The Sounds of Summer

by | Jun 8, 2015 | Music

Summer Sound by Brandon Warren via Flickr.
RoadTrip by Abhisawa via Flickr

RoadTrip by Abhisawa via Flickr

Summertime is here! The time for road trips, and overpriced music festivals. For books you’re either required or always wanted to read. For days spent lounging with friends or toiling at a crummy summer job (sorry, I was once a dock boy).

Every summer needs a soundtrack for these adventures that are about to unfold. In that spirit, here are some tracks for this year.

The Road Trip

As a kid, my summers involved pop-up campers, cabins, and campfires. Though my sister Betsy fell asleep by the time we reached the end of the driveway, I learned to keep my eyes open for the exciting things that happened on the drive. This upbringing undoubtedly sparked my love of road trips, and I’ll be taking one with fellow TJP author and National Park lover Garrett “G-Money” Gundlach this summer. Here’s a sample of what we’ll be listening to on the way.

Tracks” by Trapper Schoepp and the Shades is a couple years old, but great for hitting the road and discovering what it beholds. Genre: Folk rock, country, alternative.

Songs about states are fantastic for road trips, such as Judah & the Lion’s “Sweet Tennessee.” It’s perfect for starting the engine and getting out of the city. Genre: Rock, country.

Songs about specific roads? I love those, too. Chuck Ragan has a number of road trip-esque songs on his album Gold Country. Of those, my favorite is most assuredly “10 West.” Genre: Country, rock, folk

We can’t depend on cameras to hold all of our memories – they live inside us. Give a listen to “As We Ran” by The National Parks. Genre: Folk, indie

Wide open spaces are a part of the appeal of any road trip. You can feel that kind of freedom in “Country Roads.” Genre: Country

Music Fest

Music festivals have become mainstays of the American summer. With the approach of spring exams, I began following what festival had which artists, festival themes or genres – and what new band might make it big this summer. (Hat tip to Noisetrade for doing some of the leg work here).

Work It Out” by Knox Hamilton has all the qualities of a summer festival – hints of romance, a slow down, a speed up, and a song where you can show off your worst dance moves all while having a big smile on your face. Genre: Pop, synth

What? You forgot punk festivals exist? Fear not: Punk Rock Bowling has a great lineup this year, including Dropkick Murphys. What better way to celebrate summer than the baseball loving “Tessie”? Genre: Punk

The Blues have been getting more attention at recent festivals. Shakey Graves has become a mainstay. For summer, “Late July” is certainly worth a listen. Genre: Blues

Atmosphere (headlining at Soundset) may make you question what your summer is really all about. Check out “Fortunate” for some good thoughts. Genre: Hip-hop

A festival standard (for good reason), Florence + The Machine has released a number of great songs. This one came to my attention today. “Delilah” has great lyrics and back beat. Genre: Pop


…is the favorite phrase of TJP contributor Lucas Sharma. In summer, we make new friends and connect with old ones. Sitting around a backyard campfire, evenings on the lakefront, and late-night food runs (White Castle, anyone?). Summer is a time of flourishing friendships and the challenges of youthful romances. These are songs for hanging out or looking back on the #FriendshipTime of the warmer months.

Congrats! Your summer romance is starting! It’s a bit tenuous and unsure, with cute dates and hand holding. “Wide Eyes” by Rivers is the song for you! Genre: Rock with a dash of 90s alt.

When We Were Young!” by Benjamin Dunn and the Animal Orchestra is the tune to remember all those fantastic summer adventures. Genre: Indie

Looking for a feel good, upbeat kind of song? One perfect for dancing, grilling out back, or doing both simultaneously? Give “Back Back Back” by Anthony D’Amato a listen. Genre: Americana, rock

You don’t need to understand the language to enjoy this gem – “Rubanda Remix” by Makanyaga Abdoul is a perfect background tune for relaxing with friends. Genre: Reggae, pop

What do you mean your summer romance didn’t quite work out? Here’s a cheerier breakup song from Ingrid Michaelson called “Time Machine.” Genre: Singer-songwriter

Summer Job

This category speaks to the mind meandering elsewhere while we fulfill the obligations of the summer job, waiting for the day to end to rush off to a baseball game or movie.

The day is starting, you want to sleep in but can’t, and you need something to blast you out of bed. “Bills” by Lunchmoney Lewis will get your bones jumping. Now go brush your teeth and hit the road. Genre: Hip-hop

Perhaps you’re busting your butt to afford your college textbooks, or just trying to make ends meet. The song “Toil” by Flatfoot 56 is a good reminder of the travails of those who have to work extra hard. Genre: Folk, punk

You’re wistfully thinking of somewhere else, just hoping the work day will end. The Hold Steady is for you. Check out their song “Constructive Summer” for your inspiration. Genre: Rock, alternative

After a day on the job, you need a song that really makes you car dance and sing so the person stopped next to you at the red light looks over and wants to join in. That song? Carly Rae’s latest hit single “I Really Like You.” Genre: Pop goodness.

I’m Finally Reading That Book

Books and summer seem to go together. Some are required, a reminder that school may return again in the fall. Others are books we have put off, those delicate classics or recent best-sellers we know we should read but have never quite gotten around to. These songs are for delving into mystery, wonder, and even a bit of “is this over yet?”

Whiskey and Wine” by Tow’rs is a whimsical, melodic love song that is perfect accompaniment to that heartthrob Mr. Darcy. Genre: Folk, singer-songwriter

With poetic and mysterious lyrics, the song “Mother Maple” by Chadwick Stokes provides great music for a good dramatic novel or poetry anthology. Genre: Indie

A story inside a song is one of my favorite styles, especially for reading. The Barr Brothers song “How the Heroine Dies” weaves a complex story into a soft melody. Genre: Folk, singer-songwriter

Calexico pairs well with mystery novels, especially Tony Hillerman’s Southwest stories.“Tapping the Line” from their most recent album is perfect accompaniment. Genre: Folk, indie, southwestern

I’m going to throw a changeup for the final song. This last track is best paired with Americana books, but is great for just about anything. It’s actually a series of songs, but don’t fret. In 1925, Ferde Grofé composed “Mississippi Suite,” an orchestra about America’s greatest river. The second movement is his accompaniment of Huck Finn, so may I conclude by suggesting that as your summer read.

What’s on your summer playlist?  Why would you include it?  Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments. Happy listening!


The cover photo, Summer Sound by Brandon Warren, came via Flickr.