20 Essential Summer Songs
Summer has arrived – no more erratic springtime snow and freezing temps. Of course the trade off is unbearable humidity and those pesky cicadas. Outdoor music festivals return as do long anticipated releases from Interpol, The White Stripes, and Spoon. So, fire up the grill, slather on some SPF 40, and get ready to illegally download, I mean, check out these 20 essential summer songs.
1. "Heinrich Maneuver"- Interpol [mp3]
It’s been three years since Paul Banks and group showered us with their Antics. The first single off their July Our Love to Admire begins with Banks asking: "How are things on the West Coast?" A signature Interpol song with catchiness, rockability, and guitar solos, it’s not quite as brooding as some of their other material. Banks confides on the chorus: "Today my heart sways," and so does ours. The song is stellar, but will the rest of the album be as good? How could it not be?
2. "The Ghost of You Lingers" – Spoon [mp3]
With each album, Britt Daniel and band’s sound become tighter. It doesn’t seem possible Gimme Fiction was released over two years ago. Spoon is finally back demonstrating their minimalistic abilities. This song begins with a discordant fast piano penetrating through the entire song. Ghostly vocal whispers ensue along with distorted sound effects fading in and out. From their upcoming Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (that’s five Ga’s, mind you), "Ghost" is their most earnest track on a rather soulful record. It lingers long after Britt has sung his heart out.
3. "Hearts on Fire"- Cut Copy [mp3]
Pulsating rhythms and bouncy beats best describe the Australian trio’s music. With their 2004 debut, Bright Like Neon Love, they helped revive the new wave genre. On their new single from an untitled upcoming album, "Hearts on Fire" heads into more club orientated territory sounding less retro. Dan Whitford sings: "Something in the air tonight/A feeling you have could change your life/I reach out to you tonight and our hearts collide," encompassing twinkling synths. Hit the dance floor with a special someone of the night and grind away. Summer is too short to be lonely.
4. "The Summer Song" – Yacht [mp3]
What’s summer without a song named after the most affable season? Jona Bechtolt is Yacht, formerly of the Portland duo The Blow. This track comes from his debut record, I Believe in You. Your Magic is Real. Bechtolt creates dance music with jagged beats, hi-hats, and clicking sounds akin to Junior Senior, LCD Soundsystem, and Daft Punk. The chorus goes: "We stayed up talking all night long/so move your feet to the summer song" with the word "summer" continuously echoing. Song of the summer, indeed.
5. "Slow Show" – The National [YouTube]
The National has increasingly built a solid fan base since the release of their remarkable Alligator back in 2005. Their latest, Boxer, is equally good. The pensive "Slow Show" shines on its own merit coming off like a great literary novel. Lead singer Matt Berninger’s deep and sensual vocals compliment the swooning violin and guitar solos. On the chorus he prophesizes: "You know I dreamed about you/ for 29 years before I saw you," allowing the song to transcend to an emotional realm.
6. "An End Has a Start" – Editors [YouTube]
Immediately after their release of 2005’s The Back Room, these guys were deemed the British equivalent to Interpol. Although they do genuflect to their contemporaries, on their sophomore album, An End is a Start, they branch out to hold their own. The title track explodes akin to "Munich" with crashing guitars, and sprawling anthems. The entire record is about death including this song, but there is a sense of optimism, too.
7. "The Crystal Cat" – Dan Deacon [YouTube]
Baltimore based electronic guru Dan Deacon’s music has been classified as future shock coined from the book with the same name describing society as being overwhelmed with change thus causing them to disconnect. "The Crystal Cat," from the album Spiderman of the Rings, subscribes to the logic with its fast talking, quickly shifting, and frenetic melodies becoming sensory overload. Oscillating and chaotic sounds build to an amalgam of noises and high pitched vocal squeals. It’s a fun track to listen to and try to keep up with.
8. "Icky Thump" – The White Stripes [YouTube]
Jack and Meg White have been M.I.A since Get Behind Me Satan (except for White’s foray into last year’s The Raconteurs). They return with their sixth album, Icky Thump marking the tenth anniversary of the band. The titular first track gives an indication of the Stripes moving away from their Blues influences and back into unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll territory. Prominently featuring heavy guitar riffs, rat-ta-tat-tat drums, middle eastern sounds, acid horns, their upcoming release will not disappoint as long as you don’t piss Mr. White off.
9. "Sound of Summer" – Art Brut
Bang Bang Rock & Roll seared with mockery of the music industry and teenage love. The British group return with their sophomore record, It’s a Bit Complicated expanding what made their previous effort so entertaining. Eddie Argos speaks his lyrics giving blunt and honest commentary on relationships while a guitar perpetuates. "Sound of Summer" is about making a mix tape for someone and possibly reading into the songs picked. He talks about "tabs pushed up so you can’t tape over it ever" and how the tapes convey what you can’t vocalize to one another. He ends with: "Just a couple of friends hanging out with each other/just swapping songs to soundtrack our summer." Ah, the art of the mix tape.
