Emerald Recommends The Best Songs of Summer 2015
If some things tangibly define a season (the changing leaves and pumpkin lattes for fall; the punishing cold and perennial mood disorders for winter; the earth laughing in flowers for spring), summer, then, is the season inextricably tied to music.
In his book Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs, author Chuck Klosterman wrote, “Without a soundtrack, human interaction is meaningless.” As nearly every night of summer can be spent with companions, equally necessary is a perfect song to go with the company.
Summer has always had the imprimatur of party rock anthems like 2011’s “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO; 2012’s “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen; 2013’s “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk (or Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” depending on who you ask); and last year, “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX.
A few of us here at the Emerald have collaborated to bring you our current summer obsessions – the songs that represent the season perfectly. Either emotionally or aesthetically, these songs feel like summer whenever they’re on. And that’s all we need.
This year, our soundtrack comes from Destroyer, Death Cab for Cutie, FIDLAR and more.
“Flushed” – Dogs on Acid
What were people doing in the summertime throughout the ‘90s? Hanging at the skate park with friends? Listening to their Sony Discman while waiting for their mom to pick them up from the mall? This song will give you a general jist of all of that without having to wear jelly shoes that pinch your toes or bleach your tips.
“Flushed” by the Philadelphia-based band Dogs On Acid comes out of the gates swinging as an undoubtedly infectious summer jam. Formed from the remnants of emo bands Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader, influences no doubt shine through, but Dogs On Acid is not just a twinkly emo restoration act.
Brimming with fast, pounding drums and playfully strummed guitar, “Flushed” displays more resemblance to fuzz-filled, bittersweet ‘90s bands like Superchunk and Pavement than to its mid-‘00s emo revival ancestors. Extremely catchy, “Flushed” will make tapping your feet – or if you’re me, obnoxiously air-drumming in the car while driving – unavoidable.
– Meerah Powell
“The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” – Death Cab For Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie’s third single “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” off its latest album Kintsugi is a song that defines summer simply because it feels like summer. As frontman Ben Gibbard reflects on his recent divorce, he ponders why he repeatedly revisits the memories of failure that doomed his relationship, when he’s reviewed them countless times before.
The upbeat, new-wave tone of “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” strongly juxtaposes Gibbard’s bittersweet, biting, and somber lyrics; ultimately reproducing the sensation of returning to the ghosts of memories’ past. For those whose lives revolve around the academic year, summer is a time for reflection and introspection on past successes and failures alike. Thus, the song effectively recreates the atmosphere of summer in its purest form; reminding the listener that while it may be difficult to revisit the past, it can be worthwhile; it’s just best not to stay there for too long.
– Shelby Chapman
“I Haven’t Been Everywhere But It’s On My List” – DJ Koze
DJ Koze, house and hip-hop producer extraordinaire, is capable of wringing boundless emotion out of music generally associated with partying and leisure. Nowhere is this more apparent than on “I Haven’t Been Everywhere But It’s On My List,” his prelude to the mix he curated for the venerable DJ-Kicks series. It starts out as casual head-nod music, not far off from the hip hop instrumentals that dot the mix’s first half. A vocal sample enters; a clap keeps it in line. But something strange happens.
The sample begins to convulse, and soon it seems to be sobbing; Koze is ramping up the emotional stakes.
As the song’s about to peak, a pitch-shifted keen, the single most heartrending sound I’ve heard on a record this year, shoots from the background. By the time the beat snaps back in, what started as simple chill-out music has blossomed into a sentimental journey.
– Daniel Bromfield
“Dream Lover” – Destroyer
Typically a band and its producers arrange a deliberately soundproofed setting for studio recordings, often with instruments and vocals recorded at different times, for the sake of high fidelity. But Destroyer took a radically different approach. Frontman Dan Bejar told Pitchfork in an interview that the band had only played “Dream Lover” twice before the version that’s on the album. Before recording, they tore down the structure that would’ve muffled the drummer, threw open the studio’s doors, and played “Dream Lover.” Really, really loudly.
