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Charlotte Rose Benjamin





Songs of Summer #1: "Heatstroke Summer" by Charlotte Rose Benjamin

The jury’s still out on what (no doubt worthy) song will end up being officially designated the Song of the Summer 2021™ and far be it for us to even acknowledge such a hackneyed premise. But hey that doesn’t mean we can’t start our own highly unofficial list based around a hackneyed premise because who says summer deserves only one song so take that Billboard and Tik Tok Nation. And so here we reveal our first entry in the Deli's summer song playlist, an unparalleled honor bestowed upon Charlotte Rose Benjamin’s “Heatstroke Summer.”

Now mind that this is a song some would call a “B-side” using the no-longer popular parlance (ask your parents) but here at DeliCorp we openly acknowledge that this is a B-side kind of blog so it’s totally fitting. And even Ms. Benjamin herself has stated an affinity for musical obscurities such as B-sides and "deep cuts" (ask your parents) to the extent that she wrote an entire tender aching ballad based around the notion of deep cuts named, quite fittingly, “Deep Cut" based around the premise: “Songs are are like lovers / and if it was a record / we’d be the deep cut / that no one remembered.”

But I digress. Let’s get back to summer songs shall we because right now there’s a good chunk of this country that's undergoing a relentless heatwave like here in New York City with a forecast high of 97 tomorrow, or Seattle and Portland which hit 108 and 116 degrees yesterday (wut?) which is a full 18 degrees above recommended boy band temperature. And that’s not even to mention Canada’s westernmost province British Columbia reaching 116 degrees yesterday which shattered national records. So, you see, if we don’t get around to naming a designated Song of the Summer 2021™ soon we’ll all be melted into a congealed mass of musical indecisiveness before this week is even over.

But I digress again. On “Heatstroke Summer” Charlotte Rose sketches a sonic portrait made up of fleetingly observed slices of life with an evocative Zen-like concision like in the opening lines—“Heatstroke summer / yellow is the color / cowboy in Corona / but the beat goes on and on”—which is either about a cowboy living in Queens or living through coronavirus or possibly both because before long she observes that “you can’t prepare for death anyway.”

And hey I’m not gonna spell out the whole song for you but there’s an appears to be a theme of escape running through some of the lyrics (piña coladas optional) with the song’s narrator dreaming about it being New Year’s Eve again and weighing an invitation to hit the road for parts unknown, until the song’s extended coda rides off into the sunset with overheated dogs barking in the background and an intertwined guitar solo that’s equal parts jangly and distorted/dissonant much like the jangled, destroyed nerves of a heatstroke victim. But with the overall gentle swaying vibe, and with Ms. Benjamin’s voice being as winsome and gentle as a tall glass of pink lemonade, "Heatstroke Summer" is equally suitable listening for backyard barbecues and existential (or literal) meltdowns alike.

And hey we can't ignore the A-side of this two-sided single which is called “Cumbie’s Parking Lot” in reference to Massachusetts-based convenience store chain Cumberland Farms (aka Cumbies) which just happens to be the state where CRB was raised before she returned to her ancestral home of New York City where her parents launched careers as a dancer and a musician/TV jingle singer. Anyway she seems to have a fairly solid grasp of the typical thought patterns of Cumbie's parking lot denizens expressing sentiments like “I wanna separate my brain from my body / I want you to let me use you like a drug” and “I don’t wanna go home yet / you can take pictures of me and post them on the Internet.”

And even if summer isn’t explicitly mentioned it feels strongly implied with the theme of escape still to the fore—escaping home, escaping the city, escaping oneself—and with the phrase “I wanna” employed nearly as much as on a Ramones song. And when the song reaches its first chorus the whole thing opens us like a blooming summer flower with sweet fragrant melodies and lush floating harmonies that'll hit your senses like a face full of pollen (in musical terms it's something like taking all 35 volumes of AM Gold and distilling them into one single refrain).

And hey if the songs don’t do it for you right away then the accompanying music videos just might ("Cumbie's Parking Lot" is even directed by CRB herself) because there’s a clear aesthetic at work. Though be forewarned that based on the video above you really don’t wanna ask Charlotte Rose to serve you up a slice of cake, because she approaches the task of cake cutting like Jason Voorhees and his mother approach cutting up summer campers and you probably don’t wanna drink your cake through a straw. But it’s a minor misgiving and you were already forewarned in the song “Deep Cut” after all. 

But I digress one last time. So anyway now you've at least got somewhere to start with your summer-themed listening and you can continue to check this space for more to come. (Jason Lee)

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