The Dedicated Playlist
Not your average songs of summer: Ice Cube and Belle and Sebastian both havespots on this list
It’s easy to find a mix of songs for the hottest season, filled with beaches, barbecues and the like. But summer, just like every other time of year, has its ups and downs. There is something about it that makes the deep feelings associated with the season linger for months after the temperature cools. With that in mind, here is a summer playlist that avoids the obvious choices and tries to leave no emotional stone unturned.
“The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy: Boozing, brawling and boisterous, the heroes of this rousing rocker seem to bring the season to bear with their arrival. That melancholy tinge in lead singer Phil Lynott’s voice is the perfect counterpoint to the galloping guitars.
“Day Of The Locusts” by Bob Dylan: Graduation is a rite of passage that kicks off the summer, but it isn’t always a celebratory time. For those people who might be leaving school with a sour taste, Dylan’s musings on how out of place he felt when receiving an honorary degree from Princeton University are just the tonic.
“Runnin’ Down A Dream” by Tom Petty: If there were a survey held on songs Most Likely To Cause Speeding Tickets, this classic from Full Moon Fever would likely rank way high. Small bit of ironic trivia — Petty himself has admitted in interviews to being a poor driver and thus is rarely behind the wheel himself.
“California” by Phantom Planet: The West Coast represents an eternal summer for many Americans, and this song captures that feeling brilliantly. It was an instantly iconic homage to the Golden State; it’s no wonder that the band who recorded it has never approached that success since.
“Here Comes The Summer” by The Fiery Furnaces: It’s worth seeking out this obscure release from the Brooklyn brother-sister duo. Buoyed by indelible hooks and nostalgic lyrics, it engages the heart, soul, and libido all at once.
“I Wish It Would Rain” by The Temptations: Hearts do get broken in the summer. Lead singer David Ruffin can't stand to see the sunshine if his former lover isn’t around to share it with him. Absolutely brilliant vocals throughout on this soul classic.
“A Summer Wasting” by Belle and Sebastian: The great paradox of summer is that it seems endless while it’s here yet seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye once it’s over. This sweet ditty from the alternative music heroes gorgeously drives that point home.
“It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube: We all have our own ideal summer day in our mind, but it’s likely that even our best hopes can’t match the perfection that Cube manages to squeeze into one 24-hour period. Sex, burgers, hoops, and the Goodyear Blimp singing your praises ain’t bad at all.
“Moving In Stereo” by The Cars: If you’re a certain age, it’s impossible to hear this moody new wave album cut without imagining Phoebe Cates emerging from a pool of water in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, water dripping off her hair, sunlight gleaming off her…. OK, I’m back. I was, uh, daydreaming for a minute.
“The Other Side Of Summer” by Elvis Costello: “From the foaming breakers in the poisonous surf/To the burning forests in the hills of Astroturf.” Leave it to E.C. to give us a nightmarish, if somewhat accurate, version of summer and set it ironically alongside Beach Boys-style harmonies.
“Getcha Back” by The Beach Boys: OK, it’s not a classic Beach Boys song by any stretch, but it was all over MTV when I was a 13-year-old kid, so let’s call it a sentimental favorite. If those “Bomp-bomp-ba-doo” backing vocals don’t conjure the summer, I don’t know what does.
“That Summer Feeling” by Jonathan Richman: Richman, in his trademark deadpan style, equates the summer with youth, urging his listeners to drink in every bit of its bittersweet brilliance while it lasts. “That summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life.” Truer words were never spoken.