Published on June 30th, 2011 | by Randall Castillo0
SOUND Summer Playlist ’11
Depending on your regional affiliations (I’m talking to you, West Coast, Southerners, Mid-Atlantics and East-Coasters), it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the wrath of those scorching summer months is either already fully upon us, or will be very, very soon. You know what this means: time off from school, days stuck in the office wishing ourselves away from the deskwork before us and all the barbecues, short shorts, parades, flip flops, fireworks and beaches that comprise what is truly the most wonderful time of year. But for some of us, there is something more important than our warm-weather outfits and weekend getaway romances — something transcendent of the season itself. And that “something“ is a soundtrack for the summer.
It happens every year — sometimes on purpose, sometimes serendipitously — but one way or another there invariably ends up being a collection of songs that just fit the antics accompanying our summers. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing some tracks from my own personal score to summers past, present and future with the hopes they open your eyes to new music, vindicate your current selection of warm-weather tunes or give you an excuse to reminisce on years past and the music that was there to carry us through.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Side 1, Part A
1. ”Blackout” — Breathe Carolina
They’re baaaack! After the commercial and critical success of 2009’s Hello Fascination, the Denver electronic crunkcore duo have released the first full-length track from their upcoming studio album Hell Is What You Make It, and it doesn’t disappoint. Featuring a fun, club-like dance vibe and an absurdly catchy hook and chorus combo, odds are good you’ll hear this one played at the river/backyard party/club more than any of Breathe Carolina’s previous work. This might have more to do with timing and promotion than anything else, but the track is also notable for the omission of the band’s trademark screaming vocals; bad for fans of the hardcore scene, good for everyone else. That being said, it’s easy to imagine this as the celebratory, “you only live once” anthem for the troublemaking portions of June, July and August. Party on.
Further Listening: “The Birds and the Bees” (Gossip), “Take Me to Infinity” (Hello, Fascination), “I.D.G.A.F.” (Hello, Fascination)
2. “Jump In the Pool” — Friendly Fires
Those among us who pledge allegiance to the Union Jack might be more familiar with the English alternative dance-pop trio, as Friendly Fires has experienced a large amount of success over in the UK. But don’t let that hold you back, fellow Americans — this band will serve many of you well with a rich catalogue full of rhythmic tunes, absolutely tailor-made for a life out in the sun. For starters, I’m not sure there’s a more aptly-named summertime track than “Jump In the Pool” — one gem amongst many off the bands’ self-titled debut album. If the echo-y chorus, uptempo, Caribbean-inspired rhythm and carefree lyrics don’t take you to a place of sunshine and cool, refreshing water, well then I just don’t know how to help you.
Further Listening: “In the Hospital” (Friendly Fires), “Photobooth” (Friendly Fires), “Show Me Lights” (Pala LP)
3. “Don’t Stop Now” — The Maine
If you’re in need of a sweet, lively track whose musical style and lyrical content reflect alternative pop-rock reminiscent of the early 2000’s (and who isn’t?), look no further. Conjuring up sounds that ring characteristic of bands like Fastball and Lit, The Maine also add their own unique touch to the track; John O’Callaghan’s voice — smooth, but with a “five o’clock shadow” feel to it (he covers Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” perfectly, for reference) — inspires this intangible and instantly recognizable recollection of the best parts of our youth. Meanwhile, the rest of the boys from “The 480″ — that’s Tempe, Arizona to you — play along perfectly in this, their second full-length studio album. If high school is somewhere in your rearview mirror, the song will put you right back in it. And if you’re still in the midst of those wonderfully awkward teenage years, sit back and soak it in. ”Don’t Stop Now” is your life right now.
Further Listening: “Give It To Me” (Black & White), “Girls Do What They Want” (Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop), “I Must Be Dreaming” (Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop)
4. “You Hold Your Breath, I’ll Hold My Liquor” — Go Radio
April of 2007 saw the untimely departure of Jason Lancaster (writer/co-lead singer/heart-and-soul-of-the-band) from Derek Sanders and the Florida-based band Mayday Parade, where Jason would go on to form Go Radio. Mayday continues to grow in popularity and mainstream success while Lancaster has successfully transferred his heart and inspired lyrics to Go Radio. Even so, your ears won’t lie to you — together, Mayday and Lancaster came together to make pure magic on each and every track.
