Each year, all of us at the Press look back on the long summer break and try our best to pick out the music that defined the season for us. Here are our songs for the summer.
“Bags” by Clairo
by Deanna Albohn
My summer was bad, to put it frankly. I spent my days working at the local town restaurant and bar. On the days I didn’t work, I can’t even tell you what I did, because I honestly don’t know. I sat alone in my room for days at a time doing nothing. When I think of summers, I picture screaming along to fun and upbeat songs in the car with the windows rolled all the way down. I tried listening to dozens of “summer vibes” playlists to imitate the warm, fuzzy feeling that I associate with summer, but instead found myself wallowing in my own sadness to the most depressing music I could possibly find, which just so happened to be Clairo’s debut album Immunity.
I had the lead single “Bags” on repeat for the whole summer. The song recounts her memories of being with a girl for the first time. Her stream of consciousness lyrics are accompanied by a driving bassline and drums from Danielle Haim, and accentuated by a keyboard. The song is more refined than her earlier lo-fi songs, but does not stray far from her bedroom pop roots.
“I don’t wanna be forward / I don’t wanna cut corners / Savor this with everything I have inside me / I’m not the type to run / I know that we’re having fun / But what’s the rush? Kissing, then my cheeks are so flushed”
Someone’s summer anthem can be very telling of the summer they had, which is exactly why I’m so excited to see and listen to all of the songs in this playlist.
“Cyanide” by Daniel Caesar
By Julio Taku
After a summer of consistently going to work in the afternoon, coming home late, late dinners and sleeping in – the only solace I found in those few hours before I went to sleep was learning songs from Daniel Caesar’s Case Study 01; starting with “Cyanide.” Such a sweet melody.
The song that stuck with me most from the ten-song tracklist was “Cyanide.” The bouncy Reggae style tune pays homage to Caesar’s Jamaican descent. The vocalization and exclamations in the intro lend the song a very tropical and laid-back feel (guest appearances by Toronto-based artists Kardinal Offishall and River Tiber). Although the poisonous chemical compound cyanide might not put one at ease, it serves as an analogy for the toxic relationship described in the song. Caesar’s half-sung/half-spoken patois delivery is underscored by a rich progression of seventh chords. This incorporation of seventh chords is present throughout the album and harkens back to his earlier works. This proved it to be a danceable bop as well as chill background music for doing chores around the house. Two elements I believe are essential to a song of the summer.
“Best Part,” “Japanese Denim,” “Get You,” “Death & Taxes,” “Violet.”
Daniel had already provided the soundtrack to my 2017 Summer. Canadian singer/songwriter, Daniel Caesar, created an atmosphere of acoustic love ballads and Neo-Soul R&B that was the soundtrack for my late nights and early mornings.
“If life was a movie, then you’re the best part”Best Part
“Surely my sins have found me out.
God rest my soul, but show me out”Death & Taxes
These two lyrics from his songs “Best Part” and “Death & Taxes” show us a man with depth who can verbalize the beauty and innocence of love as well as the melancholy of his spiritual fate.
His sophomore effort poised to drop – I had lofty hopes for it and expected greatness. I had thoroughly fallen in love with his freshman debut Freudian (2017) and had even covered his music for a concert at my high school. The Neo-Soul inspired instrumentals, chord choices and vocals of the album carried with them a spiritual yearning and atmospheric sound which gave the impression of floating on tracks like “Neu Roses” and “Transform” (feat. Charlotte Day Wilson).
Imagine my delight upon hearing his familiar falsetto croon:
Feel my love drip over your skin,
Sweet dark chocolate, sweet melanin.
Forevermore you gon’ be my kin.
Whatever Jah has binded let no man enter in.”
I think it’s safe to say, at least for me, that he delivered on Case Study 01.
“Sanctuary” by Joji
by Joe Amendola
I had a bad summer, to be honest. In hindsight, I don’t think it was too dire — the tragic, emotional ebb and flow of being human just hit a little harder this time. The occasional feelings of inadequacy, of feeling like you were in the right place at the wrong time, and the dread that’s implicit when you’re a limited being in a limitless situation fucks with everybody from time to time. These are all hegemonic human experiences, but they are fleeting as well.
