10 Songs for Before, During, and After the Summer Storms

The Weather Channel recently reported that the 2011 tornado numbers are 106 percent above average. And, of course, we’re only halfway through the year. So, if we are going to learn to grin and bear this enhanced, prolonged stormy activity, we need an equally stormy playlist to accompany the thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and whatever other maladies Mother Nature might throw our way during this summer season. Thus, I present my selections for such occasions, most effective when played in order accompanying the trek of the meteorological activity.

Bob Dylan – “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”

Dylan’s idiosyncratic political prophesy about dangers to come perfectly encapsulates the mood upon hearing the tornado sirens go off, the warnings on the radio, or the distant rumble of prescient thunder (“I heard the sound of a thunder that roared out a warning”).

The Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter”

Now that you know the storm is coming, the next step is to seek shelter immediately. This classic Stones tracks depicts the menace of the coming chaos. The war (and the storm) are only a shot away. “Oh, a storm is threat’ning / My very life today / If I don’t get some shelter / Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away.”

Alison Krauss and Union Station – “No Place to Hide”

Heaven forbid no shelter is available. This Alison Krauss and Union Station song talks about how the speaker’s perception of storms has changed from when he was a younger man. What he used to perceive as innocent and pleasurable has now become dangerous. “I never thought to worry if the water rose too high / That all the seeds we planted would get washed out with the tide. / But now I am a man / And I need a place to hide.” Lesson: don’t play in the storm!

Thom Yorke – “And It Rained All Night”

The persistent, staccato groove bolstering this song sounds like the tapping of rain upon a window. The precipitation’s presence means the storm is near. “And it rained all night and then all day / The drops were the size of your hands and face… It’s relentless…”

DJ Krush – “Stormy Cloud”

Not long after the rain begins, the sky gets dark and the storm clouds appear. This schizophrenic DJ Krush track, with its minor-key synth pattern, shrill strings, and eerily melodic piano line, evokes the impending doom.

mewithoutYou – “The Dryness & the Rain”

The storm’s getting heavy now! This Philadelphia-based band narrates the damage done: “First came a strong wind, ripping off rooftops like bottlecaps / And bending lampposts to the ground / Then came a thunder shattering my windows.” Yikes!

Herbie Hancock – “The Eye of the Hurricane”

Herbie Hancock’s post-bop tune from the conceptual Maiden Voyage record musically depicts the experience of being in the eye of a storm. The song’s sparse texture and familiar chord structure provide a temporary respite from the turbulence, but the tune’s asymmetrical rhythm leaves no doubt that there’s more danger to come.

Explosions in the Sky – “Greet Death”

From beginning to end, this composition from Texas’ favorite instrumental post-rock band mirrors the ebb and flow of a storm, from its subtle origins to its climactic turmoil to its calm abatement. The crunchy guitars evoke the sound of thunder and the cymbal rolls sound like heavy rain. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a part of the world that doesn’t frequently experience storms, put on this track and you’ll feel like you’ve been in one.

Andrew Bird – “Weather Systems”

It’s still raining a little, as Andrew Bird’s staccato violin in this song’s opening suggests, but the storm has died down. The track’s lyrics and music both provide an appropriate backdrop for trying to calm down after a serious storm. There’s a feeling of simultaneous comfort and anxiety. The storm might be over for now, but another one might be on its way. “Quiet, Quiet down she said… Hold still a while… I can see it all from here… I can see the weather systems of the world… And every time you turn the soil / Another cloud begins to boil.”

Electric Light Orchestra – “Mr. Blue Sky”

The storm’s over! Now it’s time to get out and enjoy the sun. This classically exuberant track says it all: “Sun is shin’ in the sky / There ain’t a cloud in sight / It’s stopped rainin’ / Everybody’s in a play / And don’t you know / It’s a beautiful new day.”