Summer is the season for windows-down, music-up car rides. If you’re anything like me, nothing beats cruising with your friends, wind blowing your hair in every direction. However, the ideal summer memories require the ideal summer music.
So, if you’re looking for a playlist that will make you feel like you have the whole world at your disposal, I highly recommend checking out the following indie bands — and yes, these are all the actual band names. I can’t make this kind of stuff up.
1. Hippo Campus
I can’t talk about indie bands — or any music, really — without mentioning these guys. Hippo Campus has been absolutely killing the music scene since 2013. Presently, the band has three EPs and one full-length album, but they recently released a new single, titled “Passenger,” and have been hinting at more tunes to come.
Hippo Campus will provide the perfect soundtrack to the next few months because their music practically epitomizes summer. Somehow, they’ve found a way to capture sunshine, old friendships and fleeting youth in their melodies.
With its chill vibe, their song “Way It Goes” from their album “Landmark” is the ultimate summer anthem, though “Simple Season” is a close second. So if you’ve never heard of them before, I recommend starting with those songs. They are guaranteed to put you in a good mood.
The four boys in this band are immensely talented. Their upbeat and unique instrumental work combined with truly poetic lyrics will leave you feeling relaxed and compulsively listening to this indie band this summer. As they sing, “This season is all ours.”
A perk to falling for this band is that they tour often and they are even more incredible live than they are in the studio recordings.
2. Knox Hamilton
This is an indie band for those who enjoy a more pop-y sound. Knox Hamilton offers so much energy in their music, and they do so in a way that feels fresh and fun. Though they’ve only released one album so far, songs like “Rightfully So” and “Pretty Way to Fight” give off major pool party vibes.
With a pulsating beat and thrumming guitar, Knox Hamilton strikes a balance between electronic and alt-rock that will hype you up and make you want to dance. The vocal work is so light it will make you feel like you’re floating.
3. Trash Panda
Since 2015, this indie band has been gracing the world with smooth vocals, raw and insightful lyrics and an eclectic instrumental landscape. So far, they’ve released one EP and one full-length album, and I am so excited to see what the future holds for them.
If you’re looking for a band that will make you feel mellowed out, Trash Panda is the way to go. The first time I heard their song “Giuseppe” from their EP “Off,” I fell in love with their music. And it wasn’t just me — the song hit No. 2 on Spotify’s U.S. and Global Viral charts.
My obsession only grew when I heard more of their work, like “Aging out of the 20th Century” and “Atlanta Girls.” The latter not only offers, as one critic put it, “hella grooves,” but also a subtle commentary on the charming yet self-destructive nature of the city’s female population.
Trash Panda delivers the kind of sound that will have you bobbing your head and feeling like you’re spending your night stargazing in a field with your closest friends, letting your anxieties subside if only for a single night.
4. Cannibal Kids
While the vocal work from this indie band is a little gruffer than the previous options, their music still manages to capture the buoyant, carefree energy of summer. Songs like “Troubled Mind” and “Don’t Trust the Animals” dish out summer jams that have a rock element but are also vaguely tropical-sounding.
With only one album out, Cannibal Kids builds anticipation in their music and creates variety that makes the sometimes-repetitive lyrics stay exciting. If you like to scream-sing in the car, Cannibal Kids has your back.
5. Vacation Manor
What I love about Vacation Manor is that their music contains contradictions that really work for them. Songs like “Careless” and “Fading” are at once laid-back and upbeat. Their lyrics are jaded but youthful.
With its close-cropped cinematography and fleeting outdoor scenery, the music video for “Fading” deserves a much broader audience.
Since 2014, the indie band has released one EP called “Girl, Say.” Every song on the EP feels different yet cohesive.
No matter what song you listen to, though, the band manages to evoke summer with their wavy tone and relaxed vocals.
6. Bad Suns
With the word “sun” in the band name, you know you’re in store for some summer bops with this group. They’ve got a bit of a harder sound than the other bands on this list (not by much), but their music has spunk.
They hail from Southern California and have been incorporating that West Coast sound since they formed in 2012. The foursome have released two albums, and each song is unique and experimental.
The first song I ever heard from this indie band was “Outskirts of Paradise,” a tune about freedom that felt perfect for summer. I was so intrigued, I needed to hear more from them. There’s a hint of mischief laced through their music, a youthful feeling that will set the tone for your carefree days and bombard you with the irresistible urge to dance along to their songs.
I’m convinced this band was formed solely to create music perfect for cruising around town with friends. CRUISR is another band with a pop sound, but it’s not radio pop. It’s lively and playful.
With songs like “Throw Shade” and “Take That,” this indie band encourages people to throw their cares out the window and live their best lives. Who wouldn’t be uplifted by the lyrics: “Honey we can make the rules / Maybe we could break ‘em too / Tell ‘em take that.”
CRUISR brings a modern twist to an ’80s sound. Each of their songs is the very embodiment of a summer bop.
If you don’t want your summer punctuated by the same handful of top hits from the radio, these bands are a good place to start. I dare anyone to listen to their music and feel anything other than sunshine and good vibes.
Fair warning, though: once you become entrenched in the indie music scene, it’s hard to turn away because there are countless delightful bands out there with the kind of breezy, happy-making sound that can be found from the musicians I’ve talked about today. Now get ready for a season of excellent music.