None of what I said above is explicitly stated in “Sanctuary” by the Austro-Japenese singer Joji. On the face of it, “Sanctuary” is a paint-by-numbers love song. There are references to souls, not having to wait to fall in love, that sort of thing.
But Joji’s music has a knack for eliciting feelings not presently felt within the confines of the song structure itself. Joji is fundamentally a moody singer; any suppressed pathos or forlornness can be brought to the surface by the sound of him crooning over some autotune, where he barely seems to be opening his mouth. I suppose this is called “mumbling,” but that seems reductive — not every lyric or sentiment has to be belted out like you’re in an Italian Opera. We don’t experience emotions in these sorts of bombastic roars all the time, and I don’t see why song lyrics should be different.
Sanctuary is a relative departure from Joji’s lo-fi R&B sound on his first LP, Ballads 1. The spacey, minimalist beat seems to be very much at home in the canon of contemporary lo-fi at first, but is immaculately produced in way that, when coupled with Joji’s equally slick vocals, seems like you could hear it playing over the speakers at H&M. This is the opposite of an insult; Joji wants to make pop music, and with “Sanctuary” is beginning to make that crucial transition.
With “Sanctuary,” Joji seems to be pulling off the emotional magic tricks Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys did some years ago — making happy songs about being sad, and sad songs about being happy. “Sanctuary” falls into the latter camp. I suppose that’s why the song has such an effect on me; it makes me feel the way I do when I’m on hour 5 of being drunk, when I become wistful and withdrawn — when I space out and start imagining one of my good friends getting a job teaching English in Tokyo or something so I can have an excuse to run away from everything once in a while. When Joji sings about love, his voice evokes loneliness instead. I guess that’s just part of the emotional ebb and flow of being human.
“Doin’ Time” by Lana Del Rey
by Katherine Hoey
In Lana Del Rey’s typically hypnotic fashion, like falling down a rabbit hole into her dreamy world, she sings the opening lines to one of Sublime’s most notable tracks, “Doin’ Time”:
“Summertime, and the living’s easy.”
It’s the fifth track on her latest LP, Norman Fucking Rockwell!, which released Aug. 30.
The 1950s-style music video depicts a Godzilla-esque Del Rey, lounging in the concrete basin of the L.A. River. It goes back and forth between shots of her stepping over city buildings and escaping to the ocean, before cutting to a blonde bobcut-Lana, sipping a soda at a drive-in movie, looking up at herself on screen.
For those who have been following the indie pop singer’s career, this song feels like a nod to her own self-development as an artist, from dropping “Summertime Sadness” in 2013 to this.
Throughout the New York native’s career, California has been a focal point in Del Rey’s music and it oozes from this album. She teased and released the Sublime cover back in May, blessing us with an entire summer to enjoy that Southern California sound.
Del Rey’s dizzying melodic vocals transform the original track, which dominated the Long Beach ska punk scene in the late ‘90s. She was asked to cover the song by director Bill Guttentag for the documentary Sublime, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival back in April.
Her breathy voice cools the violence depicted in the song’s lyrics, which focuses on the fantasy of killing a promiscuous girlfriend. Del Rey’s version was reworked and slowed down to follow the often nostalgic way in which she sings, not feeling obligated to cut a note short for fear it’s too drawn out to maintain the listener’s attention.
Hers is a voice that cascades us into reverie, with a timeless beat that has transfixed my mind since stumbling upon Sublime in the late 2000s. Music is a form of escapism and this song fit perfectly in my playlist. It has kept me company when summer nights fade into mornings on back roads in Montauk, as I sunbathed by the pool and roasted marshmallows by the fire.
Summertime, romance and freedom have been constants in a majority of Del Rey’s work.
