Playlist: Sunday Best

Saturday is reserved for chores and everything else we didn’t get done during the week, but Sunday is a time to unwind. During these short autumn days, Sundays seem even more precious. Here’s a playlist to get into the Sunday spirit.

“Sunday in New York,” Portia Nelson //

Nelson, a songwriter, pianist, actress, painter, and writer, was one of the brightest lights on the New York cabaret scene in the 1950s. “Sunday in New York,” a tribute to spending a carefree day in her adopted city, is one of her most arresting compositions. Nelson’s limpid soprano is heard to scintillating effect when she croons: Though April in Paris is rare/Still no place on Earth can compare/To Sunday in New York.

“Groovin’ (On a Sunday Afternoon),” The Young Rascals //

When it was released in 1967, this soulful song shot up the charts like a rocket. Its lazy, languid melody fits splendidly into a laid-back Sunday mood: Life would be ecstasy/You and me endlessly/Groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon. And who knew a harmonica could sound so romantic?

“Every Day Is Like Sunday,” Morrissey //

Leave it to that eternal pessimist Morrissey to try to take the sun out of Sunday (Every day is like Sunday/Every day is silent and gray). But as bleak as the lyrics are, the melody is nevertheless fetching. It’s from his 1988 debut solo album, Viva Hate. Do we detect a morose pattern here?

“Pleasant Valley Sunday,” The Monkees //

Carole King and her then-husband, lyricist Gerry Goffin, wrote this song as a taunt of suburban living, architectural uniformity (Rows of houses that are all the same/And no one seems to care), and keeping up with the Joneses. Strangely enough, the couple lived in a New Jersey suburb at the time. But like a lot of social-commentary songs of the ’60s, the peppy tune is almost happy in mood.

“Sunday, Monday or Always,” Nat “King” Cole //

Few singers could deliver an amorous lyric as sincerely and lushly as Cole, and he’s wonderfully convincing in his 1960 recording of Jimmy Van Heusen’s lovely tune. When he delivers the lines If you’re satisfied/I’ll be at your side/Sunday, Monday, or always, you’d swear it’s eternal love.

“Sunday,” from the original Broadway cast recording of Sunday in the Park with George //

It’s not often that a song from a musical can be described as sublime, but Stephen Sondheim’s gorgeous melody achieves those heights. His 1984 work about pointillist painter Georges Seurat uses as its springboard the artist’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. This elevating closing number, in which the characters in the painting come to life, is one of the classics of American musical theater.

“A Sunday Kind of Love,” Etta James //

Great pop singers like Jo Stafford, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dinah Washington have tried their chops on this number, but everyone takes a back seat to Etta James, who recorded it in 1961 for her At Last! album. Her big voice is matched in size by its emotion. When she sings I want a Sunday kind of love/A love to last past Saturday night, it’s a full-throttle, aching plea.