The sounds of summer.

Songs you've got to hear.
June 28 2005 7:16 AM

Summer Sounds

Essential songs for tanning, driving, and dancing.

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R. Kelly In the Kitchen (Jive, 2005) Click here to listen to "Trapped in the Closet."

Never has a man fumbled to put his cell phone on "vibrate" with as much bravado as R. Kelly. The troubled Chicago singer's five-part single insures that the term "cinematic" will no longer be carelessly unfurled whenever a musician offers something loosely resembling narrative. "Trapped in the Closet" features more than 17 minutes of percolator drips, airy piano, orchestral crescendos, and gasping cliffhangers and recounts an utterly bizarre morning in the life of a gun-toting lothario who wakes up next to a woman he barely knows. The story is delivered with a pulpy meticulousness that confirms Kelly as both brilliant and crazy. As the woman's husband arrives home, Kelly's character hides in the closet, only to be betrayed by his chirping phone. It might sound like a fairly run-of-the-mill bit of adultery, but like the song's increasingly maverick creator, you really have no idea how this one is going to end.

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Architecture in Helsinki"Do the Whirlwind" (Bar/None, 2005) Click here to listen to "Do the Whirlwind."

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Imagine a tidy, law-abiding dance floor where everyone has room enough to flail about to their heart's content. This is the sound of Architecture in Helsinki, a twee Australian pop octet that commands you to execute "the whirlwind." The well-named dance move doesn't currently exist—if it did, it would no doubt be cute—but the song offers much to speculate about. Architecture's breezy, kitchen-sink approach is eclectic but not ostentatious. The rhythm section surges politely, alternating between hand claps, finger snaps, cowbells, and congas; the melody comfortably mingles sitars and trumpets with Human League-styled synths. Sandwiched somewhere in the middle, a round robin of singers take turns daring you to resist the awesome centripetal force of their impossible, imaginary dance.

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Gwen Stefani"Hollaback Girl (Diplo's Hollatronix remix)" (Interscope, 2005) Click here to listen to "Hollaback Girl (Diplo's Hollatronix remix)."

"Hollaback Girl" is one of the most inscrutable pop hits of recent memory, as well as a rousing renewal of a quasi-Girl Power theme—just because you call doesn't mean I have to respond. Here, the No Doubt singer entrusts her solo hit to rising DJ and producer Diplo, a nerd-done-good whose globe-trotting mix CDs and compositions have earned him a fervent following. Diplo trades the original version's acoustic lilts and bleacher stomps for the stuttering, speed-fix drums of Baltimore's 21-and-over house scene. (It's easy to identify a Baltimore house tune, since practically every single one—including this remix—samples Gaz's minor 1978 disco hit, "Sing Sing.") With its breakneck pace, chattering typewriters, and intermittent sci-fi zaps, Diplo's makeover accents Stefani's playfully elastic approach to singing, particularly when she indulges in her own call-and-response and spells her praise of the beat: "This shit is B-A-N-A-N-A-S!"

Hua Hsu teaches in the English department at Vassar College and is completing his first book, A Floating Chinaman.

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