“Doin’ Time” was released Nov. 25, 1997, a year and a half after lead singer, Bradley Nowell, died of a heroin overdose while on tour in San Francisco. Yet the roots of the song are pulled from the ‘30s, when George Gershwin composed “Summertime,” with lyrics by DuBose Heyward, for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess.
With over 25,000 recorded covers and adaptations, “Summertime” has been at the forefront of the American collective consciousness for nearly a century. Summer is a symbol of American society, as mandated summer vacations for students only became a thing here during the late 1800s, due to the industrial revolution and urbanization.
The ever-changing renditions have kept this song relevant today, with Del Rey being the latest to cover this song. It’s a feat that has catapulted her into a category with some of America’s most iconic stars: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Ricky Nelson, Nina Simone, Louis Armstrong, Janis Joplin, the Doors and Sublime.
“Lip Service” by Thaiboy Digital
By Kevin Wu
With a celestial, almost religious-inspired approach to album presentation, Thaiboy Digital reinvents himself with “Lip Service,” off his upcoming album Legendary Member. Reorienting his traditional gruff and tough attitude, Thaiboy combines his usual braggadocious lyrics with a sense of uplifting positivity not traditionally found in the drain gang’s iconic approach to abstract and dark trap. Fellow Drain Gang member ECCO2K channels his inner Playboi Carti, rapping in a high-pitched “baby-like” voice to breathtaking effect.
“BOY BYE” by Brockhampton
by Josh Joseph
Brockhampton’s “BOY BYE” is an addictive listen. It cruised, glided and grooved through my headphones and my car stereo all last month.
There’s something instantly alluring about the way the song’s beat churns ever-forward. A sample from an Iranian bossa-nova instrumental lays the groundwork, made instantly groovier by sputtering hi-hats. And somehow, wedged in seamlessly, a bouncy, chromatic synth guitar pluck makes the track even better. That unrelenting tickle of a lead inverts what could have been corny and enhances its already silly-spooky vibe.
Verses from all six of the band’s vocalists balance wordplay and braggadocio. Dom McLennon and Kevin Abstract particularly impress, with complex flows that stay right in the pocket of the sampled beat.
The song is short, sweet ear candy, a callback to the stasis of summer. Each musical cog turns and turns in sync and I can’t help but cede my own head to the grinding gears, nodding the whole way through.
Today, the unease of school, work and procrastination loom large in the back of my head. Hearing “BOY BYE” again, I yearn for just a few weeks ago, when everything felt oddly in place and I could spend whole days getting sucked into the rhythm of a song.
“The 1975” by The 1975
by Emily Scott
The 1975’s fourth album, Notes on a Conditional Form (NOACF), is due to be released in February 2020, and the band is already dropping hints about the album, including not one, but two songs this summer, one of them sharing the same name as the band. On every previous album, the first song is self-titled, and is usually about giving blowjobs with instrumentals done to suit the “style” of the album. For NOACF, the band has taken a different approach by opting to not sing about getting head in a car, which was almost shell-shocking to the whole fandom. We were ready for a reinvented version of our beloved self-titled song, but the change was welcomed with praise across Twitter. Rather, the group layered a speech by 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg over the instrumentals. Commenting on social issues isn’t something new for the band (hello ‘Love It If We Made It’ and ‘I Like America & America Likes Me’), but the execution for this song is new. Thunberg’s speech discusses how we are in the midst of an ecological crisis, and that change is needed in order for us to stop the inevitable, irreversible damage, ending with a call for us to ‘wake up!’ The change over from blowjobs and car lights is a welcomed change, showing that the band is taking a step in shedding light on how critical the climate change crisis is, and that there is more to it than just using metal and paper straws to “save the sea turtles!” Out of all the songs the band has written covering hot topic issues, this one is by far my favorite because we only have a short span of time before we truly damage the planet in a way we cannot recover from. If this is any inkling towards what NOACF will be like (besides ‘People,’ which was released in August), I think I can say the entire fandom is excited.
