The summer song is a staple in pop culture at this point. Every year in late May, early July, the charts are bombarded with a slew of “Summer anthems”: songs detailing carefree days under the sun and nights under the stars that, understandably, people eat up. Here are five spirited, eclectic records you will not see on the current charts that each offer their own vision of summertime—ones that either diverge from the “summer song” archetype or do it so well that they cannot be ignored.
Antarctigo Vespucci, “Leavin’ La Vida Loca” (2015)
Antarctigo Vespucci—the side project between Fake Problems frontman and recently turned solo artist Chris Farren and Jess Rosenstock of Bomb The Music Industry—has been churning out beachy, emotionally minded pop-rock since 2014. Their full length debut “Leavin’ La Vida Loca,” in addition to clever wordplay, is a sunny romp through crashing waves of scuzzy, melodic punk and infectious power-pop. The charming self-deprecation of the lyrics sets this album apart from others in its genre, however. Instead of leaving these songs as loud, free-spirited anthems, many of these songs shine with the shade of negative self-evaluation, though they still remain as irresistible and in-your-head as ever. “Crashing Waves” is a dissonant, blossoming song with a SoCal scuzz that resolves its punk-driven, instrumental flickering with the quiet hook “I’m ready to leave as soon as I arrive.” “Save Me From Myself” makes use of a cheerful, zippering synthesizer to accompany its hook-heavy verses and pleading yet infectious chorus. Alongside being an excellent windows-down record, it is also the perfect soundtrack to a fit of self-doubt—something that even the best of summers can inflict on the best of us.
Listen to: “Impossible To Place,” “Save Me From Myself,” “Crashing Waves,” “I See Failure”
The Outfield, “Play Deep” (1985)
It is difficult to come up with a better ’80s pop-rock album than The Outfield’s “Play Deep.” The radio hit “Your Love” is a cultural artifact at this point, seeping its way into just about every ’80s movie, but the rest of the record maintains this momentum. These are ten songs that will make you feel like you are in an ’80s movie, and there is no better time to chase that feeling than in the summertime. From the harmony-heavy “Say It Ain’t So” to the moody “Talk To Me,” these songs are not only fragments of pop genius—they are also uniquely cinematic, and can make you feel bigger than yourself.
Listen to: “Say It Isn’t So,” “Your Love,” “61 Seconds”
Butch Walker, “The Spade” (2011)
From the second the fuzzed-out, catscratch guitar lead on “Bodegas and Blood” hits your ears, “The Spade” adapts the spirit of every great rock song, becoming a rambunctious kind of irresistible. The second album released by longtime musician, producer and former hair metal junkie Butch Walker and his band The Black Widows embodies the spirit of summer, albeit an unconventional one that makes you want to wear your leather jacket until it gets sticky in the sun, cuff your jeans and hop on a motorcycle. From the nostalgic, hair-metal ruminations on “Summer of 89,” the misfit anthem “Every Single Body Else,” to “Synthesizers”—an old school diss on electronic music and simultaneous ode to being a black sheep—”The Spade” is a blast; a sweeping, rebellious one at that.
Listen to: “Bodegas and Blood,” “Every Single Body Else,” “Synthesizers”
Pete Yorn, “Arrangingtime” (2016)
Pete Yorn has been churning out eclectic, painfully underappreciated albums since his classic 2001 debut “musicforthemorningafter,” but on “Arrangingtime,” his most recent endeavor, he manages to capture the energy of youth while also capturing a sense of growth. Lushly produced, radio-ready anthems like the fleeting, nostalgic “Summer Was A Day,” “Lost Weekend,” a free-spirited and hazy leap out of suburban monotony and into something brighter, and the low-key hum on “Halifax” let you know pretty early on that this album sounds the best when accompanied by a sunburn.
Listen to: “Summer Was A Day,” “Lost Weekend,” “Halifax,” “She Was Weird”
Jack’s Mannequin, “Everything In Transit” (2005)
Jack’s Mannequin’s debut LP, a concept album detailing a year spent in Southern California, weaves together late-teen, early-twenties professions of love, heartbreak, social confusion, societal angst and the hesitance to fully embrace adulthood, becoming a vibrant artifact of youth. It is a collection of bombastic piano-pop anthems that each exude a sense of confident aimlessness and unwillingness to reside anywhere except the present. The opener “Holiday From Real” embodies this with the most fervor, spilling with anecdotes of sleeping on people’s floors, spending days out in the sun and growing your hair too long, all leading to the conclusion that every day should be a vacation from the mundane day-to-day. This is, for most of us, an all-too-familiar feeling.
Listen to: “Holiday From Real,” “I’m Ready,” “La La Lie”, Miss Delaney”