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T3: The Sounds Of Summer

Well I’m sitting here waiting for my final class of the semester as one final summer vacation hangs in the balance, all while Sean and Nancy prepare for real fucking life.  So just for the hell of it, I figured I’d take a look at my all-time favorite “summer songs”.  Now I’m not saying this is any kind of “definitive” list of the songs that epitomize summer the best, these are just the ones that I’m fondest of.  So if anyone feels like posting a similar list of their own, feel free.

10. Pavement – “Summer Babe”

It’s always kind of hard to tell what the hell Stephen Malkmus is talking about, even on one of Pavement’s more heartfelt songs like “Summer Babe”.  But beneath all that guitar fuzz and surreal imagery, you’ve got a nice little ode to youthful summer love, ’90s slacker style.

9. The Ramones – “Rockaway Beach”
The Ramones always we’re a bubble gum pop group at their heart, and “Rockaway Beach” is definitely one of the better examples of that cheery optimism that was just bubbling beneath their aggressive exterior.  When you think of summer songs, you tend to think of Southern California sunshine, but The Ramones vie instead for the “hot concrete” and “disco on the radio” of 70’s New York.
8. The Hold Steady – “Constructive Summer”
Considering how much of The Hold Steady’s music seem to encapsulate those joyous booze-fueled summer nights, there are a lot of Hold Steady songs I could of put on this list, but I opted just to go with their most obvious “summer song”.  Plus it’s not hard to relate with the idea of a constructive summer.  We all have those certain things we’d like to accomplish before the summer months are through, but alas we usually just end up hanging out in Sean’s basement.  Oh well.
7. Wilco – “Heavy Metal Drummer”
I’m guessing as you get older, summer comes to represent a kind of nostalgia for summer’s past rather another few months of freedom, and that’s what Jeff Tweedy and co. seem to be tapping in to on “Heavy Metal Drummer”.  It’s just got that great whistful quality that somehow leaves you yearning for the days of “playing Kiss covers, beautiful and stoned”.
6. The Beach Boys – “All Summer Long”
Of course this list wouldn’t be complete without a showing from The Beach Boys, though I’d say a lot of their songs aren’t so much about summer as they are just about living in Southern California.  Still, when you think of Summer, you think of The Beach Boys, and this is one of those songs that simply encapsulates the timeless teenage ritual of hanging out in the sun and havin’ fun.  Plus it’s association with American Graffiti doesn’t hurt either.
5. Sly & The Family Stone – “Hot Fun In The Summertime”
Certainly one of the more obligotory summer songs, but come on, how can you resist a song like this?  It’s got that easygoing laid back feel that just seems about perfect for representing those summer days, all delivered with Sly’s signature sound that seems to pull all sorts of bits and pieces from every corner of the pop world.  However, “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey” is not the first song I’d think of as a good medley candidate for it, but I guess that’s just the diverse nature of Sly and The Family Stone for you.
4. Bruce Springsteen – “Thunder Road”
The Boss is another one of those artists where it seems like half his discography is well suited for the summer months, but I don’t think any other of his songs quite encompass a hot summer night like “Thunder Road”, as well as most of the Born To Run album for that matter.  And Springsteen’s vision of summer isn’t just about laid-back fun in the sun, it’s an epic journey in which the possibilities of youth seem endless as long as you’ve got a full tank of gas and plenty of blind ambition.
3. Frank Sinatra – “Summer Wind”
Quite possibly my favorite song from Old Blue Eyes, and for me the ultimate laid back summer jam.  And Sinatra being the old battered soul that was, gives you the impression that he’s had his share of summer flings, but nonetheless life goes on just like the seasons, even if you can’t escape that god damn summer wind. 
2. Husker Du – “Celebrated Summer”
Beneath all that guitar fuzz, you’ve got a song about summer that’s just about as universal anything in any of the songs on this lists, as Bob Mould rabbles about “hanging out on the beach or playing in a band”.  However, there’s still a bittersweet quality to the song, as Mould eventually asks “do you remember when the first snowfall fell?”, inferring the impending reality that for midwesterners, the line between summer and winter is quite thin.

1. R.E.M. – “Nightswimming”
For me, R.E.M. have always been a band that’s easy to like, but hard to love.  So inherently they’ve always been relegated on my top tens to either honorable mentions or barely sneaking in to the ten spot.  But when it comes to evoking Summer’s youthful nostalgia, R.E.M.’s number 1 in my book.  This is just an undeniably beautiful song, and it’s really about as simple as it gets.  Mike Mills’ circling piano chords are complemented perfectly by Michael Stipe’s lyrics that evoke R.E.M.’s teenage nights in Athens, GA, while John Paul Jones (yeah, that John Paul Jones), provides some stirring string arrangements.  It’s a song that’s easy to get lost in, for sure.

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