“Whipped Cream” by Ari Lennox
by Falah Jalali
“I’ve been eatin’ whipped cream, havin’ vivid dreams Of your face and through people on TV screens You’ve been everywhere
And I wish I didn’t care”
Above is the hook to my favorite summer song: “Whipped Cream” by Ari Lennox. This light, soul-R&B track is an easy favorite; especially if you’re a millennial. As a millennial we live in an era where one can say that romance is dead. In our generation, replying to a text in the same hour is considered desperate by some. Love and romance have lost the battle to ego and the desire to seem cool and nonchalant. In the last line she wishes she did not care as much. In my opinion, all millennials that have fallen in love have felt this emotion. Navigating your way through dating someone in 2019 is an adventure all its own.
She is pining for her lover but she wishes she does not; this confusion and sweet frustration makes the song as tangible as the mess in my backpack. She sings about yearning, lust and frustration with such ease that these heavy feelings feel light. Ari’s vocals gave the song a permanent spot in my nighttime bath playlist. The song is upbeat, peppy and easy on the ears. Lennox’s voice is smooth, soulful and strong.. The first time I heard it, I started vibing with the song at the 30-second mark; that’s when you know you like a song. Lennox, whose real name is Courtney Shanade Salter, is a 28-year-old born in Virginia and lives in DC. She is signed with J.Cole’s label, Dreamville Records. Her album, Shea Butter Baby is a soulful R&B treat. People compared her to SZA, H.E.R or Summer Walker but Lennox has a vibe and aesthetic of her own. She is a confident, black American working her magic.
“GONE GONE/THANK YOU” by Tyler the Creator
by Justin Ligasan
“GONE, GONE / THANK YOU” is an emotionally heavy bop.
This song baits you in with this incredibly upbeat and dreamy delivery of Tyler mulling over the end of his relationship.
This song is waiting in the rain for your friend’s mom to pick you up because you don’t want to talk to your family about a breakup.
This song is deleting every photo you have with someone from the past two years.
This song is complaining about your ex to a friend in a Wendy’s parking lot at three in the morning.
This song is accepting that you can get into a relationship with someone you think is perfect and find out you just aren’t compatible as people.
This song is that bittersweet feeling of looking back on good moments in a failed relationship.
This song is a thank you to every ex for some of the time you shared together while knowing you don’t want or need to go back.
I’ve been in an extremely wonderful relationship for the past nine months with someone I love, and this song still manages to bring me back to the first time I had my heart broken and slap at the same time.
“Fear Inoculum” by TOOL
by Nick Wurm
“Immunity, long overdue
Contagion, I exhale you
Naïve, I opened up to you
Venom and mania
Now, contagion, I exhale you”
I waited 13 years for those words, 13 years for new music from Tool — but it was worth the wait.
“Fear Innoculum,” the title track and first single off Tool’s fifth LP, is a nostalgia trip through a symphonic, Middle Eastern haze, guided along the path by Danny Carey’s incomparable drums. Adam Jones’ tonal shifting guitar emulates an electric orchestra atop Justin Chancellor’s pounding bass groove. Maynard James Keenan’s lyrics float through on airy whispers.
Let me be clear — nothing about this song is really new, but that’s okay. The drums are reminiscent of previous efforts off their last two albums Lateralus and 10,000 Days. The tempo changes are old tricks. Maynard’s songwriting revisits familiar themes of personal growth, while still leaving room for interpretation.
“Forfeit all control
You poison, you spectacle
Exorcise the spectacle
Exorcise the malady
Exorcise the disparate
Poison for eternity
Purge me and evacuate
The venom and the fear that binds me”
Who is the spectacle, the malady? I can guess but that’s just, like, my opinion man. Like “The Force Awakens,” I think it’s important they called back to earlier work. It’s comforting to hear the familiar woven through new sounds, taking me back to 2006 when I’d only scratched the surface of their music.
When the song was released on August 9, I opened Spotify. I turned off my lights, put on some headphones — the good Sennheisers, not the crap JVC’s I bring to class — laid back and closed my eyes as the first ping hit.
In the dark, I imagined a cool, twilight desert under a deepening purple sky. The dusty breeze guided me to a cave where hooded figures chanted the song to me. It was some real fantasy shit.