As separate entities, however, both have a missing ingredient — something you can’t quite put your finger on that leaves them incomplete and short of their full potential. So much more could be said about this (and will — stay tuned, kids), but for now, Go Radio deserves their recognition for landing on this summer’s playlist of playlists. From its triumphant opening rock riff to the sunny lyrical attitude, “You Hold Your Breath, I’ll Hold My Liquor” is the song you’ll want blasting from your car speakers when you finally find the one who deserves a whole summer’s worth of your love.
Further Listening: “Goodnight Moon” (Do Overs and Second Chances), “In Our Final Hour” (Do Overs and Second Chances), “Kill the Beast” (Lucky St.)
5. “Your Biggest Mistake” — Ellie Goulding
The beautiful, golden-haired British songbird has been making waves ever since the release of her debut studio album Lights (and the extended version, Bright Lights) in 2010, performing on Jimmy Kimmel, SNL and — more impressively — the Royal Wedding party. But none of this success is surprising to those who know her music well. Filled with dazzling enthusiasm, her tracks never seem to miss a beat and “Your Biggest Mistake” is certainly no exception. As with all her music, the song doesn’t necessarily require one to put in too much thought in order to enjoy it — Goulding’s music is just as fun when used as a carefree tune to pair with the most laidback of sunshine-y moments. For those interested, however, giving pause to consider the art is an experience equally rewarding. There’s an innocent and earnest kind of depth to it. For summer, do whichever suits the moment best — you’ll have plenty of time to listen to her work later on as she’s definitely not going away anytime soon.
Further Listening: “The Writer” (Lights), “Wish I Stayed” (Lights), “Lights” (Bright Lights)
6. “Bulletproof Love” — Pierce the Veil
Boasting one of the most classic cases of love-’em-or-hate-’em vocals, Vic Fuentes and the rest of Pierce the Veil can’t be denied their ability to make some pretty incredible music. Their style — a chaotic joyride of oft barely-in-control adventures in sound and rhythm (think of a more radio-friendly Mars Volta) — is better displayed in tracks like “Caraphrenelia,” a song (spoiler alert!) that finds its way further on down this list. “Bulletproof Love,” however, stands out on its own on 2010’s Selfish Machines as a sort of pause from the aforementioned chaos, though without losing touch from this attribute completely. It’s a love song, but of a more raucous nature than you might be used to. With this, the track gains a sort of substance and the desperate sensation that there’s a lot more at stake than with your typical romantic pop-ballad. The guitar work is still fierce here, as is the unmistakable panache with which PTV performs. But accept this as the low key Pierce the Veil song of summer; their next one won’t go so easy on you.
Further Listening: “Besitos” (Selfish Machines), “I Don’t Care If You’re Contagious” (Selfish Machines), “Million Dollar Houses (The Painter)” (Selfish Machines)
7. “Kelly” — Van She
Not that you’d know it by the way some people dress these days, but the ’80s are long behind us. Don’t tell the members of Van She this, as they’ve made a living by composing solid jams resembling those from everyone’s favorite acid-wash era. Sounding like something straight off the soundtrack to a John Hughes film, “Kelly” — their first single from 2005 — lets you know exactly where these Australians are coming from and what they’re trying to do. Quite frankly, we love it. For summer, the track adds yet another dose of youthful exuberance set on top of a steady rhythm of drums that sends a sensation of shade, water and inflatable pool tubes coursing over your summer skin. Oh, and maybe a little Sixteen Candles too.
Further Listening: Breakbot — “Kelly (Breakbot Remix)” (Breakbot, The Remixes), “Cat & The Eye” (V)
8. “Gettin Jiggy Wit It” — Will Smith
Say what you want, but there wasn’t a kid/teenager/embarrassed young adult back in 1998 who didn’t have this song spinning in their Discman when the Fresh Prince dropped his infamously drug-free single two years shy of the new millennium. In its time,”Gettin Jiggy Wit It” won a grammy and has been listed in the “Top 100 Songs of the 90’s” by VH1. It hasn’t been all love though, as last year AOL ranked it 19th on its list of “100 Worst Songs Ever.” But consider the source — this is the company that wouldn’t stop sending you all those damn free CD’s trying to convince you to use their service long after their time was up.
