August is a strange month. There are no major holidays to look forward to; the stretch between the Fourth of July and Labor Day is, I believe, the longest stretch without a holiday on the calendar. It’s usually the hottest, ugliest part of the summer, where the beachy summer vibes wear off and you’re left with bug bites and humidity. If you’re a student, it’s the last month of vacation before you’re off to school again. You feel like you should be having fun, but much of the time you’re living your everyday life, only sweatier. Theoretically, life should be in bloom; instead, it turns into doldrums.
“August,” a new song by the indie folk singer-songwriter Michael B Thomas, deserves credit for making this godforsaken month feel appealing once again. Part of it is thanks to a gorgeous, evocative chord sequence, as well as a warm, bent note from an electric guitar (or perhaps a synth) that reminds me of the peaceful hum of a distant lawnmower. It’s not quite bossa nova, but the honeyed sound of Thomas’ acoustic guitar puts me in the same golden-hour mindset that, say, Getz/Gilberto does. And if you tune your ears just right, there’s a bit of a sway in the guitar, too – if not the sway of palm trees, then of maple trees bobbing gently in the breeze. It’s still a little humid and sticky, but it’s the kind that makes the shade feel that much better.
The lyrics of “August” aren’t necessarily rich with story-like detail, but they don’t have to be. Like some other chillwave and chillwave-adjacent songs, the lyrics are more for establishing atmosphere than telling a story, and it pulls that off quite well. Thomas has an amiable, half-lidded sort of voice, the kind that sounds like it shuffles but feels like it glides. In his voice, the lyrics take on a sort of stoned significance that makes them feel genuinely sweet. “August butterflies/and she’s right there by your side,” the chorus goes, and if summer could be bottled up in two sentences it would be hard to do much better than that.