Did you get excited that one day when global warming didn’t seem like such a bad thing? Did you spend all day outside and overdose on sunshine? Or maybe ignore all your work and drink a few too many beers? Days like that make me both nostalgic and impatient: I want the summers back from my childhood with all their idiotic, ambling ways at the same time that I start counting down until I can stop wearing socks again. With flower bulbs beginning to show and daylight pushing further into twilight hours, here are some songs to aid you in that not-quite-summer irresponsibility:
Come on. You knew the Beach Boys were going to be on this list, so who better to start it off? The obvious choice was “Wouldn’t It Be Nice“, but there’s something about this song that I can’t get enough of. It’s infectious, like the best of the Beach Boys’ songs. But the swelling chorus and the repetition of “let me go home” captures something about every summer when I seem to go on some poorly planned and over-zealous adventure when I’d really be so much happier on my porch.
We come on the sloop John B
My grandfather and me
Around Nassau town we did roam
Drinking all night
Got into a fight
Well I feel so broke up
I want to go home
The opening lines of this song from 2006’s The Crane Wife are perfect and Colin Meloy delivers them in superb fashion. He captures the melancholic and wistful in the sea-dreaming lyrics, taking you along through a freedom doomed to be “swallowed by a wave” that never becomes overwrought or self-pitying – simply beautiful and short-lived. Vacations are never long enough.
Ramblin’ where to begin
I taste the summer on your peppery skin
Been saved the warmer the waves
I felt a slip into a watery grave
(You may be realizing now that warm weather is always a bit maudlin for me, but…) James Murphy perfectly captures the post-college, middle-of-life reminiscence that surrounds summer in this song. It makes you long for the first day out of high school when you and your friends would steal traffic cones or whatever stupid shit you had to do in whatever shitty town you grew up in while you snuck sips from your parents’ vodka. And by the end of the seven minutes and thirty-seven seconds of nostalgic, pulsing glory you’re begging for your old friends alongside Murphy as you relive all those memories.
Though when we’re running out of the drugs
and the conversation’s winding away.
I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision
for another five years of life
And what better clears the mind of the self-pitying longing for the good ol’ days so that you can enjoy the present warmth – maybe with a trip to some exotic beach with that well paying office job of yours – like A Tribe Called Quest? It matters less what Q-Tip and Phife are saying, and more how they’re saying it: a pure, relaxed vibe emanates throughout this song that makes for perfect summertime music. It’s a breath of that fresh air you can freely enjoy from out of the confines of your winter coat.
A rhythm recipe that you’ll savor
Doesn’t matter if you’re minor or major
Yes, the Tribe of the game, rhythm player
As you inhale like a breath of fresh air
There’s something about Stephen Malkmus’ laconic singing and Pavement’s goofy experimentation that smacks of longtime friends with nothing to do and nowhere to go. When they turn that aesthetic toward unrequited romance, I can’t help but think of a camp girlfriend or that girl who dropped out of college after freshman year. And when they title the song “Summer Babe”, you’ve got a proper summer anthem.
My eyes stick to all the shiny roses
you wear on the protein delta strip
in an abandoned house but i will wait there
I’ll be waiting forever…
I’ll wait and wait and wait…
“Totion” by Mika Miko
Former frequenters of The Smell and now defunct Mika Miko put out seven years worth of unfiltered, catchy, and just plain fun punk songs. This one (from 2009’s We Be XUXA) mesmerizes with twisting guitars and echoed oh’s, making it the sort of song fit for driving a bit too fast to down a winding country road with open windows and no end in sight. It’s a tight two-minute escape from whatever boring job you’re “working” as you read this list.
Sleep in cars while you are driving.
Busy town and it’s down the road you go.
On the road the county
Broken records and they’re turning, turning on you.
Strokes’ drummer Fab Moretti leads this side-project in their overly sweet pop music through an album stock full of singles. “How to Hang a Warhol” is the best among them, a celebration of lacking life plans with a determination to do whatever the hell it is you enjoy doing. It harkens back to that youthful idealism I haven’t quite lost at the same time that it begs everyone to ignore their obligations and have some fun. And Fab’s buoyant drumming gives some advice on how to start: find the nearest beach.
But as long as I can’t get into Carnegie Hall
I’ll keep writing songs that are all my own
Very simple and dumb
Like I always have done
Animal Collective are masters of finding a feeling and turning it into a series of electronic bleeps that somehow describe its every facet. This Merriweather Post Pavilion standout captures the simplistic need to spend a day with a lover amongst the sweltering heat of an Indian summer. When Avey Tare hits his trance, repeating “when the sun goes down we’ll go out again!” around the 2:30 minute mark, the song hits its stride in earnest, and there’s only so much one can do to not grab a friend and head out into the sunshine.
