This week’s column is a farewell to summer, or perhaps more specifically an ode to the ending of summer romances. There are many, many songs devoted to the topic, probably because of the evocative nature of the ephemeral summer fling. The best songs seem to be about poignant topics, and what’s more heart-wrenching than saying goodbye to your summer love?

Summerlong – Emm Gryner

Emm Gryner’s vocal range stretches from guttural growl to bell-clear siren, and this song shows off both ends of that spectrum, with some gorgeous harmonies thrown in for good measure. From 1998’s Public, this was probably Gryner’s biggest hit in her native Canada, though she’s still beloved by the CBC Radio crowd. It’s easy to see why – the chorus soars and the lyrics are simple, but sharp. “All summerlong, you made me high/when I was down/all summerlong, the city smiled when you were around/but now the summer’s gone, I gotta say something feels wrong,” she sings, and the song stutters to an end like the teenage romance it recalls.
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Gone, Gone, Gone – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

Alison Krauss, a bluegrass singer with the most haunting voice I’ve ever heard, teamed up with legendary Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant in 2007 for an album that ended up winning five Grammys. Gone, Gone, Gone is an old Everly Brothers tune that, in Krauss and Plant’s hands, is a serious warning to a lover that he or she is walking on thin ice: “Some sunny day, baby/when everything seems OK, baby/you’ll wake up and find that you’re alone/cause I’ll be gone/gone gone gone/cause you done me wrong.” That said, the bouncy upbeat tempo of the song gives the impression that the singer wouldn’t mind leaving too much, because the lover maybe has it coming. I wouldn’t call this an idle threat; more like a heads-up.
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Summer Skin — Death Cab for Cutie

Ben Gibbard is one of the best lyricists working in American rock music in this decade, and Summer Skin, from 2005’s Plans, is built around a brilliant little conceit: that our very skin contains our emotions, and that, like taste buds, once it is sloughed off, those feelings may alter.
“On the night you left I came over/and we peeled the freckles from our shoulders/our brand new coats were so flushed and pink/and I knew your heart I couldn’t keep/cause the season’s change was a conduit/and we’d left our love in our summer skin,” Gibbard says, and we know it to be true because we’ve been there, too. Perhaps it’s a survival instinct our hearts have developed to protect us from spending the cool, dim autumn in desperate tears after a bright, sunburnt, idyllic summer of love.
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Sun in an Empty Room – The Weakerthans

John K. Samson is one of the best lyricists working in Canadian music of any genre in this decade. 2007’s Reunion Tour album, while not the band’s most cohesive, contains a number of glittering gems like this song, a lament for a relationship being dismantled piece by piece and its contents packed away, until all that’s left is an empty apartment with wide curtainless windows that let the sun shine in to expose all the things that went wrong between them. Samson does a little math of the kind we all do when something ends, and doesn’t like the result: “Take eight minutes and divide/by 90 million lonely miles/and watch a shadow cross the floor/we don’t live here anymore,” he laments, but there’s nothing to do now but move along.
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The Ataris – The Boys of Summer

Possibly the quintessential end-of-summer song, updated for Generation X, The Boys of Summer is all about summer relationships and how many come to an inevitable end once the weather cools and vacations end. This 2003 version is a little faster, harder, and edgier than Don Henley’s original from 1985, and the lyrics get an update, too – the sticker on the Cadillac is for punk band Black Flag instead of the Grateful Dead. However, the fantastic signature guitar riff and wistful feel to the song remain intact, making this an homage rather than a reimagining of the song. It’s a nice one, though, great to howl along with, windows down, hair flying, wearing a pair of classic Wayfarer sunglasses. (They’re back in style now – everything old really is new again.)
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