You're sitting on a deck, dock, patio, or porch in your Memorial Monday best, drink in hand, and everything seems perfect. Until you realize what you're missing: a set of songs perfectly-tuned for the stages of grilling, day-drinking, and sloth that accompany any great Memorial Day celebration. You know the phases I'm talking about: you start the morning with a hearty breakfast of shower-beers, then try to rally your friends and family to join you for an mid-morning swim or patio-sit. Eventually, someone realizes it's 3 pm and you haven't eaten, so some sort of grillable food begins to cook, and you're starving as soon as you smell your favorite BBQ delicacy.
If your mom is present, she's probably trying to slice buns while delightfully mom-tipsy, but you don't care because it's warm and you're not at work or school. Eventually you hit a wall, then must either nap or power through to the campfire-and-fireworks part of the day, if your friends are into either of those. So whether you're stirring up some soy curls or searing some sort of cow product, here's the playlist to guide you through the perfect boozy, sun-and-lawn-filled Memorial Day.
Start the day off right — The Rolling Stones, "Get Off of My Cloud"
This song has been my alarm for the past three months, and every day I wake up feeling like a badass, even though I'm generally not a Stones fan. I sometimes wake up my partner to sing the "hey you" call and response before the song ends, so try that out if you have kind roommates and are feeling brave.
That first beer in the sun — The Lone Bellow, "Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold"
The Lone Bellow is a tiny baby band from Brooklyn, but that shouldn't stop you from listening to their first EP. This song especially sets an obnoxiously, irrevocably bright tone for your day, without seeming too adrenaline-heavy.
That second beer in the sun — Dirty Projectors and David Byrne, "Knotty Pine"
The sun has settled in the sky, you're feeling the Vitamin D, and you (probably) have another beer. It's time to listen to tracks from The National-produced Dark Was the Night. All of the tracks are great, but the combination of bouncy bass lines and psychedelic synth sounds make this one sound like the beginning of summer.
Your mid-morning nap — The Album Leaf, "Twentytwofourteen"
A bit more minimalist than Aphex Twin, a bit less repetitive than Explosions in the Sky, The Album Leaf is the Goldilocks of ambient music, and they're here to transport you to your dreams. If you listen to this song enough, you'll be asleep by the third bar.
The food hits the grill — Omar Souleyman, "Warni Warni"
If you haven't heard of Omar Souleyman, you're missing out on Syria's greatest dance-master. When you need to wake up from a nap, get ready for a night out, or just want to jump around your apartment, "Warni Warni" is always a good bet.
The food is sizzling, but not quite ready — Phantogram, "Fall in Love"
Phantogram has been a sleeper group lately. After a few hits in 2009, they seemed drop off the planet for a while, but they're back with a vengeance, and they want to claim your summer with this sizzling psych pop tune. Let them distract you while you pine for the elusive veggies/hot dogs/soy products currently on the grill.
Your lunch music — Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, "Sinister Minister"
I always imagine this song playing at a cafe in the middle of a noir detective musical, if those existed. Whatever you picture when you listen to it, it's a great instrumental accompaniment to any meal.
If you need to go inside — Radiohead, "Fake Plastic Trees"
If you're like me, you can't stay in the sun all day, no matter what combination of sunscreen, hat, and shade you manage to concoct. When you need a minute inside, let an old friend like Radiohead keep you company.
If you get introspective — The Roots, "When the People Cheer"
The Roots' latest album ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin their most conceptual and satiric effort yet, and "When the People Cheer" is an especially poignant discussion of celebrity. Listen to it if you get to that point in the day where the sun and relaxation make you reflect on your life.
If you need to rally — Bikini Kill, "I Like Fucking"
Who better to rally the troops than the riot grrrls themselves? This driving Bikini Kill jam will get you off your towel, out of your chair, and ready to raise a fist to the world. If you're at a family party, don't tell anyone the title of the track and you can have an inside joke with any older cousins who were riot grrrls back in the day.
If you need to chill — Queens of the Stone Age, "Smooth Sailing"
I know ...Like Clockwork came out almost a year ago now, but I never tire of this album. If you've been dancing (or napping) hard all day and need a change of pace, "Smooth Sailing" will bring you down easy.
At sunset, dusk, or smogset — Janis Joplin, "Summertime"
Nobody said you have to listen to some cliche indie rock anthem as you watch the big ball in the sky retreat for the day. Instead, revisit a well-played but deserving track by Janis, who could make her vocal chords cry like nobody else.
When the stars are out — Wye Oak, "Civilian"
I personally enjoy stargazing best when it's silent, but if you must listen to something, Wye Oak is always a good choice. Their latest single, "Civilian" alternates between ballad and driving down-tempo romp, which will wrap up an epic (or relaxed) Memorial Day.