Whatever else you can say about America in 2019, it has been a golden age for odes to summer in Los Angeles, California. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood is at its most lovely and lyrical when Tarantino is reveling in the pleasure of careening around the hills with the top down, or capturing the moment the city’s neon lights mark the transition from dusk to night. And now fellow Southern Californians Haim and Paul Thomas Anderson have weighed in with an equally dreamy tour of the city in summer, that has the significant advantage, summery tone-wise, of not being structured around the Manson murders. Check out the video for “Summer Girl”:
The last time someone riffed so openly on Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” it was Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch doing a straight remake, and the results were … well, they weren’t a gorgeous tribute to Los Angeles in the summer, let’s leave it at that. Haim’s take on Reed’s saxophone and bass sound is considerably cheerier than the original song, and there’s a reason: as Danielle Haim revealed on the band’s Instagram page, she wrote it at a time when her partner Ariel Rechtshaid had just received a cancer diagnosis, as an attempt to articulate her desire to bring him hope and positivity:
Danielle Haim’s account of the songwriting and production process is fascinating: The “doot, doot, doot” vocal harmonies reminded her friend Rostam Batmanglij of Lou Reed, so he added an upright bass; Rechtshaid—now cancer free—finished the production, while keeping the Reed vibes intact. As for Paul Thomas Anderson’s video, although it starts from the unlikely premise that Haim rehearses in a fur-lined, hooded coat, the rest of it is as lush as the music. It’s kind of a counterpoint to Once Upon a Time, because it’s more about living in the city of Los Angeles than a mythical vision of Hollywood. The RKO Globe is visible in the background as the band walks down Melrose stripping off their winter clothes, but the neon star over the Astro Burger is more eye-catching; Anderson captures the warm yellow light of Canter’s at night without bothering to namecheck Canter’s; and the one thing that feels Hollywood-y—Danielle Haim walking past the line at the New Beverly (Q. Tarantino, owner & prop.) and strolling in like she owns the place—is immediately undercut by the revelation that she’s there to work an extremely brief shift at the box office. Even when we get the bright lights of a grand old theater marquee at dusk, it’s the Fox Studio City Theatre on Ventura, long since converted to a Barnes & Noble. This video is set in the Los Angeles that’s available to everyone all summer long, whether or not your name is on the list or your face is on the poster. But if it inspires you to get out and enjoy the nights in whatever city you find yourself before the summer winds down, do us all a favor: Leave your saxophone at home.