Sweet summer night and I’m stripped to my sheets
Forehead is leaking, but the AC squeaks
And a voice from the clock says, your not gonna get tired
My bed is a pool and the walls are on fire
Soak my head in the sink for a while
“Stripper Sunset” is a less-than-two-minute burst of energy, full of sweat and booze and soon to come shame that rides a unabashed garage rock riff to its limit. Just try to listen to it without picturing the band in swim trunks and shades, swigging Schlitz and hitting on girls shamelessly showing off a lack of tan lines. Harlem celebrate irresponsibility and hedonism in style – only fitting for the time of year when skinny dipping becomes an option.
Do I look like some trick
No I don’t care what you think
Cuz I’ve been here since sunset
Where were you
The Strokes will always carry a summer’s nostalgia. Maybe it’s because I saw them the night before my high school graduation in a trip where my friend’s mom’s van broke down on the side of the highway at four a.m. Or maybe it’s the fact that they were the band I listened to in high school. Either way, “Someday” in particular is a tightly packed and sweetly packaged look on the freedom of youth without responsibilities. We had fun indeed, and anytime I hear this song, I have to fight the urge to buy a case of beer and some hamburgers and head to the park.
When we was young, oh man, did we have fun
Promises, they break before they’re made
Every song Wavves has ever recorded is a fit for this playlist, but this track from his debut (Wavvves) just screams for a beach bonfire, 40s on surfboards, and being obnoxious enough that it’s only a matter of time before the cops come and end the fun. “California Goths”‘ feedback amplified thrashing is built for shirking work. “The sun will always shine,” Nathan Williams sings – but that only means you should always be enjoying it.
I’m getting high
to pass the time
no reason why
was my reply
Lacking the lo-fi production of our previous song, The Drums are almost a combination of Wavves and The Strokes. They turn the beach party idea into a pleasant pop romp that brings to mind hand holding, cuddling in a hammock, pecks on the cheek, and one-piece bathing suits. It sounds like a Monkees single re-imagined (though it isn’t), and for that very reason it’s a perfect song whenever you’re dreaming of catching waves. The harmonic sensibilities and jangling guitar lines almost bring sunshine themselves. And then there’s the sugary-sweet boardwalk breakdown at the halfway point.
It’s a beautiful morning
Honey, while the sun is still shining
Would you like to go with me?
Honey, take a run down to the beach
Ray Davies opens this Village Green Preservation Society tune with purpose, the first line alone worthy of a pop hit. And the rest only builds from there. The longing here may only be for country living and an escape from city life, but that easily maps onto summer wishing. Davies sings of a bright sun and frolicking animals on top of a wonderfully constructed song, making it near impossible to not dream of that life before adulthood, riding a Huffy through the mud after a hard summer rain.
This world is big and wild and half insane
Take me where real animals are playing
Just a dirty old shack
Where the hound dogs bark
That we called our home
I want to be back there
This title track from Destroyer’s most recent album is a hazy daydream of a song. The sax is almost too much of a joke, like a bad SNL skit about Kenny G – but it works, somehow. It’s perfect for a song about chasing girls and cocaine. It sounds like the 80’s filtered through the mind of someone too talented to be relegated to a mere decade (which is sort of true, I guess). And for some reason, mixed in with the strangeness of this song, I see myself listening to it in a too-warm and overcrowded living room as a summer day turns to a humid night.
Wasting your days,
Chasing some girls all right,
Chasing cocaine to the back rooms of the world all night
Wasting your days,
Chasing some girls all right,
Chasing cocaine through the back rooms of the world all night
The opening riff in “Roadhouse Blues” smacks of a backwater Louisiana bar, of a group of friends who don’t actually belong trying to convince themselves they do to save themselves the loss of pride they’d suffer by turning around when they realize their mistake. It’s a song I used play too loudly while I was going through my classic rock phase circa sixteen whenever I drove through the suburbs on a weekday night on the way to do something inane. It’s a song of posturing, a song almost as cliche as loving Jim Morrison. It’s those kids in Dazed and Confused. And goddamnit it’s good.
Well, I woke up this morning, I got myself a beer
Well, I woke up this morning, and I got myself a beer
The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near
The Hold Steady’s album Boys and Girls in America, by the title alone, speaks to nostalgia. Craig Finn spent too much time in the Heartland to not innately understand what it is to really enjoy a summer: to sweat too much and care too little, to drink cheap beer at a ballpark and ignore how poor you really are so that you can go on a ill conceived escapade with some girl you barely know. And, above all, to never regret it but to tell the story with pride. This is a song that willl make you wish you had the guts to quit your job and go on a tour of racetracks and MLB stadiums.
She put $900 on the fifth horse in the sixth race
I think its name is “Chips Ahoy!”
It came in six lengths ahead, we spent the whole next week getting high
At first i thought that she hit off some tip that she got from some other boy
We were overjoyed
I’m going to be honest: this is the song that started this playlist. Beach Fossils aren’t a diverse band. They’re not going to surprise you. But they do make some great summer music – the lackadaisical approach they take pays dividends in the layered guitars, singing hi-hat, and placid vocals. The second verse has never sounded anything less than brilliant, no matter how many times I hear it. Troubles melt away into awkward dancing with the Brooklynites’ chorus of oh’s and ah’s. “In the golden age we will never die”, Dustin Payseur sings. That hook just never gets old.
