By Sumner Lewis
Every summer I’ve experienced has a soundtrack that goes with it. Whether it’s Dog Days Are Over during the summer of 2011 or Golden Boy during Summer 2017, there has always been a summer theme song. Pop radio also participates in the “song of the summer” phenomenon, anxiously waiting to see which song will go viral with the masses.
Even though most of us in Summer 2020 aren’t doing what we originally planned, the summer still deserves an awesome soundtrack. I’ve discovered a new sound in my Spotify mixes during my time spent alone at home and, may I say, they’re all bops. Here are my picks:
~how i’m feeling~ by Lauv
Lauv’s sophomore album is the equivalent of a deep breath for your ears. The entire album is easy to listen to, fun, and hits those seldom discussed emotions everyone feels. He teams up with multiple artists for duets including Alessia Cara on Canada and Anne-Marie on fuck, i’m lonely.
Two standout songs off the album are Modern Loneliness and Billy. Billy is a buoyant song where the protagonist leaves behind a past where he was bullied, taking that negative energy to fuel him to strive for better things in life. The beat behind it is infectious, and paired with the dual level of synths underneath, it makes for a song that is often stuck in one’s head.
Modern Loneliness is the final song on the album and serves as a thesis statement for the intersection of Lauv’s internal feelings and how the current generation interacts with each other. The song begins morosely, just Lauv and a piano reflecting on how he’s become the person he is. It gets an uplifting injection of guitar after the first chorus, opening up into an enveloping sound by the second. He, and the gang vocals behind him, very aptly state that the current generation is “never alone, but always depressed.” The song is comforting, reflective, and saddening for the listener and the artist alike.
Quinn XCII has been a mainstay of my summer listening. His orchestrations are diverse: in a single song, he has soaring strings incorporated with a pan flute as the main percussive beat and even adds accents from a harp. The acoustic instruments blend seamlessly into the otherwise electronic landscape of Flare Guns.
If musical experimentation isn’t your cup of tea, try Stacy, the lead single off his newest album A Letter To My Younger Self. The gentle keys draw you in for a peaceful yet intriguing listening experience. Notice the multiple guitar effects to create layers under the poppy drums and back vocals. The sound is enveloping and fun, as with the rest of Quinn XCII’s music.
His music is beautiful. Above and below the surface, there is so much depth to his songs. One can listen actively or passively and still gain value because of how well constructed his songs are, but I suggest truly listening in to the extra touches that are meticulously placed throughout every song.
Level of Concern by Twenty One Pilots
Twenty One Pilots is pretty well-known across the radio waves. I haven’t been the largest fan of their music post-Blurryface, but Level of Concern is a certified quarantine bop.
The song is written during and for the experience of quarantine. The overall story of the lyrics don’t seem cohesive, but separate bits make sense. Musically, each part of the song effortlessly melts into the next. The electric guitars set a static chord progression throughout except for the bridge. The piano leading the bridge into the final chorus is the aural version of twinkling stars. Listen for similar piano notes during the second chorus to tie the song together.
This playlist is Spotify specific because it’s automatically generated by them. It has the perfect spread of good summer vibes from Bryce Vine to AJR, The Band CAMINO, and PEABOD.
The lead song the playlist is based off of, Playlist by Kid Quill, is a jubilant nod to the club music of the early 2000’s. If you need a theme song for your socially distant beach trip, this is the song you should be blasting. The three chord repetition in the keys keeps a peppy thread throughout the song, leading into the outro which samples OutKast’s So Fresh, So Clean and Nelly’s Ride Wit Me among others.
Other notable songs on the playlist include 100 Bad Days by AJR and La La Land by Bryce Vine. The throbbing bass uniquely creates almost a ‘negative soundscape’ during the verse of La La Land under the light guitars which is contrasted by the full sound of the chorus. The song is done with tact, ensuring the chorus does not accost the listener, then returning to the bass line of the verse in anticipation of the bridge.
If you’re wondering why a pop/rock band such as AJR belongs on a playlist with easy summer hip hop jams, look no further than the first fifteen seconds of 100 Bad Days. The synths throughout the song seamlessly integrate it with the rest of the playlist. The horns and the bass in the swell of the chorus remind the listener of the previous song on the playlist, La La Land, proving that good vibes are not confined to a single genre.
The playlist rounds itself out with the complex sound of Jon Bellion. Stupid Deep acts as an equalizer that calms the listener from some of the more sprightly songs, while still maintaining the simple, positive energy that this playlist invokes.
Most of these songs aren’t within a genre I would normally listen to. My music taste mainly focuses around alternative rock, musicals, and male British singer/songwriters. However, I love all these new music finds, and I’ve discovered that they aren’t too far away from music I already listen to. It juxtaposes Summer 2020: even though I’m not doing what I originally planned, I’ve still found happiness in the different and unusual. With this new music, let’s all find the silver lining in our lives and listen to some good vibes.