California / Music / Recording

Building the Perfect Summer Playlist

Sweatshirts and jackets begin to collect dust in dark closets. Test and homework burn piles are in full effect. Graduation invites are all sealed up and ready to be shipped in crisp crème envelopes. Rising temperatures and countless sunlight see no end in sight. You know what that means; summer’s just around the corner.

While the commotion from finals week, graduation ceremonies, and pressing obligations subside, first world dilemmas come into play. SPF 50 or 100? Aviators or Ray Bans? Lie around the air conditioned house or lie around on the warm beach? Where the hell can you find a cute bathing suit that fits? Luckily for you, while you weigh in on these important questions, there’s one dilemma that you won’t have to fixate on; what will go on your ultimate summer playlist.

1. Best Coast- The Only Place

Are you having a dull and dreary start to your summer? Is anxiety and stress still looming over you even in the aftermath of finals and pressing obligations? Then make sure to take a dosage of Best Coast to help take that weight off your shoulders. This Los Angeles based group has a type of sound that overflows with the bright pop sensibilities of The Beach Boys and early country female contemporary singers such as Patsy Cline  with an even dreamier sound that holds its own and carries with twice the tempo as vocalist/guitarist Bethany Cosentino hypnotically croons straight forward lyrics centered around summer, taking it easy, and the up’s and down’s of being in love with someone.

Listening to their debut album Crazy For You for ten minutes, your frown will be guaranteed to turn upside down. It’s good to see Best Coast continuing in that same fashion with their latest single “The Only Place” (off the album of the same title released last week) which is a beautiful ode to California and will remind you exactly why the West Coast is the best coast (har har har).

You remember all those visit California commercials with people like Rob Lowe and Arnold Schwarzenegger reciting lame pun after lame pun about what life in California? They should just mute the actors and play The Only Place while you witness the silent actors explore breath taking spots like Lake Tahoe, The Santa Monica Pier, and Big Sur. You’d have people flocking to California faster than when gold was struck in the Sierras. This is just what the doctor ordered.

Recommended usage: Beach get- togethers and bonfires with good friends and cute strangers, or for hanging out with Ronald McDonald.

2. Cheap Girls- Mercy-Go-‘Round

Cheap Girls have this wonderful, uncanny ability to incorporate all the best elements of 90’s alternative rock complete with buzz saw sounding guitar, flailing guitar solos, and skillfully laid back, yet strong singing, without it ever sounding tired or dated. Just listening to a few of Cheap Girls’ songs, you get this small town America type of vibe from them that have such a charming appeal to it.

From their latest album Giant Orange released earlier this year, Mercy-Go-’Round is infused with all of Cheap Girls’ unique characteristics listed above while evoking a strong sense of bittersweet nostalgia, the kind that can make a summer so memorable in the first place. You’ll take yourself back to all the summer flings, all the summer drama, and all the epic, care-free summer nights where you came, you saw, and you conquered as vocalist Ian Graham calls out “I’d do anything to just move backwards”. It’s an added treat to be able to see Cheap Girls live with their tight knit playing that is smoother than extra creamy peanut butter.

Recommended usage: Hanging out in the back of an old pickup truck in the middle of a flat prairie in the middle of nowhere sipping on Pabst Blue Ribbon with your close friends and exchanging fleeting glances with that cute girl or guy sitting right across from you.

3. Gorillaz- Empire Ants

Stemmed from the brainchild of Blur lead singer Damon Albarn and comic book artist Jamie Hewlett in the late 90’s came Gorillaz, a hip hop oriented side project who have created such fully imaginatively animated hits as Clint Eastwood with every kind of eye opening surprise from animated “band member” personas to playing virtual live shows as holograms long before rapper 2Pac had the chance to rise from the dead hologram style to perform alongside Snoop Dogg at this year’s Coachella Music Festival. With boundless talent and endless surprises, it made fans wonder what Gorillaz had up their sleeves next.

