Summer is officially here and we are game for a new set of sunny day tunes.
When one decides to make a spur-of-the-moment trip to the beach with some friends, it’s quite often an occurrence that one person in the car will be scrounging around their iPod in hopes of whipping up a fantastic summer playlist in time for their arrival. It can usually be stressful and put an unneeded strain on what should be nice, fun-filled air-conditioned car ride.
To avoid this problem, but to also give you a nice mix for any summer activity such as a nice stroll or bike ride through town, we’ve whipped up a new summertime playlist for 2011—for those of you who have grown tired of “Cruel Summer.”
Wild Nothing -”Summer Holiday”
Last year Wild Nothing delivered a wistful debut with “Gemini,” a record filled with jangly guitars and airy synths. While certainly not the first or last band to reach into the 1980′s for inspiration, “Gemini” had a level of authenticity that made it sound as if it were pulled out of a time capsule. “Summer Holiday” leaps off the record in particular, sounding like the audio equivalent of the giddy walk out of school on the last day of classes.
The Rentals – “My Summer Girl””
While Weezer’s Blue Album was written completely by Rivers Cuomo, bassist Matt Sharp gave his own version of the perfect summer rock album with “Return of the Rentals” the following year. The vibe is bright and full of spirit, and this mid album power ballad perfectly ensnares the fluttery longing of the summer crush.
Panda Bear – “Surfer’s Hymn”
The entirety of “Tomboy,” Panda Bear’s latest solo record has an open crispness to it like a dip in the ocean, most easily recognized on “Surfer’s Hymn” which goes as far as to include the crashing wave sound effects. Panda Bear continues to provide a more accessible alternative to Animal Collective’s abstract song structures, and is often considered a gateway drug to AC’s more difficult music.
Best Coast – “When the Sun Don’t Shine”
Picking just one song off Best Coast‘s debut, “Crazy For You” is pretty difficult; the whole record is designed for surfing and sunbathing. Still, nothing seems to capture the warm, alive feeling of a step outside like the jangle of “When the Sun Don’t Shine.” The lyrics are probably the record’s simplest, running through three refrains before it’s on to the next track, but it plays off like a jump rope chant that lingers in your head for the rest of the day.
Surfer Blood – “Swim”
It’s a shame Surfer Blood’s debut album was released in the dead of winter because they are a band that is completely chained to the whims of summer (look at their name for Christ’s sake). “Swim” is an obvious choice, it’s lead vocal sounding like a rallying cry from the Pacific Ocean.
Weezer – “Surf Wax America”
This song is really what makes the case for the Blue Album being a “summer album.” While in the lyrical sense, this is the only song that ties it to the season, however the song is very much a centerpiece of that record, carrying its nine other songs into the pool along with it. The songs are powerful and amped up, and even in its most melancholic moments have a gleam to it that seems out of place at any other time of year.
The Smashing Pumpkins – “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans”
“Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” had a lot of room for epics on its two discs and Billy Corgan spared no expense. On “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” the song slowly fades in on a wondrous vamp before changing gears entirely, pounding into hard rock yet still bouncing back in forth between heavy chest beating choruses and dreamy verses that lilt like a buoy in a calm sea. An underrated classic.
M.I.A. – “Sunshowers”
When “Arular” hit in 2005, “Sunshowers” was probably the most puzzling in terms of classifying M.I.A.‘s music. Sparse and full of catchy lines, the track bumped with a strange mixture of synthetics and organics as various synth warbles and vocal effects played along side conga beats and handclaps. A natural choice for cooling off after a hot day.
Polaris – “Summerbaby”
One of Connecticut’s best kept secrets was the jangle pop band Miracle Legion. Formed in the 80′s the quartet released a handful of albums between 1984-1996 all of which failed to put them in even the indie subconscious. When asked to provide music for the Nickelodeon show the Adventures of Pete & Pete in 1993, three out of the four agreed and the produced an album of suburban rock tunes under the pseudonym, Polaris. Since then, singer Mark Mulcahy has been pursuing a solo career that although has not seen outstanding success, it’s earned the fandom of several big names like Thom Yorke, Michael Stipe and Dinosaur Jr (all who appeared on a Mulcahy tribute CD two years ago) while bassist and drummer Dave McCaffrey and Scout Boutier became staples of Frank Black’s backing band, the Catholics. Definitely worth looking into if just for this summer jam alone.