The song kicks off explosively, like a surprise party that was waiting all evening for you to arrive. A radiant melody bellows out from the heart of a saxophone. Lyrically, the track plays on George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun,” in which Harrison declares that the sun is out and the day is bright.
Here, Bejar notes, “Aw, shit, here comes the sun.” It’s a sentiment declared with such sleepy nonchalance that it sounds like someone who spent all night outdoors until the sun came up. The song is the perfect story of being absorbed in the company with whom you spend long summer nights, losing track of time and accidentally staying up until dawn.
Throughout its brash mixing, the song sustains a dreamlike, luxuriated pace. It’s as hazy as a nicotine high and the withdrawals just as difficult to ignore.
– Emerson Malone
“Locked Away” – R. City featuring Adam Levine
Is it poppy? Maybe. Overplayed? Surely. Still, the combination of the U.S. Virgin Island duo R. City and the angelic chorus of music dynamo Adam Levine in the summer hit “Locked Away” is enough to get your feet tapping, every time. Don’t believe me? Listen to the song and try not to vibe with the beat. I triple-dog-dare you.
“Locked Away” was a late arrival to the summer scene, but if you’re on quarter schedule – and you still have more than a month before classes start – then there’s plenty of cook-outs and day parties left to blast this song to and relax. Listen to it and let the words of R. City take you to that summer getaway you always dreamed you could’ve taken this summer break.
– Joseph Hoyt
“40oz. On Repeat” – FIDLAR
In “40oz. On Repeat,” FIDLAR sings for all the people locked inside their rooms with nothing but a few 40s of cheap beer to aid their troubled minds. Singer Elvis Kuehn begins the song by admitting his social anxieties are constructs of his paranoid mind, yet he still claims, “I’m the kind of special person that drinks too much because nobody understands me.”
The song exudes a desperation to not only fit in, but the need to be “somebody’s.”
With a chorus reminiscent of the Rugrats theme, Kuehn pleads,“Why can’t anybody just tell me that I’m somebody’s?” At first glance, “40oz” seems like a copy of the band’s first hit (“Cheap Beer”), but it explores loneliness, anxiety and dependency on alcohol when the world appears to be against you.
This is a song filled with improbable depth and meaning and a vast leap forward from simple songs like “Wake, Bake, Skate.” The new album Too is released Sept. 24 from Mom + Pop records.
– Craig Wright
“Could Have Been Me” – The Struts
Every summer needs an anthem, a fist-pumping “FUCK YEAH!” sort-of tune to score your personal ’80s training montage. The Struts have hit a perfect nerve with this retro-styled glam rock banger. At first you’ll think it’s lame, then like it ironically, only to find yourself earnestly chanting the chorus, all by the end of your first listen.
It’s a shameless throwback to classic rock, right down to the stadium-rousing final moments. Yet unlike past throwback acts like The Darkness or Steel Panther, there’s no irony to The Struts. The sound is dynamic, evoking nostalgia while still establishing something unique.
“Could Have Been Me” speaks to the fears of everyone’s early twenties, the possibility of being trapped in a dull adulthood while other people are out living your dreams. This is the fight song of tossing caution to the wind, and choosing risk.
– Chris Berg
Home Style – The Memories
The L.A. based soft rock band The Memories have been putting out lo-fi stoner love songs for years. Despite being imbued with considerably more folk vibes this time around, the new album Home Style certainly isn’t a departure from that theme Clocking in at about 25 minutes with only 17 songs, the tracks are short and sweet but still manage to evoke nostalgia surrounding the not-so-distant memories of long summer days and the languid nights that follow. The first song off the record, “I Got That Feelin’ Once Again,” evokes these memories especially well. It stands out with its dream-like group vocals and upbeat acoustic guitar riffs that could easily be a cut from a Mac DeMarco album.
– Jamie Perry