Friday, August 9th, 2019

Haim – Summer Girl

We think it’s fly when these girls stop by for the summer…


Nellie Gayle: I’m not exactly the least biased observer when it comes to Haim’s music. I owe a good portion of my close friendships and my longterm relationship to the Twitter fandom they cultivated around the time of their first release, when I was a tiny baby in college. But, still, I think my respect and affection for them doesn’t disqualify me from having a valuable opinion on them. In this case, I can especially appreciate “Summer Girl” as the rare Haim song celebrating longevity and long distance in all of its pangs and nuanced happy moments. Written for Danielle Haim’s partner during a serious illness, Summer Girl is a painfully sweet momento of that moment when we realize exactly what we are  to other people and walk toward that version of ourselves. There’s an easy breezy quality to the song that’s underpinned by the fear and trauma that can visit a relationship. To be a summer girl, here, is less about wilding out for yourself in global warming record highs (still an admirable pastime), and more about how we can find strength by viewing our own selves — malleable, fragile, messy — as the strength and release someone else needs. This shift in perspective creates love for both ourselves, and the vessels of care and affection in our lives *collective ‘awwwww’*

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Lou Reed knew how to make these sparse, simple songs that felt content with life despite knowing its many shortcomings. “Summer Girl” feels imbued with that same gritty hope, not least because its “Walk on the Wild Side” influence is patently obvious. The backstory of this song — that it was written for Danielle Haim’s partner Ariel Rechtshaid after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer — makes this feel all the more heartfelt. But really, it’s there in the music itself. This is the sort of song that feels like the product of a jam session between friends, where repetition and marginal changes in dynamics are a reflection of lazy summer days and a desire to just do something with the people you care about. Danielle Haim grounds the song with her vocals, but it’s the music — ever-loping and easy-going — that signals the message here that everything will be all right. I’m reminded of Pavement’s “Gold Soundz,” specifically the notion of a mutual emptiness. What Malkmus spoke of was a romanticized ennui, but any emptiness I sense here is of a different sort: a willingness to empty oneself completely, to be filled with nothing but the love of another.

Katie Gill: Thankfully, the four minute long showcase for a saxophone riff features a REALLY GOOD saxophone riff.

Michael Hong: Haim may have described “Summer Girl” as an attempt to emulate “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed, but its aesthetics also seemed to be partially informed by Danielle’s recent stints across Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride, especially, the jazzy-vibes of “Sunflower” and “Flower Moon.” And similar to Vampire Weekend, Haim have a strength for distilling decades of influences to make their music sound simply like the present. On the surface, “Summer Girl” sounds exactly like a summer breeze, but it’s deceptively chill. The burden of forced positivity leads to a sadness and the feeling that the group is holding back that creep into the track’s breezy atmosphere. That sadness and restraint should be worrying; however, Danielle’s reassuring vocals flip any anxiety into peace, and everything else disappears in the meditative way she repeats the line “I’m your summer girl.”

Ashley Bardhan: I love how soft Danielle’s vocals are and how the saxophone peeks out from behind it, like the twinkling of an ice cream truck on a sticky July night. I feel the heavy summer breeze passing when she says “You walk beside me, not behind me/Feel my unconditional love.” It’s a whispered command breaking into love and heat, opening the grey clouds to see the “angels coming now.” As the song ends, amidst steely drums and saxophone swelling, you reached the beach in your favorite town. 

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Songs about summer love take place at the beach, on bright sunny days, end at parties; they are flirtatious, playful, even dangerous; they sound like the rush of falling in love at an irresponsible pace, but being too young and dumb to give a care about the eventual season’s change. To be sure, these songs are great, but “Summer Girl” is so arresting and gorgeous precisely because of its subversion of this formula. It begins after the thrill of the chase has already subsided, and focuses instead on the emotional intimacy and complexity that percolates afterwards. When Haim whisper, “I can see it in your face/I’m relief/I’m your summer girl,” it’s the portrait of romance so intoxicating that pillow talk doesn’t require talking at all in order to understand connection — no matter how brief. The meandering saxophone soundtracks this all sublimely, tinged with bittersweetness as if to ruminate on the nature of love that, by definition, has an expiration date. I know I’m young and supposed to be at some club hooking up to whatever song of the summer dominates the airwaves, but this year, all I want to do is lay in an open field gazing at stars, surrounded by nothing but the sound of crickets chirping, the crackle of bonfire, and this song playing in the background as I fall asleep in a stranger’s arms. 

