), but the soundtrack has some absolute heaters. But leave it to legendary R&B vocalist Lou Rawls to add a whole other layer of finesse to this classic.
From the twinkling intro with Rawls’ baritone and the swelling strings and brass, you could be forgiven for thinking he was going for a traditional, big-voiced Broadway interpretation. But at about a minute the groove kicks in and turns the familiar into a funkified stomper. It’s never too much, and smoother than hell. You can glide along on the song for hours.
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Alex Turner is the keeper of one of modern rock’s sharpest pens and most alluring voices, and on his primary bands’ – the Arctic Monkeys and The Last Shadow Puppets – most recent recent albums, he’s made what is quite possibly the best decision I could’ve hoped for (and one I’d least seen coming) – he appears to want to be a lounge singer.
Case in point: “The Dream Synopsis – The Dream Synopsis EP Version,” which kicks off with a saxophone solo that could be right out of a smoky Vegas nightclub, and stays in that pocket for the song’s entirety. The lyrics are about the strangeness of dreams, but how boring it is to hear about other people’s. But what makes it the perfect backyard song is the lackadaisical vibe – the whole thing coasts along like, well, a dream. That’s what a good backyard should be, after all.