And I open my eyes
And everything’s blue
From the top of the sky
To underneath you
Ain’t trying to do more
Than just sit here
I can look in your eyes
And tell you’re sincere
“Junkyard” by Page France
Page France sound like Neutral Milk Hotel if they were happier. Each of the songs on Hello, Dear Wind blend into one another. Most sound nearly indistinguishable from the others. But when they all sound so incredibly uplifting and free, that’s a good thing. “Junkyard” is a fine example – light, airy, and filled with lyrics that are probably more meaningful than I hear, too caught up in the foot-stomping guitar strumming.
You stole your mother’s whitest gown
Swallowed like a sunbeam
And I stole your father’s crusted crown
It shook us like a bad dream
“Pachuca Sunrise” is one of those songs I listened to so often in such a short amount of time that I can’t really claim to like it anymore. But whenever I find myself in a certain situation – warm weather, on my way somewhere to do something that requires little attention – I find it hard not to play. It begins with syrupy, echoing guitars and only in the chorus does it break the feeling that it’s being held back by itself. But that gives it an alternating structure that pushes the song to its conclusion and makes it a perfect fit for listening during a summer workday when there’s no way you’ll actually be productive.
This is a city for not sleeping
And the clocks are set by feel
At those moment from where I sit
None of it seems real
YACHT – like most of James Murphy’s DFA acts – puts out poppy yet angular dance music. 2009’s See Mystery Lights includes the (for our purposes) aptly titled “Summer Song”. Pumping synths celebrate warm weather, the simple lyrics only existing for the added vocal component rather than any poetic content. But if the song isn’t ambitious, it’s still a great success. Breaking down into hand claps and clops before building back up again, it’s a party in honor of our favorite season.
Summer came up and sang a song
When summer came up, we sang along
We stayed up talking all night long
So move your feet to the summer song
Back in 2004, Kings of Leon were putting out gloriously disheveled albums full of weird song constructions and nonsensical or even just plain bad lyrics that somehow fit into the aesthetic of the southern rock band that just didn’t give a shit. Aha Shake Heartbreak was the sophomore slump that wasn’t – a terrifically out there yet familiar group of songs. “Taper Jean Girl” stands out among them, and like the rest, inexplicably points towards summer. It saunters and the Followills’ confidence pulses like a hangover, the song sounding like the afternoon after a house-show blowout.
Heartbreak knockin’ ’em down like the seventh grade
Heartbreak, cigarettes and song with a winter’s chafe
Heartbreak keep like my daughter and a run away
This is one of those songs that seems ubiquitous. Everyone of my era loves it, but I don’t think I’m alone in being completely unable to say when I first heard it. It feels like it was always already known. That sentiment is echoed by the song’s dreamy qualities. The band seems to be nostalgic themselves and as a result, everyone seems to be searching for one of those childhood memories that always seem to take place during a lost summer.
Shakedown 1979, cool kids never have the time
On a live wire right up off the street
You and I should meet
Junebug skipping like a stone
With the headlights pointed at the dawn
We were sure we’d never see an end to it all
Vampire Weekend’s schtick has always been just the sort of Paul Simon rip-offs that made them America’s favorite indie band for a year or two. And there’s something about their background – Ivy League college kids – that, combined with their quasi-African rhythms, smacks of yacht club bravado at Martha’s Vinyard. But it’s hard to be upset when they make it as enjoyable as they do here. “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?” No one, when you’re having this much fun.
Check your handbook
It’s no trick
Take the chapstick
Put it on your lips
Crack a smile
Adjust my tie
Know your boyfriend, unlike other guys
Toro Y Moi – aka Chazwick Bundick – hails from Columbia, SC. The area gets a shout-out via the title of his latest LP, Underneath the Pine, and its stifling humidity makes its way into his chilled-out grooves. “New Beat” in particular sounds like the kind of medium-energy dance jam you’d expect to find at a backyard party in city where the heat can kill. His production is a throw back to disco, his voice is unassuming, and I can only hope I find a party this interesting when summer does come.
Don’t keep it all in the head, what we had was off
It’s best that we forget, we never looked at all
But even know as we fall into place, I think about you then
I know I’d forget, if I was alone, you should have come miss, all the …
There’s something about American Beauty that’s inexplicably hopeful, even in this song about Phil Lesh’s dying father. It makes the realization that things will go imperfectly on fit the tragic situation it was written for as well as summer’s end – or even the fact that we’ve still got a few months before summer is even here. It certainly helps that I think of that scene from the last episode of Freaks and Geeks where Lindsay dances to the album before setting of on the road to follow the Dead. The song is, quite simply, beautiful. Like a summer rain.
Just a box of rain, wind and water
Believe it if you need it, if you don’t, just pass it on
Sun and shower, wind and rain
In and out the window like a moth before a flame