Maybe it was the atmosphere I’d created. Maybe it was an acid flashback. Maybe I’m just another pretentious Tool fan trying to show the world the unappreciated genius of a two-time Grammy Award-winning band. I don’t know, but I think about that scene every time the song comes on.
“CLONES” by Tierra Whack
by Sarah Beckford
Out of all the songs I blasted this summer, Tierra Whack’s “CLONES” wins as the one I kept coming back to. It perfectly demonstrates Tierra’s versatility as an artist and rapper, and why she is part of this year’s XXL Freshman class.
It’s the perfect hype song for an everyday walk, workout or if you need a pick-me-up. Tierra Whack is unique in the fact that whatever beat she has, she’s able to truly make it her own, in her own style, which is constantly evolving. For example, “CLONES” is a polar opposite of the upbeat cyber pop feel of her viral hit “Hungry Hippo.” Her flow on “CLONES” is structured, with enough space for her to play with her verses and background adlibs.
“CLONES” is my song of the summer because as soon as it comes on, the dancing starts. It’s a song that makes you feel like a million dollars and a bag of chips. It’s a hype song about you stunting because you have to job to do — being your fabulous self. And of course, as the title suggests, people want to copy that-“Everybody walkin’ like me now/Everybody talkin’ like me now/Heard I’m who they wanna be now.” It’s incredibly catchy, and it’s a song for people of all ages to dance to. It’s a song to milly-rock to with your best musical stank face. It’s a song to yell in your car. It’s a song of pure glee, like Beyoncé’s shoulder shimmy on the Everybody Mad dance break from Beychella. Overall, it’s the perfect song and Tierra Whack should not be slept on.
“Surf” by Young Thug feat. Gunna
by Tuhin Chakrabarti
Why wouldn’t I pick “Surf” as my song of the summer? So Much Fun is addictive. It’s literally so much fun. Who doesn’t love the dynamism of Young Thug’s voice? This man can wail, growl, croon and yelp. Every other line is a new flow, and every lyric is a concoction of questionable genius. Young Thug is the iconoclast of the rap music institution, a monolith guarded by the uncompromising power of black masculinity. A genre so obsessed with itself, unwilling to assimilate “fruitier” styles of music like dance and pop, seemed like it would never give up its hubris. Does anyone remember when Young Thug dropped “Lifestyle” in 2013? His babbling and scatting, his melodic approach to music and overall vocal inflection-centric approach to rapping was considered absurd. And his androgynous fashion sense made it easy for rap conservatives to write him off as “that gay shit.” That dynamic is not new. Rap’s gatekeeping of a specific strain of black masculinity is the reason why ‘80s house music in Chicago was relegated to underground gay culture. Rap music used to pride itself on gritty realism in its lyrics and minimal room for musicality and color. Tracks armed with a bass/drum loop and basic melodic elements only had room for verse, not complex instrumentation or arrangements. In this sense, rap has been traveling up a long arc towards being more “musical,” or pop-informed, starting at the radio-focused Run D.M.C. and leaving off at the “new wave” of rappers (Lil Keed, Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti). Rap has always had its fair share of genre-pushing eccentrics, but never did they propel the genre to the level that Young Thug and the new wave he catalyzed have.
He’s always had an extraterrestrial presence — there’s an array of quotes from him saying he’s “not from this planet” and iffy tweets circulating saying he reads off of a notepad adorned with illegible characters when he raps. He’s an ATLien (no disrespect to Andre 3k) at its finest.
