Summer Jams

It’s amazing how much the weather and the season can dictate the music scene. The winter is known for conjuring up more intimate, moody, pensive, and tempered artists, which makes sense. More time is spent indoors in solitude, there is less action, and you’d have to be crazy to lounge on the beach or hang out for more than a minute or two on top of a roof. Artists like Bon Iver and one of my all-time favorites, The Microphones, spring to mind for the colder months.

But then of course, there’s the summer. Lately with this belated influx of warm, summery weather, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a good summer song. Let’s see… last year, you could hardly go anywhere without hearing MGMT’s track “Kids.”

While the video for this is actually downright creepy, it follows a sure-fire formula for a good summer jam: catchy synth riff, slightly-to-moderately indecipherable words, upbeat tempo, and slightly annoying but undeniably catchy. (1) You can stream the song for free without the creepy (Labyrinth-esque) video here.

One song that I sort of adopted as my own anthem last summer was a track by French Horn Rebellion called “Up All Night.” The video even highlighted Williamsburg, the hipster Mecca of the Western world.

With its danceable beat and quirky characters, it’s a wonder to me that this song never really caught on. (2)

Fast forward to this year. I admit it’s a bit harder to discern thus far what the break out songs will be. At the beginning of the summer, I was sure it would be “Lisztomania” by Phoenix. Though it isn’t an official video sponsored by the band, some fans drafted up an amazing homage to Breakfast Club that takes place on a Brooklyn rooftop after someone else put the song to actual scenes from the movie. Beautiful. Stream the song here.

The cake might have gone to “Golden Phone” by Micachu, but alas, their album, Jewellry, came out at the beginning of April – a touch too soon.

Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead,” too, may have missed the boat due to timing. Though it was on their recently released LP, Manners, it also came out on their EP, Chunk of Change, which came out almost an entire year ago now. Unfortunately, some songs come out in the wrong seasons and never seem to live up to their full potential.

Just yesterday, in fact, I stumbled across another possible contender. I picked up an EP from a band I hadn’t heard of from San Francisco called simply The Drums. The name of their EP is even “Summertime!” for crying out loud. The track is “Let’s Go Surfing.”  It’s got whistling; lyrics about the beach; dreamy and energetic vocals; a hyperactive, repetitive, and intoxicating guitar riffs; an excerpt from that rhyme you used to say when you were a kid, and it’s short.

Of course, it would be a grave oversight not to at least mention Michael Jackson.  Sure, “Billie Jean,” “Thriller,” and “Don’t Stop Til’ You Get Enough” are by no means new (and they may not have received much play at all if MJ hadn’t died), but for over a month now, I don’t think I’ve gotten through a single day without hearing at least a bit of an MJ or Jackson 5 song.

Finally, there has been a lot of buzz about Yacht, but we’ll see if anything comes of that.

So is there a formula to the quintessential summer jam? What have you been listening to on repeat lately?

(1) The video for “Kids” has over 18 million views on youtube. That’s EIGHTEEN million.

(2) Then of course, there was Rihanna’s song “Umbrella.” You know you’ve got a sure-fire summer jam when even the most indie-centric, ex-college radio student cannot go anywhere without hearing this song. Sheer torture.


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"He considered music a liberating force: it liberated him from loneliness, introversion, the dust of the library; it opened the door of his body and allowed his soul to step out into the world to make friends."

- Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being


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