While Gorillaz didn’t have anything quite as shocking as a virtual live performance, they released Plastic Beach in 2010, which showed a change in style from hip hop toward a more electronic focus complete with unbelievable guest appearances such as Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed from The Velvet Underground, and Clash members Mick Jones (guitar) and Paul Simonon (bass). As the guitar echos in the opening notes of Empire Ants, you’re instantly transported out of your immediate surroundings and taken on a voyage to a deserted island where you’re able to escape from the rest of the world. Completely off the grid, completely at peace. Then, out of nowhere, that peace gives way to a full fledged island dance party with everyone on your own VIP list as the sleepy melodies transform into a crescendo of electronic beats and rhythms. As Southwest Airlines would say, “want to get away?”

Recommended usage: Anytime you just need to be alone and escape to your own gorgeously secluded sanctuary.

4. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

I think it’s a safe thing to say that there can never be too many oldies in everybody’s lives and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough reminds you of just that. Not only do you get soul legend Marvin Gaye reassuring you with his passionate, booming, and fiery voice, but you get Tammi Terrell’s soft and silky smooth singing to make for one of the greatest duets that your ears have ever had the pleasure of hearing. Opposites really do attract.

As soon as the whole backing band kicks in and Marvin and Tammi join forces, it’s game over. They all hit you with the kind of capacity that could stop a world war and give ruthless dictators a change of heart. While that might be a bit of an exaggeration, it’s no exaggeration that Ain’t No Mountain High Enough will have you and your friends’ bodies swaying and arms flailing in no time.

Recommended usage: Any place and occasion where you can break out into a loud sing a long.

Four honorable mentions (In a few sentences or less

The Thermals: Ballad of Big Nothing (Elliot Smith cover)

Normally the Portland, Oregon based band The Thermals are usually a bit louder, faster, and more raucous with their lead singer/guitarist Hutch Harris. However, they switch it up this time around and do justice to legendary songwriter Elliot Smith by having bassist Kathy Foster sing Smith’s Ballad of Big Nothing. Her voice sounds absolutely heavenly with the soft acoustic guitars backing her up, and while The Thermals are talented in their own right, I wish she would sing on more of The Thermals’ songs.

Recommended usage: Slow strolls around your neighborhood, your local park, and long bike rides with your MP3 player.

Hunx and His Punx: Lover’s Lane

Look Out Danny Zuko and Sandra Dee, here comes Hunx and His Punx! Lead singer Hunx (Seth Bogart) and his backing band of punx and punkettes are an unstoppable force here to take the world — let alone the Bay Area — by storm with their signature take on the early roots of old fashioned rock n’ roll and punk rock. If The Fonz were to knock on the jukebox at this moment, Lover’s Lane would be the song that would play.

Recommended usage: Going to a drive-in movie, an old-school diner, or make out point.

Pavement: Shady Lane

There are a few things that Stockton, CA is known for; its annual asparagus festival, its high level of car jackings, and for giving birth to indie rock titans Pavement. With an uber catchy, simple song structure, Shady Lane fits in perfectly for the soundtrack to a care-free, lazy afternoon. Turn your phone on silent and leave your responsibilities at the door.

Recommended usage: Kicking back on the front or back porch with a glass of homemade sweet tea, reading underneath a large tree, backyard BBQ’s.

Green Day: Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

Now this absolute classic is where Green Day really spread their wings and proved to the entire world that they were capable of playing more than just punk rock. Good Riddance is another acoustic that has the ability to reach down into the back of your mind and make all your cherished memories come alive and come out and play. With Billie Joe Armstrong’s heartfelt singing, his acoustic guitar is complimented with a backing string section that will have those with even the toughest of hearts shedding a tear.

Recommended usage: Every graduation, every kind of life change imaginable, and any time you transition into the next phase of this wild, crazy ride called life.

So go put on your preferred level of sunscreen and shades, figure out your swim suit, grab a six pack, and sit back in the sand and let these feel good jams work their way into your soundtrack to an incredibly unforgettable summer.

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4 thoughts on “Building the Perfect Summer Playlist

  1. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” should just be on everyone’s LIFE playlist. Just sayin’! Great job Derek! -Mo

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  3. Impressive post, I adore this site, you never fail to have quality info. It’s actually growing a lot more hard to stumble on high-quality page content using the web. I have bookmarked this website for future and I anticipate your future posts. Take Care, Laura.

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