Regardless, in an age where terms like “retro,” “throwback” and “vintage” are tossed around in order to validate something for being old, you can crank up Big Willie with your windows down, guilt free. Which you should, because after hearing just two bars of the memorable beat (along with DJ Jazzy Jeff scratching away), you won’t be able to stop — this is clearly a track to compliment your summer, even if Carleton, Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv (either of them) are noticeably absent.
Further Listening: DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince — “Summertime” (Homebase), Destiny’s Child — “Say My Name” (The Writing’s on the Wall), Aliyah — “Are You That Somebody?” (Dr. Dolittle, Soundtrack)
9. “Coming Up” — Lupe Fiasco (feat. MDMA)
Bringing us back into more modern times is Lupe Fiasco and one of the many five-star songs from his newest release, Lasers. Truth be told, the list could have used a track like “Out of My Head” (from the same album), but considering the single has now found its way onto the radio, we suspect you’ll be hearing enough of that one as it is — and we aren’t here to remind you to listen to songs you’ve already heard too much of. “Coming Up,” then, offers the same benefits in a different package — easy, cool and refined. Lupe continues to display an uncanny ability to give you the impression that everything’s going to be alright — whether or not that’s actually the case.
Put another way, Lupe Fiasco is like an R&B-driven version of T.I. without the traces of gangsta rap, and that’s exactly what kind of song this is. Use it anyway you’d like (it’s your summer, after all), but this is one of those tunes best suited for pulling up to the biggest party of the season with the sun setting on another long summer’s day. But hey, as long as the weather’s warm and life is good, I’m not sure you can really go wrong here.
Further Listening: “I Gotcha” (Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor), “Kick, Push II” (Food & Liquor), “Letting Go” (Lasers)
10. “Just Another One” — A Rocket to the Moon
Ah, the heartbreak song. You knew it had to happen. There just had to be a real good jam for those of us who are in for a great, big summertime disappointment in 2011. It’s ok — it happens even to the best of us. The greatest thing is that if and when it does happen, you’ll have the perfect song here, ready to share in your heartache. Not that you should go breaking hearts just to have an excuse to rock out to this track from the band’s 2008 EP, Greetings From… — the song is a great listen no matter the relationship status currently displayed on your Facebook. Showcasing the brown-sugary, down-to-earth approach commonly heard from lead man Nick Santino, “Just Another One ”tells a tale that most of us have unfortunately become familiar with at some point in our lives. Sad? Well, yeah. But necessary. And don’t fret — it gets better. Promise.
Further Listening: “I Think About You Every Day” (Summer EP), “If Only You Knew” (Greetings From…), “Dakota” (Greetings From…)
11. “I Want You Back” — Discovery
What’d we tell you? From the dark depths of broken summertime romance, to the bright, warm glow of Discovery, the SOUND Summer Playlist 2011 is running through the full gamut of human emotion. This time, we get a look at the brighter side of things with a unique cover of the memorable Motown hit by The Jackson 5. Discovery — a pair of musicians made up from Vampire Weekend keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij and Ra Ra Riot vocalist Wesley Miles — does the cover-ing. As is typical from the band, the New York-based duo fills your speakers with plenty of synth that feels like ambient lighting in the form of sound waves, and enough feel-good vibes to put a Pixar film to shame.
It takes a certain skill to grab an already great original, add your personality to it without destroying its identity and create something equally as great on its own, which they do with aplomb. This is exactly why we love Discovery — their music makes for an experience you can’t quite get anywhere else. And speaking of unique experiences, that’s your summer in a nutshell.
Further Listening: “Osaka Loop Line” (LP), “Swing Tree” (LP)
Now get out, go listen, and enjoy your life in the sun for a while. The list so far has given you a good place to start. Don’t get too swept away in the torrent of laziness and awesome that is summer, though — come back for Part B of Side I next week.
And don’t forget your sunscreen; this list is about to get hot. ♦ ♦ ♦
Randall Castillo currently resides in New York City, working in television. A proud twitter-er, Tumblr-er and only child, he has simple and humble ambitions of making films in Hollywood, and frequently pursues ventures in comedy, journalism, photography, production, fashion, art, business, athletics, advertising, law, motorsports and psychology. In the meantime, he writes for SOUND.