You have a low-key afternoon planned. Maybe you are laying out catching some rays by (insert body of water of your choice here) and reflecting on your life. Maybe you are reading the latest New York Times bestseller while grilling some burgers, fresh corn and peaches. Maybe you are making plans to be the next great American scrapbooker. Maybe whatever – it’s a beautiful summer day and you have it made. But what you don’t have is some accompanying tunes to soundtrack the time. Well, fear not, because we’ve got you covered (in the music department. We know nothing about scrapbooking).

“California” by Delta Spirit

“California” was the first single off of Delta Spirit’s eponymous third studio album, released earlier this year (check out our album review here!). It’s not the raucous garage jam with levels of managed quirk we heard on earlier tracks by the band (i.e. “Trashcan”), but it is no less catchy. It’s a more refined sound from Delta Spirit, with more polished orchestrations and smooth as butter instrumental progressions. “California” is a chill song, but it comes with some emotional heft, making it the kind of tune you want to turn up when driving down the highway – windows down, sunglasses on and a clear horizon ahead. Side note: let’s forget the video for this song ever happened. It’s like a live action Forever 21 catalogue. And not in a good way:

I want you to move to California for yourself,
I want you to find whatever your heart needs,
I want you to move to California for yourself, but not for me.

“California” by Delta Spirit

Nightswimming” by R.E.M.

Should you be in the mood for a little late night skinny dipping, this song is incredibly topical. Michael Stipe’s vocals are spot-on and clear as a bell; Mike Mills’s piano work is strong and simple, and it underscores the song’s picture of a more idyllic time gone by. There is a pervasive feeling of melancholy as the singer mourns the loss of a more innocent time. After all, nostalgia can hold just as much joy as it does heartache. And in “Nightswimming” we get that nostalgic edge packaged in something beautiful:

The moon is low tonight.
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.
I’m not sure all these people understand.
It’s not like years ago,
The fear of getting caught,
Of recklessness and water.

Nightswimming” by R.E.M.

“Don’t Be Shy” by Cat Stevens

A little happy brought to you by famed singer-songwriter and philanthropist, Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam). I dare you to listen to this song and not feel bathed in the warmth of pure joy. But if you do give it a listen and still feel nothing, then you should see a doctor because you may be dead inside. Fun fact: the song was originally composed for the 1971 film, Harold and Maudeand was not released independent of the film’s soundtrack until it was included on the 1984 compilation album, Footsteps in the Dark: Greatest Hits, Vol. 2:


Don’t be shy just let your feelings roll on by
Don’t wear fear or nobody will know you’re there
Just lift your head, and let your feelings out instead
And don’t be shy, just let your feeling roll on by
On by

“Don’t Be Shy” by Cat Stevens

“Green Gloves” by The National

This song, beautiful as it is, admittedly, is a bit of a bummer. But then again, The National aren’t a exactly a band with a reputation for being bubbly. And “Green Gloves” is cut from the same quiet existential cloth as the rest of the songs from the Brooklyn indie group’s library. When lead singer Matt Berninger laments, “Falling out of touch with all my/friends are somewhere getting wasted/hope they’re staying glued together,” it certainly paints a dreary picture.  But it’s not a pity party either, rather a sobering acceptance of something that is simply a part of life and getting older. Berninger explained to Paste that the number is about wanting to remember and reconnect with someone with whom you have fallen out of touch. And what better time to have such philosophizing thoughts about friends and loved ones past than in the brightness of summer? We kid. No matter the case, it’s a great song for decompressing:

Get inside their clothes
with my green gloves
watch their videos, in their chairs.
Get inside their beds
with my green gloves
Get inside their heads, love their loves.