Matt & Kim – “Daylight”
An instant anthem, “Daylight” differentiated Matt & Kim as being merely a poor man’s Mates of State. Everything about this song soars, from its rickety rim taps and impossibly huge snare hits, to its bouncy piano hook that rings out like a funtime alarm. A perfect song for hiking, cutting off the legs of your pants, or getting a sunburn.
Cults – “Go Outside”
The lightning fast success of Cults is really astounding. Formed at NYU, within approximately 6 months of them self releasing their debut single “Go Outside,” they signed the papers for a contract with Columbia Records. Their debut album fnally dropped earlier this month which sports a slightly remixed version of this track, but this original really nails the delicate innocence of the band. It sounds completely timeless, hanging in the night time breeze like a melody that’s always been on the tip of your tongue.
Girls – “Summertime”
Girls’ debut “Album” is summer time to the core, so to see a song with that title exactly was not surprising. A simple song that indulges in the bliss of getting high and soaking up the sunshine, “Summertime” will hopefully become a new staple for a new generation of beach goers.
Tennis – “Bimini Bay”
For those of us lucky enough to ever own a boat, or know someone who owns one, Tennis’ “Cape Dory” is hands down the best record to soundtrack your voyage on the seas. The story of the album has become instant indie folklore: husband and wife buy sailboat; live on sailboat for several months; write a record album inspired by sailboat trip. “Bimini Bay” is as cozy as it gets on the album, that even if you can’t get access to a raft, a quick listen through will send your brain coasting regardless.
Yo La Tengo – “You Can Have It All”
Yo La Tengo have a bunch of songs with lazy summery vibes, but nothing rides like an open window car ride through your neighborhood like their KC and the Sunshine Band cover of “You Can Have It All.” A highlight from “And Then the Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out,” its a very warm and breezy tune and was supposed to actually be used in the film “Juno” but was probably cut in favor of some half baked Kimya Dawson track.
Sleigh Bells – “Kids”
Originally titled “Beach Girls” when it first appeared on their digital demo early last year, when Sleigh Bells‘ first official release “Treats” dropped last June, the song appeared completely re-recorded and with a mission to destroy your car’s speakers. Derek E. Miller’s buzzsaw guitars rip through the distorted brass and percussion bed as Alexis Krauss’ dizzying vocals painted a picture of a simple day at the beach. This mixture of serenity and chaos would become the blueprint of the Sleigh Bells sound.
Pixies – “Oh My Golly!”
The Pixies scitter through this tale of lost love so quick, you can smell smoke emitting from your headphones. Name checking the album’s titular leading lady, “Surfer Rosa,” it is one of the album’s many surftastic tracks that are great for any and all summertime shenanigans.
The Cure – “Hot Hot Hot!!!”
The last in a string of successful singles from The Cure‘s “Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me” album, the band were on a quick path to superstardom that would solidify with the release of Disintegration a little over a year after this song’s commercial release. “Hot Hot Hot!!!” is a great track for hot summer lightning storms if your a fan of that as Robert Smith clearly seems to be. Little sidenote: this video was apparently a big deal at the time because it revealed that Smith had cut his trademark blowout hair. It would soon however be back with a vengeance.
Pavement – “Summer Babe”
Winter version or not, “Summer Babe” is the ultimate indie summer rocker. The band’s first single following a string of critically acclaimed EP’s, it was the first major sign that the band had a pop sensibility, which they would jump back and forth from in the years to come. “Summer Babe” has gone onto be one of their most treasured songs and stayed a staple of their live show until their break up (and back again with their reunion).
Belle & Sebastian – “A Summer Wasting”
While “If You’re Feeling Sinister” is very much a winter album, filled with imagery of snow and isolation, “The Boy with the Arab Strap” is its summer equivalent, a perfect record for warm evening walks. Never before has there been a song that so skillfully nailed the excellence of a “wasted” summer, detailing the sheer nothingness of staying up all night and pleasantly killing time in the great weather.
Modest Mouse – “Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset”
Modest Mouse’s first released album, “This is a Long Drive For Someone with Nothing to Think About” is like a voyage through the depths of winter into the forgiving warmth of summer, starting off with the desolate “Dramamine” and ending in the tender embrace of “Make Everyone Happy/Mechanical Birds” and “Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset.” It’s a meaty album and it takes several listens to fully grasp, but the rewards far exceed any difficulty one might have the first time they hear Isaac Brock scream in their ear on “Beach Front Property.” The album’s toasty concluding quarter is a great end to a hot day and an even better kick off to the summer.