I think we can all agree that summer was a bit of a late bloomer this year. From late night hangouts with friends, squished between thousands at a music festival, tanning all day at the beach, going away for a weekend camping trip, etc., many find summer to be the most memorable time of the year. My music taste tends to come in seasonal waves. While I mostly prefer rock and indie acts, which you can probably tell by my previous posts, there’s something about the laid back, almost nostalgic nature of summer that encourages me to bring other genres into the mix. From old to new, from hip hop to country, here’s what made my summer a good one.
1. Fever by The Black Keys
Bringing instant energy with its start, the Black Keys’ Fever hooks the listener with its synth-pop, hypnotic sound. It moves fluidly as Dan Auerbach croons bluesy vocals while Patrick Carney keeps pace with clipped drum beats. Just when the sound feels familiar, a string section emerges, showing Auerbach and Carney are unafraid to experiment, despite reaching their highest fame after El Camino.
2. Fall In Love by Phantogram
This hypnotizing song reminds me of new love, particularly as a teenager. It’s all encompassing to the point where any little thing could prove to be dangerous. Yet, Sarah Barthel’s voluptuous vocals tempt and pull the listener in deeper, yielding them to the catchy electro-pop. Known for their hip-hop sampling, Phantogram strikes the perfect balance of celestial psychedelia and indie rock with their hit.
3. Automatic by Miranda Lambert
For many, summer brings about a bit of nostalgia. In Automatic, country powerhouse and female empowerer, Miranda Lambert displays her mellifluous storytelling in a slower, yet signature sound. With her nylon string guitar, she focuses on simpler times and the importance of slowing down. Known for her sass and perspective, she challenges the listener to live more in the present and to reevaluate how much emphasis they’re putting on technology.
4. Say Hey (I Love You) by Michael Franti & Spearhead, Cherine Anderson
With a Jamaican, raggae groove, it’s hard not to smile and dance when you hear Say Hey (I Love You). The song has a fun, international feel to it as Franti refers to his travels and the people he’s cherished all around the world. Acting as a leader in modern socially conscious protest music for over two decades, Michael Franti is a great reminder that one of the most important messages to spread around the world is love and joy.
5. Don’t by Ed Sheeran
In his sophomore album, Ed Sheeran seems to be gaining confidence through his more treacherous and brusque sound in Don’t. With his successful urban styling, Sheeran sings and occasionally raps about a relationship that deteriorates as a result of touring and mistrust. After listening for maybe a minute, it’s not too surprising that Sheeran was recently named the “most powerful figure in black and urban music” by 1Xtra. Don’t also serves as a fantastic song to run and work out to.
6. Love Never Felt So Good by Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake
Written by Michael Jackson and Paul Anka in 1983, the year after Thriller came out, Love Never Felt So Good has a very contemporary, disco pop feel to it that brings the listener right back to the sound of Jackson’s heyday. It simply makes you feel good and want to dance. Though there are three different versions of the song on Jackson’s posthumous album, XSCAPE, the Justin Timberlake version serves as great example of how natural and fun a collaboration can be.
7. Riptide by Vance Joy
A definite hit of the summer, Vance Joy’s Riptide is a sprightly, catchy single filled with sunshine and hope. Described by Joy as a “coming of age love story,” many recognize the song for its bouncy beat flavorsome lyrics that include metaphors and references to pop culture. This song is pure bliss and, like the writer’s name, pure joy.
8. Lost Stars by Adam Levine
It’s been awhile since I’ve fallen in love with an Adam Levine song as I connected more with Maroon 5’s older material.
I sound like a hipster. I know. So, in that vein, I guess it makes sense that Lost Stars was not written by Levine but instead by New Radicals’ Gregg Alexander for the movie Begin Again. However, even if Levine didn’t write the song, I’d argue no other singer can perform it as well as him. It deserves a crooner who’s able to reach that incredible falsetto with ease, taking the song to a whole new level of perfection, and Levine delivers.
9. Rewind by Rascal Flatts
Rascal Flatts could be considered a guilty pleasure as they’re somewhat known as a country boy band. With Rewind, they bring the listener back to their trademark sound many came to love them by through hits like Life Is A Highway. Even if many summer cliches can be found in the lyrics, sometimes it’s good to just enjoy the ride with the catchy melody and let your hair down “one more time.”
10. Latch by Disclosure, Sam Smith
Easily the best electronic song of the year, Latch is super catchy with its elegant, sophisticated production hooked by an irresistible bass line that makes it perfect to dance to. Sam Smith really shines as the lead vocalist as he seduces the listener with his wide vocal range that includes his killer falsetto featured in the chorus.
11. Bang Bang by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj
Speaking of fun, catchy pop songs, Bang Bang was released as the first single from Jessie J’s forthcoming album, Sweet Talker. Talk about female power! The fast-paced song starts off strong with powerhouse Jessie J, gains muscles as Ariana Grande continues the sass and full-on dominates when Nicki Minaj defends herself and her sisters against any and all haters. In fact, many critics single out Minaj as the reason the song is such a success.
12. Deeper by Ella Eyre
Ella Eyre accomplishes the perfect mix between Adele and Amy Winehouse, while looking like a British Beyonce. Best known for her collaborations with Rudimental (Waiting All Night) and Wiz Khalifa (Think About It), Eyre finally tried her hand at going solo with Deeper in 2013, and boy did it pay off. The R&B/soul track features some old school jazz with some modern R&B mixed together to create a divine, classic effect.
13. Coffee by Sylvan Esso
One of the things I love about Sylvan Esso, made up of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, is that they use electronics as an instrument rather than a crutch. They differentiate themselves from other electronic bands by slowing down their tempos to allow their vocals to really shine. The effect is mesmerizing in Coffee as you can feel Meathe step and strut through the vocals as she sings about the freedom of dancing as a participant, rather than an observer.
14. Watch Me by Paul McDonald & Nikki Reed
While they may not be married anymore, Paul McDonald and Nikki Reed create some gorgeous, smooth and rich melodies together in their album, I’m Not Falling. It’s difficult to single out one of their songs as the best, as the entire album has a beautiful, cohesive and organic feel to it. However, Watch Me brings a slightly different flavor than the others with its elements of jazz, soul, and honest and raw songwriting.
15. Part II ( On the Run) by Jay-Z, Beyoncé
No one was talked about more this summer than Jay-Z and Beyoncé. Despite all of talk about their relationship status, one thing still remains true. They put on one hell of a show! They work hard and continually push the music industry to the next level. In the title track of the tour, Jay and Bey show just why they’re on top.
16. Home by Johnnyswim
If you were sad about The Civil Wars breaking up, you might want to check out perhaps the most promising newcomer of 2013, Johnnyswim. Husband, Abner Ramirez, and his wife, Amanda Sudano, comprise this singer-songwriter, country and folk band. Home immediately draws the listener in through various stories of people’s journey’s to love, including their own, with a beat that’ll make you want to clap your hands along. The pair’s voices blend so well together that it’s almost difficult to tell where one voice ends and the other begins. What songs were you playing this summer?