As the last flowers of spring bloom to their fullest, as Earth turns on its axis, each day closer to the solstice, there is a change in the air. A feeling of electricity is sparked by the sun shining its rays longer and the semester coming to a close. A sense of freedom and the possibility of new beginnings intertwine as the seasons turn from the cold bitter winter to a bright shining summer. There are adventures to be had, trouble to be made, and dreams to come true.
But nothing could be possible without the perfect music playing in the background, the song that will echo in your mind long after you’ve forgotten the sear of the sunburn that has melted into a perfect tan. With many possibilities for summer fun, however, there comes plenty of songs and genres to choose from. From the dreamy ballad to listen to while reading on the beach to the high-energy pop song worthy of karaoke with friends, the following albums will provide a perfect soundtrack moment to help make your summer memorable forever.
1. “Shelter Island Heights” by Scott James
With rhythms that could mimic waves on the shore and vocals that ascend to the highest planes of peace, this EP by indie artist Scott James is perfect for a quiet day on the beach. While the production of these tracks is mostly acoustic, heightened with orchestral strings and the occasional electronic drumbeat, the absolute simplicity of their presentation is the core of its appeal. On the opening track, “Cake,” James croons gently in a meditative manner, “’course I’d like to lose it / won’t you help me lose it?” — begging the audience to open their hearts and ears to the tender tune he is sharing. Such contemplative messages seem to weave themselves into the six songs of the EP, tied up perfectly by the final track, “Park Music.” This song alone seals this album’s spot on this list, with the repetitive finger-picking of the guitar and the haunted floating sounds of a theremin making the listener feel as if they are becoming one with the ocean, washed away into a world of absolute calm.
2. “Colour Green” by Sibylle Baier
While this album evokes the same contemplative feeling as “Shelter Island Heights,” this folk gem almost never found the light of day. Baier, who wrote and recorded the entirety of the 14 songs on this album in the 1970s, had never intended for them to appear on a true record. However, in 2006, her son found the recordings and shared them himself. And he had good reason to. Baier depicts the simplicities of her life through gentle acoustic songs, which possess a grace and beauty that can’t help but leave the listener feeling a little lost for a life they didn’t even live. A true standout on the record comes with the track “Forget About,” which simply states in its tender climax, “You made me forget about past and pain / time you washed like a soft, sudden summer rain” — which is truly what the entirety of the album feels like. Whether you’re having a picnic with friends on a perfect summer afternoon or taking a drive down the coast, this album will be your perfect companion. It will be ready to hold you when you need it the most.
3. “folklore” by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s eighth studio album, which came as a complete surprise in July of 2020 during quarantine, could easily be a soundtrack for many more summers to come. At perhaps the pinnacle of her songwriting abilities, Swift was able to craft an entire fictional love triangle between three teenage characters of her own making. Whether it tells a story from the perspective of the discarded lover in “august,” or portrays the hopeful redemption of trying to win back the girl of your dreams in “betty,” there is an emotional moment for anyone listening to this album. However, the album does not entirely revolve around the love triangle. While “folklore” is far from the upbeat pop dream of its 2019 predecessor, “Lover,” it stills holds its weight in the lyrical gold. This album is worthy to blast on a road trip if you’re feeling like having an emotional crying session with your closest friends, or if you’re feeling cozy around a campfire. Both things that Swift’s catalog is fool proof for.
4. “Hot Fuss” by The Killers
Since its release in 2004, several singles from the Killers’ debut album have remained staples on the UK charts for the last 18 years and is still a necessary presence on any good party playlist. Notably, “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me” stick out most prominently to the public, but the entirety of the album keeps up that iconic glamorous garage rock sound aided by frontman Brandon Flowers’ vocals ready to fire up any summer house party. While less known, the album tracks “Jenny Was A Friend of Mine” and “Andy, You’re A Star” are just as catchy, fun, and worthy of a karaoke solo and make the perfect soundtrack to liven up any summer night.
5. “Lust for Life” by Lana Del Rey
Mixed with rap and R&B influences, Lana Del Rey’s sixth studio album is perfect for a day at a music festival or pre-gaming for a concert with friends. However, while the album’s standouts are the higher energy tracks such as “Summer Bummer” and “Groupie Love” — both featuring rapper ASAP Rocky — it also has a dreamy substance to it that makes the listener feel more at peace with life. On “Get Free,” she urges her listeners to change their ways and make the most out of their lives, and on the opening track, “Love,” Del Rey calls out to her audience that “it’s enough to be young and in love.” Perhaps this doesn’t even refer to our relationships with other people, but rather, to being in love with the act of being alive, with the joy that comes with long summer nights and an ocean breeze.