Summer as a season of explosive energy is one of the oldest big moods. Summer blockbusters, summer vacation, summer camp, summer jams–it’s a time to cut loose, go on adventures, be maximalist. In particular, the summer jam is an exciting concept; it unifies us, but also acts as a statement of our individuality, for while we might all go nuts when the latest huge hit drops in July, we’ve also got our standby songs to sing along to at the top of our lungs while driving with the windows down. This week, our panel of contributors shares their summer jams on a playlist, and writes about their picks.
Miki: Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the summer jam of 2018 is Janelle Monae’s “Make Me Feel”, hot off of her newest album, Dirty Computer. Fresh, funky and flat-out celebratory, this is the jam critical to any day at the beach, wild night out, or summer road trip.
Looking for something a little less obvious? Give Saint Motel a try. Though their last album dropped in 2016, I didn’t have the chance to dive into their music until earlier this year. With catchy songs about falling in love and living it up, it was really only a matter of time before I was singing along. My top track recommendations? “Cold, Cold Man”, “Puzzle Pieces”, and “Born Again”. Each track is from a different album or EP, proving that these guys know how to work that airy, indie-pop mood.
Honorable mention: “「ODD FUTURE」”, by UVERworld. Packing a nostalgic punch, the folks who brought us “D-techno-life” are back, performing the OP for the highly anticipated season three of Boku No Hero Academia— it’ll leave you feeling PLUS ULTRA!
Scriv: When it comes to summer music, nothing does it for me like loud, fuzzy, muscley rock n’ roll. Desert rock, grunge, sludge metal, power pop, the kind of music that makes you want to drive way too fast with the windows down. Mutoid Man are the epitome here: check out “Gnarciccist” or “Reptilian Soul” and tell me that listening experience doesn’t transform you bodily into a red convertible (or the engine powering it–my god! the sweet heat of Steve Brodsky’s voice!, anyway, good luck being a car now).
If your summer road trip is a more protracted affair, I might suggest Kyuss‘s Welcome To Sky Valley, an oldie-but-goodie album jam-packed with desert rock groove, with just enough desolation interwoven to conjure up those empty stretches of road. “Demon Cleaner” is probably the best song about brushing your teeth ever written.
But let’s say you need something nastier, something full of sweat and grime, something downright ugly? Look no further than Burning Love‘s Rotten Thing To Say, a piece of work that makes Mutoid Man sound like The Beach Boys. Rotten Thing To Say is jam-packed with furious rippers, conjuring images of 100-degree basement shows and the roaring declarations one might make before a beachside bonfire at midnight. I really, really want these guys to make another album.
On the poppier side of things, The Pillows are my favorite band to share with dogs, while running down trails or tossing frisbees. Like dogs, The Pillows are full of playful verve and bring words like “romp” or “ruckus” to mind, but when they slow down and get mellow, they serve as a beautiful reminder of how good things can be simple and earnest and free sometimes.
Not all summer jams are feel-good thumpers, of course. If summer makes you feel weird, makes you feel alienated and nostalgic and trapped, consider some warm, melancholy electronica. Boards of Canada‘s Geogaddi is a masterful example of the kind of art that speaks to That Weird Feeling, whatever it might be. Its vintage synths and samples dance a beautiful, intricate dance around topics of belonging and where/how we take comfort in our surroundings, dredging up the summers of our youth and honoring them in incredible shades of color and sound, even as BoC throws those same summers into stark relief against what we wished could have happened, who we wish we could have been. Alec Lambert’s original soundtrack for We Know The Devil is also a vital piece of weird-feelings summer synth music; just before synthwave came into vogue, Lambert drenched John Carpenter’s synth-driven horror film scores in the overwarm, sticky inertia of the dog days, then acid-washed them in his own harsh-noise sensibility. The result is a set of songs that live in the humid territory between painfully beautiful and beautifully painful.
Goodness, so many more to talk about (AWOLNation, Maserati, Alestorm, The Dreadnoughts, Quest For Fire, Clutch, Muse, even Acid Bath), but in the interest of anyone else having anything left to write about, I’ll cut this short. Go forth and jam, for summer is fleeting and there are so many good times to be had!
Feryx: To be completely honestly, for years my standby summer jams have been Gorillaz and the soundtracks for the Jet Set Radio series. Together those two sources contain a good variety of genres and tones centered around an upbeat, funky core that is perfect for cruising with the windows down.
I’ve realized recently that I never gave Plastic Beach a fair shake back in the day, but it’s just full of warm vibes going on. On Melancholy Hill seems to rightly be one of the more popular of their songs overall, and Some Kind of Nature has really grown on me. In addition, I recently discovered a 2007 album called The Good, the Bad & the Queen, which was a Damon Albarn side project. It falls much more on the Blur-y Britpop side of things, but slots in well with everything else here. And I don’t think I need to tell you how great Gorillaz and Demon Days are.
Really though, nothing says summer to me like Jet Set Radio. The Dreamcast game and its Xbox sequel, Jet Set Radio Future, are about gangs of roller skatin’, graffiti taggin’, mischief makin’ teens battling with each other and The Man in the streets of Tokyo. If had done anything nearly as cool in my youth, this is how I would imagine it looking and sounding. Spotify lack the guest tracks for these soundtracks (which include Jurassic 5, some popular Tokyo indie bands from the era, and Beastie Boys side project The Latch Brothers), Hideki Nagenuma’s original compositions are an absolute blast all on their own. There’s a sense of fun and irreverence to sample-heavy tracks like Let Mom Sleep and Everybody Jump around.
Also since I’ll probably never find another chance to bring it up, check out this amazing JSR/Beastie Boys remix album, Jet Ill Radio.
Apple S: I’m listening a lot to Kehlani’s Honey, because it’s really gay and so am I.
We put some of our favorite songs we talked about here into a Spotify playlist! Check it out if you feel like listening along!