Some songs are meant for the sweaty days of summer.
Whether you’re driving around the city, running in the oppressive heat or laying on the beach with your summer fling, there’s a tune for every mood and every occasion. While I know that’s utterly cliché, a summer without a solid set of tunes isn’t summer at all, just another season without sonic memory markers.
Summer playlists are also great because they seamlessly blend the old and new. While fall is the ideal time for introspective indie rock and winter is perfect for the Rat Pack, summer music is all about feeling good, which transcends decades and genres. Here’s a quick taste of what’s on my summer playlist.
Thundercat – “Them Changes (feat. Flying Lotus & Kamasi Washington): Thundercat’s 16-minute EP “The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam” dropped early this summer, and it’s a hazy R&B joint informed by the sensuous jazz-funk styling of the late, great keyboardist George Duke.
The album’s best song is “Them Changes,” which uses a sample from the Isley Brothers’ classic “Footsteps in the Dark” to make something entirely different from the original lick, a hammock lounging tune perfect for sipping a cocktail or puffing on some hydro.
Juvenile – “Slow Motion”: This one might be a cop-out, but summer is all about getting down, dialing things back a notch and taking life slow during the heat. If poolside canoodling ever had a soundtrack, it would be this song.
The Clash – “Train in Vain”: Some songs bring back memories of fun days in the sun, of girls or boys you had a brief affair with, or a party where everything was tight. Summer is about raucousness, letting your hair down and living carefee, much like punk music. And while it may be a stretch to call the Clash’s “Train in Vain” punk, the associations with this song and the attitude it embodies make it the perfect mid-July anthem.
Miguel – “Coffee”: This is the song to play when waking up with your summer fling in some exotic locale on a Saturday morning. There’s nowhere to go, nothing to do but to cherish each other’s presence, stroll down to the nearest coffee shop for an espresso, and head back to bed for the rest of the day. This could all happen back home, too: vacation spot not required.
2Pac – “To Live & Die In L.A.”: Riffing on Prince’s 1981 classic “Do Me Baby,” 2Pac’s “To Live & Die In L.A.” is a classic summer chill-out jam that embodies the haze wafting over Los Angeles. Crank this one up at a picnic or party, and everyone will be grooving and feeling good. The languorous G-Funk rhythms don’t miss a beat, and Pac’s plaintive warble makes it feel like a smooth soul number despite the tough lyrical subjects he tackles (namely the dangers of life in poor, urban Los Angeles).
Belle & Sebastian – “The Party Line”: Though Belle & Sebastian’s latest hit dropped this spring, its appeal carries over into summer. Maybe it’s because I caught Stuart Murdoch and crew’s stellar set at Rock the Garden, or that I hear “The Party Line” at work every day, but even if it’s about an old guy waxing nostalgic for the days where he was young and cool, it’s got a catchy beat and sound and proves that Belle & Sebastian still have it after almost 20 years. Plus, the rhythm is great for keeping up momentum during exercise, if rap jams aren’t your thing.