Josh Buck: An unexpected and disarmingly smooth four minute swerve that makes a compelling case for Haim’s longevity. 

Alfred Soto: A minute before the “doo-doo” hook I knew the drum pattern and sax were drenched in “Walk on the Wild Side,” and it fits: Danielle Haim on a casual stroll across Hamptons dunes, cheering herself up with the musical memories competing in her head.

Kayla Beardslee: An absolutely perfect summer song, “Summer Girl” would work best when played on a lazy August weekend, sitting on a screened-in porch or sprawling on a wooden dock, watching the sun slowly dip below the horizon and turn the sky pink and orange — but I’m listening to it at a dining table on a Tuesday afternoon, and it still sounds wonderful. Danielle Haim is restrained, voice gliding smoothly over the bass with a contentment that matches the lyrics, but her emotions break through on the stellar bridge, where she describes her memories of earthquake drills and tears behind dark sunglasses. These images, which in a vacuum would seem sinister, are instead imbued with a surprising nostalgia, and the best lines in the song follow moments later. Danielle sings, “Walk beside me/Not behind me/Feel my unconditional love,” and you can feel a lifetime’s worth of emotions — infatuation, frustration, longing, respect, happiness — wrapped up in those ten seconds. And behind it all are the joyful bursts of saxophone, echoing like they’re coming from just around the next street corner: the instrument, like the song as a whole, blissful, content, and yet always in motion.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Summer in Southern California is, perhaps counter-intuitively, a dreary time. As a kid in the vast suburbs below Los Angeles, summer was mainly characterized by the absence of things — of the structure of the school day, of the friends you picked up (gone away to various sleepaway camps), of the will to do anything that would risk your leaving the cool darkness of your room. The weather the rest of the year was good enough to be summer, and so the season itself became a sort of filler period, a tone-setter lost in the tone. “Summer Girl” is a song that captures the feeling of an endless Southern Californian summer perfectly, its lazy backbeat and drifting saxophones rattling around in my ears until the track’s disparate parts melt together. For a band that’s tended towards studio perfection even in their jammiest moments (c.f. “Little of Your Love”), the move towards chill is almost disconcerting. But afternoons spent waiting out the sun deserve soundtracks as much as any of the more kinetic times of summer, and “Summer Girl” fits that bill better than anything I’ve heard in a while.

Kylo Nocom: “Summer Girl” hearkens back to weird memories of hazy 6th grade school buses playing Kendrick Lamar on the radio and 9th grade memories of looping Radiohead by myself thinking about all of the memories I was going to make in high school. It obviously doesn’t resemble the former two artists at all past any invented superficial resemblances (well, the outro does resemble “Separator” a little…) but it captures something specific that I haven’t felt in a long, long time. Much of this is like one long blur of looped familiarity, but the bridge is a sweet moment of lucidity quickly whipped into yet another river of pure daydreaming music. Summer’s been rough on me; it’s my last summer before graduating and I’m still so confused by what I want to do. This, in all of its reassuring and affirming glory, is a pleasant reminder that I’ve got all the time I need.

Vikram Joseph: “Summer Girl” derives much of its power from the pull and tension between the crisis of health and love that inspired the song (hinted at when they sing about “the tears behind your dark sunglasses”) and their determination to present the season as an airy, carefree thing nonetheless. The minimal, pastel tones of the production are impossibly classy — there are shades of Broken Social Scene at their most light-handed here, and a saxophone part that suspends the song a few feet off the ground, like a balloon perpetually on the verge of carrying the whole thing off into the stratosphere.

Reader average: [4.27] (11 votes)

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One Response to “Haim – Summer Girl”

  1. I was skeptical on first listen but by listen three I was into this. It’s not my favorite Haim material but it’s pretty damn good. (8)

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