Every summer has a soundtrack. Scratch that — for me, every significant chunk of time is attached to a series of songs I’ve played on repeat until each word and groove and drum kick was etched into my memory. Long drives down I-95 from the suburbs to the city were immaculately soundtracked to pulsing beats; winter afternoons spent bundled up by the beach were spent listening to The Shins. I have a playlist for normal deep house and another one for tracks that are so bangin they transcend the denomination. I have one for silky smooth chillout and one for indie jams, but the my most cherished playlists are named after ineffable, fleeting emotions I tried to capture through combinations of sounds.
In high school, I was always meticulous about my music, and secretive. More than once, I exasperated friends by playing an amazing track and not naming names. Now that I’m in college, my listening has splayed across many platforms and devices, rendering the act of downloading individual songs and organizing them into fifteen different playlists on iTunes obsolete. I don’t have the time to spend hours on music blogs and streaming sites collecting singles anymore, and I don’t have the vanity to keep the best songs to myself. But no matter how much more or less seriously I take my music collection, I can’t get past the idea that there’s a perfect song for every moment.
Each summer, the songs I listen to while driving aimlessly, hanging out with friends, or just sitting in my room inevitably come to define the season for me after the fact. These are the songs I’ve been playing this summer on repeat,* and the ones I think you should be listening to because they’re good and because together they call to mind summer as a college student in all its slowness, its excitement, its romance, and its solitude.
Drexler – Made in Heights
I’ve spent this summer in South Beach, where I live part-time while away from Amherst. South Beach is a strip of land connected to mainland Miami via two large and neon-lit bridges. Chic art-deco hotels dot the coast, and my best memories here have always begun the same way— with heavy doors giving way gorgeous lobbies, my heels clicking on the marble floors. This song sounds exactly like that moment.
There are a few corny lines about how “nature is the realest,” but the brilliant hook makes up for it. And since everyone’s awake now…
White Iverson (Y//2//K Remix) – Post Malone
The original version of this song is already ridiculously catchy, and it’s got a bunch of lines that would make for superlative Instagram captions. Electronic artist Y//2//K adds playful touches, like the sound of a coke can opening before the break, and feeds even more into the energy of Malone’s last verse. Best heard at full volume and surrounded by all your friends at a sweaty party, swish.
Warm Enough – Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
A track off Donnie Trumpet (a.k.a Chance The Rapper)’ s surprise album, Surf, which dropped for free early this summer, Warm Enough is languorous and thick like syrup. The production team did a great job on the ambient sounds on this track — I can hear seagulls and a drum that rolls like the ocean. Noname Gypsy’s spoken-word style rapping is incredible here, as is Chance’s flow and verse. J Cole did okay too.
My Side (Airwav Bootleg) – Drake
This is another electronic rework of a great rap song, but this time, Airwav distorts Drake’s voice until all you can hear is a deep voice warbling something about “my New York condo” like Drake is serenading you underwater at your local pool. The synths play a melody that is happily reminiscent of “Dreams Money Can Buy,” objectively the best Drake song of all time.
Riches – Jamyang
This is the opening track of Jamyan’s Perisher EP. A bit like a cross between Coldplay’s Viva La Vida largesse and the ironic wit of any Frank Ocean song, the production on this track stays shifting and interesting as Jamyang mourns the loss of his riches in his gorgeous voice. Overall a beautiful song for when you’re rolling in summer internship cash but your friends won’t text you back :-( .
Stranger In a Room and Girl – Jamie xx
Pretty string synths open Stranger In a Room before Jamie xx comes in with his soft, melodic voice, pining for a stranger at a party who ends up disappearing. The melancholy melody and sparse strings perfectly capture the excitement and subsequent letdown of falling for someone who is just passing through. Summer can be kind of a bummer, too.
Girl is like the euphoric and euphonic counterpoint to Stranger In a Room. The vocals are muddled and dark, while the instrumentation is thickly layered and pulsates, stopping altogether at times only to rev back up again. This song sounds like what it feels to really really want someone.
Update 7/31: Coming to Getcha and Razor’s Edge – Albert Hammond Jr.
I will always and forever listen to any music that is the product of a former Stroke, even Julian Casablancas’s weird progressive rock. That said, Albert Hammond Jr. has an incredible ear for melodies and it goes without saying that he kills it on the guitar. This track, off today’s release Momentary Masters, was an immediate standout, but the entire album sounds like what I want to play at dusk on my cross country road trip with my all my best friends when we are all rockstars and Bernie Sanders is president of the United States and everyone is buzzed except the person driving and nothing hurts.
Update 8/9: Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd
Ok I’m late to the party on this one BUT THIS IS THE SONG. This song has seeped into my brain by sheer force of will because I don’t listen to The Weeknd, but it’s everywhere. Music marketing machine, you have won. I like this song for the same reasons I liked Frank Ocean’s Novacane — I’m a sucker for a drug/love/fame metaphor as the central theme of a piece of music. I also find it particularly interesting that The Weekend, after pioneering the gritty, after-hours-sex-den sound we’ve all gotten to know so well, has chosen to dive so deeply into pop. Of course, the song is more Michael Jackson than Calvin Harris, which is the richest possible source material for Abel Tesfaye to mine for his radio takeover. I like Tesfaye’s falsetto a lot more when it’s booming and confident, like it is in Can’t Feel My Face, which might have to do with me not loving The Weeknd’s lothario persona. Without the many layers of distortion on his vocals, he sounds less like the dude at the back of the room trying to score a little anything, more like someone I’d want to party with.
* If you know me IRL you know I pretty default to listening to St. Vincent and (um) One Direction. Since I was trying to actually write this post and not just compile a nonsense list of everything I’ve put in my ears the past few months, I limited myself to music that was actually released this summer. For further listening please see: Lorde – Buzzcut Season; Mr. Little Jeans – The Suburbs; One Direction – No Control (so lame, so good); Little Dragon – Pretty Girls; Karen O’s album, Crush Songs; the entirety of St. Vincent’s discography.
See anything you like? Like anything I missed? Comment your own summer jams and I’ll listen to them. I’ll try to keep this post updated all summer. Follow me on Soundcloud for more jams: camiladee