At our blog, we experience a seasonal change as music shifts from a calmer spring to the head- rush, soaring pop choruses that symbolise summer music. It’s true that in summer, there’s a tendency for the music industry to churn out ‘up-beat,’ ‘easy-going,’ tracks even more than usual. The Top 40 quickly becomes dominated by pop starlets singing about their varied, sweaty experiences in night-clubs whilst boy bands whine about their summer romances, more Grease and less Sex, Sun and Suspicious Parents. I don’t have a huge problem with this because this decade alone we’ve seen the likes of Umbrella, Jerk It Out and Dance Wiv Me. The problem, like many others, starts with Jennifer Lopez. When her ‘party-people’ infect the chart, they start proclaiming:
‘All I need is some vodka and some coke
And watch, she gon’ get donkey konged.’
This, I think we can all appreciate is a acquired branch of music; a branch anyone who doesn’t use ‘donkey konged’ in normal conversation would find difficult to listen to. With that in mind, we decided to compile some summer playlists that we’d actually want to listen to. And without a single California Gurl in sight.
Ah summer, generous bringer of double-figure temperatures or (if we’re lucky) hosepipe bans. It also signals in Pimms, disappointment on the tennis court and the unfortunate advent of one Taio Cruz. Whatever the usual tropes about a British summer, there’s an undeniable sentimentality in summer songs that is apparent in my list. For other summer artists, I’d check out Broken Bells and their eponymous 2010 album, Tennis’ Cape Dory and Vampire Weekend’s debut album that features both Campus and Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa. Although I’ve used Kings Of Leon as my rock-group here, the Black Keys and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club both have released brilliant summery, rock albums. As long as you avoid falling back on Jack Johnson, Corinne Bailey Rae et al, you can’t do too much wrong.
1. Kings Of Leon – Back Down South My favourite track from an underrated album, I agree with Michael when he says that ‘Southern rock just feels like Summer.’
2. Estelle ft. Cee Lo Green – Pretty Please [Love Me] For me, Estelle’s the Queen of London summer songs as American Boy proved.
3. Angus & Julia Stone – You’re The One That I Want The fantastic Australian sibling- duo cover the track from the quintessentially summer film, Grease. Beautiful summer perfection.
4. She & Him – In The Sun I don’t think there’s ever been a more perfect pop star than Zooey Deschanel. The video for this lovely, tune about a high-school love proves just that.
5. Stornoway – Boats and Trains My favourite album of last year created this delicate song; perfect for a lazy, August afternoon.
6. Marvin Gaye (feat. Tammi Terrell) – California Soul If you’re going to pick a song about summer, it’s likely to be California-centric. This is one of the better ones.
7. Wyclef Jean, Cyndi Lauper – Slumdog Millionaire Part M.I.A’s Paper Planes, part Wale ft. Lady Gaga’s Chillin’, this is an unexpected success.
8. The Kinks – Sunny Afternoon I saw Ray Davies last summer at Hop Farm and the crowd went crazy for this classic.
9. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs Who said Chamber Pop couldn’t do summer? This laid-back track has a video directed by Spike Jonze that oozes youthful, summer boredom.
10. The 88 – How Good It Can Be One of the highlights from one of my favourite bands, as featured on the eternally sunny The O.C.
Key to a perfect summer is a perfect playlist to go along with it and in order to get that you need perfect summer songs. So what makes one? It’s certainly not just people singing about summer (School’s out for Summer is not going to be on this particular playlist). Nor is it just about playing guitars on a beach. That said, these aspects don’t necessarily mean that the song isn’t a song for summer, I mean that’s pretty much all Jack Johnson songs! The Beach Boys or their modern-day (not quite as good) counterparts The Drums both made/make music of the same style and both have great summer songs. But then again, you want a song that represents something summery as well; it’s not always enough just to play music with summer vibes. What’s important is that you pick the songs that meant something to you in summer’s past, however superficial it may seem. That’s why the playlist I’ve picked is as it is. All of these songs are awesome, trust me but if you are going to go against my judgement, just try to meet this criteria and you will have the soundtrack to your summer.
1. Crystal Fighters – Plage Smile and chill out to the rhythmical banjos.
2. The Drums – Let’s Go Surfing Frankly I wished we just lived close to a beach.
3. Violent Femmes – Blister in the Sun Just a really uplifting bit of music.
4. Big Sleep – Ghosts My favourite song of the year, it’s great any time of year.
5. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang Southern rock just feels like summer.
6. Stornoway – Here Comes the Blackout Part of the music movement that took control over last summer.
7. Sharon Shannon & Steve Earle – Galway Girl The song from last year’s Magners advert –
you can’t get much more summery.
8. Mumford & Sons – Awake My Soul This is a copout but who can say that Mumford & Sons did not feature heavily last summer.
9. Mumm-Ra – She Got You High I listened to this on repeat camping two years ago, it’s just so infectious.
10. Oasis – Live Forever Roll down the windows and just feel like you’re at your zenith:
For me, songs for the summer really depend on the way that you view your holiday. You can party with your poppy Katy Perry, or sit in the sunshine with a seemingly simple Bruno Mars, and that’s fine. But to me, those things aren’t really what the summer is all about. I like the relaxation. The feeling that you have (almost) no cares or commitments, and I love that calm after the storm as it were. The part where you can just let out a huge breath and feel like, at least for now, you don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations, or work yourself incredibly hard is a huge relief to me. In terms on genres, I love the downbeat electronic side of things and very little relaxes me more than that. However, I just can’t let hip-hop escape. There are also a couple rock songs in there. I guess in a way, this playlist is a kind of progression. The electronic will calm you down from that awful state where your brain is totally frazzled, the hip-hop will undoubtedly pick you up, dust you off, and get you ready to go again, and the rock is just really good feel-good music.
1. Fireworks (Deadboy Remix) – Drake Deadboy comes up trumps again. Didn’t take this one of repeat for days, it’s mesmerising.
2. Marriage (Baths Remix) – Gold Panda A little bit of everything in there with regards to electronic. Will relax anyone and anything.
3. You and I – Washed Out Gorgeous harmonies, and calming beat.
4. Friend [Lover] – Evenings The wild card in the electronic bunch. If you’re game for something a little more experimental, try this one out.
5. The Choice Is Yours – Black Sheep On to the hip-hop. Shuddering bassline and a great ‘get up’ feel. Awesome.
6. Check The Rhime – A Tribe Called Quest Please let me know if you find anyone with a cooler voice than Q-Tip so I can tell you that you’re wrong:
7. Follow You Down – Gin Blossoms And now the rock. A true classic from 1996 that you won’t be able to get out of your head.
8. When You’re On Top – The Wallflowers Unknown to many in the UK and headed by Bob Dylan’s son, The Wallflowers have here produced perhaps my favourite feel-good song of all- time.