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Madison’s hot goth summer

Two singles from local artists make good on a trendy phrase.

Two singles from local artists make good on a trendy phrase.

Photo: A still from Lady Esque’s “Goth In The Summer” music video.

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When Chet Hanks declared that it was about to be “white boy summer” (a riff on 2019’s “hot girl summer” meme) on March 26, 2021, the failed son of America’s Dad unwittingly poured kerosene on the kindling of a young fire. From that point forward, the phrase “[x] summer” was everywhere. The notion of “hot girl summer” took a victory lap over the past few months, kicking “white boy summer” to the curb like an unwanted bastard child. Unsurprisingly, the ubiquitous viral trend has birthed several musical anthems, including a genuinely awful one from Chet—an alleged abuser—that doesn’t need to be directly linked.

Fortunately, a few of the attempts at riffing on the format have been memorably endearing. Two recent entries have come from Madison. Lady Esque’s “Goth In The Summer” had a music video release on July 13, which confirmed that the person responsible for Lady Esque’s intentionally nightmarish glitch-pop was the theatrical art-folk solo artist Sigra. The self-directed clip for “Goth In The Summer” is heavy on lo-fi graininess and Brittingham Park shenanigans, providing some additional local appeal. Riding an insistent beat and vampiric aesthetics, “Goth In The Summer” offers up a fun, queer-leaning twist on an archetypal summer pop anthem.

Emergent grunge-pop act Mickey Sunshine offered its own spin on the trend in late August with the pent-up horniness of “Hot Gurl Summer.” Wiry punk guitar lines underscore tales of getting eaten out in car trunks, sleeping around with friends’ brothers, band drummers, and navigating a modern strain of hopeless romanticism in Mickey Sunshine’s debut track. Defiant, confident, and pointed, “Hot Gurl Summer” makes the absolute most out of its musical and lyrical structures, hammering home Mickey Sunshine’s commitment to scrappiness.

Importantly, both “Goth In The Summer” and “Hot Gurl Summer” are blissfully free of Hanks’ promise that summer will be defined by white boys. Both tracks march to their own beat, honor their artists’ autonomy, and decisively carve out a place in the evolving history of a harmless meme. Between the two tracks, Madison’s musical versatility also gets a fair bit of solid representation in trendier subgenres, covering a decent bit of ground between retro-minded slacker-punk and forward-thinking electronic music. While the city’s musical landscape certainly has more to offer, it’s worth slowing down to appreciate two winsome tracks from significantly different artists drawing inspiration from the same malleable phrase.

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