“Green Gloves” by The National

“Everyone” by Van Morrison

A bouncy anthem of hope – as evidenced from the first note of the clavinet in the song’s intro. This track from the acclaimed Northern Irish singer-songwriter, is perfect for summer strolls, a carefree day by the pool with a mojito or two, or simply the enjoying of popsicles:

We shall walk again down along the lane
Down the avenue just like we used to do
With our heads so high smile at the passers by
Then we’ll softly sigh ay, ay, ay, ay, ay

Everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone
Everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone

“Everyone” by Van Morrison

“Either Way” by Wilco

A candid and simplistic number from the 2006 album, Sky Blue Sky. The song doesn’t require much fancy elaboration from me, but I will say that the straightforwardness, unfussy musical delivery, and clean orchestration here are really what make “Either Way” so refreshing. Frontman Jeff Tweedy does right by the song by staying away from any vocal flourishes that would make it too maudlin. In this case, there’s no need to gild the lily:

Maybe the sun will shine today
The clouds will roll away
Maybe I won’t be so afraid
I will understand everything has its plan
Either way

“Either Way” by Wilco

“The Sun on His Back” by Camera Obscura

Hipster heaven straight from the Glasgow-based indie dreamy pop band, Camera Obscura. This song is a soft focus number that goes down like smooth beer brought to you by a local microbrewery. It makes me want to climb a tree or while away the day daydreaming about some handsome dude I don’t yet know, but hopefully will some day. But not in a creepy stalker way. Lead singer Tracyanne Campbell’s voice is a sweet touch that is both wistful and heartfelt. And when she asks, “Do you feel lucky tonight?” I hope you are in the mood to say, “yes:”

He’s got the sun on his back
Where there are freckles I would die for
Is he a family man?
If I had the chance I would show him all I am

“The Sun on His Back” by Camera Obscura

“Come Go With Me” by The Del-Vikings

A blast from the past, but damn, is it a good one. And let’s be honest – every laid-back summer mix needs a few oldies. “Come Go With Me” is an infectious doo-wop number recorded back in 1956 that always brings to mind a joyful appreciation of living in the moment. Also, it makes me think of a spontaneous island getaway; but I’ll cop to the fact that that may be because of this awesome scene from Joe Versus the Volcano featuring the awesomeness that is Tom Hanks. Fun fact: The Del-Vikings were formed in 1955 and made up of members of the U.S. Air Force, all of whom were stationed in Pittsburgh, PA at the time:

Come come come come
Come into my heart
Tell me darling
We will never part
I need you darling
Come and go with me
Whoa whoa whoa whoa

“Come Go With Me” by The Del-Vikings

“Skinny Dippin‘ Girl” by Joe Purdy

A few notes into this track and you are instantly transported to the dock of a lake house in the summer, watching the sun gently set after a long, lingering dip in the cool lake (ok, yes: the album cover art helps). And in this laid-back number by folk singer-songwriter Joe Purdy, you can almost hear the water lapping up against the side of a wooden pylon. Play it as you sway in a hammock, catching the last rays of the day. And, hey, maybe take a cue from the song:

Think that sunrise gonna turn our blue eyes green
So you jump in the river,
you invite me to take a swim
I like to notice that nothin wet and red,
nothin except your sun kissed skin
Believe i’ll jump right in
Believe i’ll jump right in

“Skinny Dippin‘ Girl” by Joe Purdy

“Miles Davis and the Cool” by The Gaslight Anthem

This gritty rock ballad is packed with so much heart and depth that it almost isn’t fair to other songs of the same sort. It’s perfect soul-searching music to play during the remaining moments of a summer day, just before night falls and the romance of night opens up. Listen to this number as you hit the road looking for adventure (or mischief), and let Brian Fallon’s words be your companion:

Like Miles Davis, I’ve been swayed by the cool.
There’s just something about the summertime.
There’s just something about the moon.
So I’ll lay a kiss on a stone, toss it upside your window, by the roof.
Before you change your mind, Miles, bring in the cool.

Don’t wait too long to come home.
My how the years and our youth passed on.
Don’t wait too long to come home.
I will leave the front light on.
The night is our own, don’t wait too long.

“Miles Davis and the Cool” by The Gaslight Anthem