“Surf” is a self-acclamation of Young Thug’s colossal influence on rap music. He’s widely appreciated for being a revolutionist, and his fluency in business is the reason why people are still listening, and the reason he’s able to manage the YSL collective. He’s aware that he’s birthed and groomed rappers just like him (Lil Keed, Sahbabii), and he’s not offended — he sees it as an opportunity to perpetuate the life of a subgenre he’s created. He’s curating these artists under his wing. It’s apparent that he’s aware of his power when he repeats “These n*ggas gon’ ride the wave” on the hook. He knows how big his wave is, but he’s having fun with it, hence the name of his album, and the “bounciness” of Pi’erre Bourne’s production on “Surf.” He doesn’t take himself too seriously. Most ego-driven artists claim complete ownership over their sound and writhe at the thought of anyone encroaching on “their creation.” Thug understands that music is an ever-changing language and force, and no one person can claim full ownership or originality. Any music made by him is informed by the past and anticipatory for the future. Young Thug knows he will have a lasting effect on rap music, but he also knows that he is simply a wave, and that nothing that he does should be considered immortal or deserving of exclusivity. He knows that he must nurture the young artists born from his style, not hate them.
“Potions” by Slander, Said the Sky and JT Roach
by Pamela Wong
I would say “Potions” was one of my favorites of the summer. It was hyped up before its release because of the collaboration between Slander and Said the Sky. Slander, the heaven-trap duo Derek Andersen and Scott Land, is known for harder EDM beats. Said the Sky, aka Trevor Christensen, is known for his melodic songs with emo bass. This song was released on May 31 and the song was played at the EZOO sets for both Slander and Said the Sky. When I went to EZOO, I felt sad with a sea of sadboiz singing along with me.
The song starts out with a sad melody that matches the melancholic lyrics. The chorus is my favorite part of the song, aside from the drops Slander is known for:
“For ya love
I would take potions
For ya love
I would cross oceans
All the hurt
And the pain
You could take it all away
For ya love, ooh
I would take potions”
The song made me feel nostalgic for a time in my past I can’t quite put a finger on. It reminds me of my middle school days and how simple life used to be. I listened to pop-punk music in my bedroom and this gives me the same feeling. I think this was a summertime favorite for me because I have a love for sad songs, even though I wouldn’t be inherently sad at the moment. I also think the song is about wanting to go back to a past love that didn’t work out. If I could take a potion to let me go back in time to change some parts of my life, I might take that chance.
“Present Tense” by Francie Moon
by Nirvani Williams
This semester started out kind of abruptly for me. Some emotionally exhausting trauma that pinpointed sections of my mind and brought me crumbling into a spiral of sadness started to subside. The semester came in like a period in the middle of a sentence I was still writing. I was really waiting to get to the end of it, just to reread how much I had changed since the thought for the first word of it began.
A favorite professor of mine asked me how my summer was and I replied, “It was a summer of growth,” and smiled. We both immediately broke into laughter. She knew what I meant.
Dialing a couple months back, when I was smack dab in the middle of threading through my emotions and how situations were shaping me into the person writing this; my boyfriend Conor took me to a popular DIY set called Pizzafest. It’s this three-night event where DIY bands perform onstage in the back of this bar meets bowling alley meets rustic arcade. That night a cotton candy swirl of light blue and soft pink bled into a deep red and gold sunset that loomed above me. I felt like I was returning to a place where I desperately needed to be — you know, totally wandering around and falling into some really dope shit. I didn’t get a lot of things I wanted this summer, but that feeling did not abandon me completely.
Each band laid out stellar punk rock sets. There I was totally digging it, but just bobbing my head did not cut it when Francie Moon, a garage psych-rock trio from northern New Jersey, entered the stage. They had such an energetic live performance that had me jumping and waving my arms around madly. Their energy shapeshifted seamlessly between tracks.
One track called “Present Tense,” which debuted on their summer EP New Morning Light, started out with a bass that had me boppin’ my head. Then, all of a sudden, the lead singer came in with this eclectic, vibrant voice that reminded me of Lucius singing “Turn it Around,” and made me take two steps back. I looked at Conor and mouthed “Wow,” as I continued to shake myself out.
Two minutes into this high-energy, guitar-heavy intro they switched it up. The guitarist slowed down and played a calming riff while the lead singer sang:
“All the oceans will join hands And all the hills will sing songs
And all the clouds will cry tears of joy
Everywhere they belong.”
Then out came a sick flute-like solo that fused with the guitar, and man it really got me. It really did.
I hope it gets you too.