It’s been two years since Carl Newman and collective graced us with the impeccable Twin Cinema. Welcome back! The jangly pop begins slowly with an abundant of "ohhs" and Newman’s voice cracking with vulnerability. The track percolates to a confident chorus with a steady beat and background vocals. Not quite emotive like "Bleeding Heart Show" but still slightly reminiscent of its potency. Looks like another solid album from our favorite Canadians.
11. "Lost" – The Mary Onettes [mp3]
The Swedish group The Mary Onettes music first came to everyone’s attention in a couple of episodes of "Grey’s Anatomy." Even though having music featured in a commercial or tv show has become quite redundant for a band, never underestimate the effect of an unearthed treasure. Sounding akin to ’80s The Cure and New Order, the synth-centric track breeds heartfelt sympathy. Philip Ekström’s warbling vocals sings: "When all we do is wrong/when all we feel is wrong/If I could dream away." Relaxing on a beach and dreaming away sounds like the right dose.
Austin band Okkervil River made their debut with 2005’s dramatic Black Sheep Boy. This track is off their second album dropping in August, Stage Names. Will Sheff’s distinctive and tormented vocals are present but so are more spirited rhythms. He sings: "This is a bad movie where there’s no crying" and transitions into piercing "huh, huh" noises. The song is redolent of "Thunder Road" in its epic scale and storytelling inclinations as it swings and wavers around. Springsteen can’t pull off a falsetto the way Sheff does, though.
13. "All My Friends" – Franz Ferdinand [YouTube]
LCD Soundsystem’s "All My Friends" is in contention for one of the best songs of the year, so it’s no surprise British darling Franz Ferdinand has recorded an impressive homage to the song. Their video is especially strange with the band’s heads hovering over a girl giving a voyeuristic vibe. Alex Kapranos and group take the track to another level sprinkling it with their British charm, eschewing the rapid piano, and augmenting more rockness.
14. "Selfish Jean" – Travis [YouTube]
Travis and Coldplay emerged at the same time, but it was the latter that went onto become a behemoth in the music world. But, sometimes it’s better to stay under the radar as in Travis’ case. They’ve acquired some noteriety, but still appear to be a well-kept secret. In May they released a new record, The Boy with No Name, their follow up to 2003’s middling 12 Memories. Travis is back in stride with a great record and this song, "Selfish Jean." Fran Healy’s cloying vocals adjoin to the already happy and charismatic song. Show them some love, already.
15. "Kid Gloves" – Voxtrot [mp3]
Voxtrot has generated a tremendous amount of buzz for a band that up until now hasn’t even released a full-length. After three superior EPs, the Austin quintet releases their self-titled long player debut. Singer Ramesh Srivastava chimes in with contagious "aahhs" and his troubled Smiths pop inspired music bringing the song to life. Srivastava sings about conflicted love: "Cheer me up I’m a miserable fuck." He obviously has something to get off his chest. Near the end, the track permeates with gnarling guitars. It’s definitely the stand out track from the album.
16. "Dead + Rural" – Handsome Furs [mp3]
Dan Boeckner is a busy guy. Not only does he front Wolf Parade but also Sunset Rubdown and now Handsome Furs with his fiancée Alexei Perry. The Canadian group’s debut, Plague Park, was just released and features Boeckner’s yelping vocals and electronic musings. The lyrics are sort of incomprehensible, but the melodies shift and turn with pounding riffs and vibrant melodies.
17. "Golden Skans" – Klaxons [YouTube]
These three guys from England released their debut, Myths of the Near Future, earlier in the year. Klaxons means to shriek, and they certainly do. The track begins with oodles of extended "oohhhs" and "ahhhhs" and heavy basslines. Their vocals intertwine hitting high notes. A combination of dance-punk and new rave, Klaxons generate the feel good song for the summer. Also worthy is their cover of Justin Timberlake’s "My Love" showing their vast range.
A cowbell rings followed by upbeat melodies segueing into Adam Olenius’ heartaching vocals. The Swedish popsters are back contributing to this summer’s Swedish contingent (see Mary Onettes). The Shout Out Louds debuted in 2005 with the infectious Howl Howl Gaff Gaff. It’s uncertain what exactly Olenius has to leave, but whatever it is, he sounds good in his angst. Every band should experiment with cowbell.
19. "On and On and On" – Wilco [YouTube]
So what if Jeff Tweedy and band sold half of their songs from their latest opus, Sky Blue Sky, to be used in several Volkswagen commercials much to their fans chagrin? Tweedy’s got a family to support. All summer we will be hearing these tracks including this one. "On and On and On" is a bittersweet track about staying in a relationship with someone through the good and bad times. Tweedy sings: "On and on and on we’ll be together, yeah." Too bad it’ll make us so distraught we’ll have to buy a Jetta.
20. "D.A.N.C.E" – Justice [YouTube]
French duo Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay generate a combination of electronic, disco, and French house music on their debut album, †. Taking a cue from Prince, it’s a symbol. On this track, they channel Jackson Five Michael Jackson with child-like vocals and repetitive "do the dance" and "it’s easy as ABC" lyrics as funk and disco beats bleed through. Justice’s agenda this summer will be to incinerate some dancefloors.