Sun-soaked songs and playlists
Leon Bridges! Foxing! Lorde! + way more
Is it mid-August already? Apparently so, because last week Stereogum conducted their annual song-of-the-summer poll and emerged with this list of ten essentials. Hitting shuffle is a nice way to play catchup with the anthems that have claimed various corners of culture over the past few months: big hits like Bruno and Paak’s throwback duet, Olivia Rodrigo’s pop-punk pastiche, and Lil Nas X’s provocative scorcher; alongside indie cuts from Wet Leg, Japanese Breakfast, and illuminati hotties — whose “pool hopping” has been bouncing around in my head for weeks now.
illuminati hotties’ Sarah Tudzin has gone out of her way to soundtrack this summer, using the iconic “Be My Baby” drumbeat and Beach Boys harmonies to fuel the follow-up single “u v v p.” She also made the above playlist of beachy clichés that inspired the new tune, slotting it in alongside trips to Kokomo, Margaritaville, and elsewhere. No matter how you’re experiencing this uneasy summer, take a moment to dive into these classics — then keep scrolling to hear what’s new.
Follow the Hear Hear playlist to stream all the songs mentioned below.
Childish Gambino takes on Brittany Howard’s “Stay High.” It’s always nice to hear Donald Glover’s voice, which sounds better than ever on this uplifting, fresh rework of Howard’s gem. (Part of a full compilation with artists reimagining tracks from her 2019 album Jaime.)
Foxing crafts a unique brand of electro-emo-stadium-rock. With shades of Passion Pit, Muse, and PUP — but a style all its own — I can’t stop listening to Foxing’s new album. “Go Down Together,” in particular, took some time to win me over but has become an obsession, with pulsing synths and an effortless vocal shift into a swooning falsetto. (Other favorites: “Draw Down The Moon” // “Where The Lightning Strikes Twice” // “If I Believed In Love”)
Leon Bridges takes his sound into the future. Bridges followed up the retro sounds of 2015’s Coming Home with a disappointing sophomore album that couldn’t find its footing. Fortunately, he’s back with the brilliant Gold-Diggers Sound, featuring collaborations with iconic, genre-bending musicians Robert Glasper and Terrace Martin to counter Bridges’ one-of-a-kind voice. Standouts like “Steam” and “Motorbike” feature crisp production, giving those vocals the shine they deserve. And the simple strums of “Don’t Worry” and “Blue Mesas” maintain the warmth of Bridges’ debut.
Bon Iver + Fleet Foxes + Anaïs Mitchell team up. “Phoenix” is a treat from Justin Vernon’s side-project with Aaron Dessner, Big Red Machine, beautifully merging these three distinct voices with a memorable melody. They played a great rendition on Colbert — without Vernon, but with a triumphant horn section instead.
Samia + Jelani Aryeh breathe new life into “The Promise.” Covers aren’t always my thing, and neither are ‘80s synth-pop songs, but I couldn’t resist this duet. It’s from Samia’s solid new EP, Scout, which also includes the wonderfully grungy chorus of “Show Up.” I’m excited to dive into Aryeh’s album as well — his single “From These Heights” is currently on repeat, with its Dominic Fike-adjacent bedroom-pop sound.
The Japanese Breakfast album lives up to the hype. Following up the shimmering single “Be Sweet,” Michelle Zauner’s album Jubilee is full of lovely, unexpected orchestral flourishes that complement her distinct songwriting style — especially on “Paprika,” “Kokomo, IN” and “Tactics.”
New summer playlists to stream
just a feeling: songs to spend summer in. From Gossip Girl and Ramy music supervisor Rob Lowry, an expert mix of buzzy jams across the pop spectrum. (ft. Doja Cat, Normani, Rico Nasty, Amber Mark, Omar Apollo, The Marias)
Songs For Summer Nights, Vol. 1. As always, top-tier curation from cultural critic and poet Hanif Abdurraqib. (ft. Khalid, Carly Rae Jepsen, Blood Orange, Marvin Gaye, Maggie Rogers, Jorja Smith)
Barack Obama’s 2021 Summer Playlist. Probably cheugy to include this, but it’s a good family-friendly one to throw on if you’re hosting and trying to please everybody. (ft. Jazmine Sullivan, Wye Oak, George Harrison, Louis Armstrong, SZA, Chicago)
Fully Clothed Late 80s Beach Babes. Retro cuts capturing the aesthetic of a very specific image (pictured in the playlist cover) from curator extraordinaire and Fluxblog founder Matt Perpetua. (ft. The Bangles, Pixies, Madonna, Roy Orbison)
Almost Six Hour Long Summer Playlist! If you’re craving some sunset-ready guitar tunes, dive into this annual playlist series and vibe from graphic designer Laura Filas. (ft. Rolling Stones, Tennis, Cut Worms, Bob Dylan, The Zombies)
Lorde’s breezy, divisive “Solar Power” has been a personal fave this summer — and her promo tour has been full of fun moments, including a stripped-down rooftop performance with collaborator Jack Antonoff and a delightful day-drinking session with Seth Meyers.
Speaking of the ubiquitous Antonoff, he just released the third album from his band Bleachers. Right down to the cover, it’s his most overt Springsteen homage to date, for better and worse. Standouts include “Don’t Go Dark” and the absurdly catchy “Stop Making This Hurt,” which has a fun video featuring Antonoff awkwardly dancing—where else?—in a New Jersey diner.
Dive into Summer of Soul
For his directorial debut, The Roots’ drummer and renaissance man Questlove made a remarkable doc showcasing the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969, splicing together previously unseen footage of performances from Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, The Staples Singers, and many more legends. It’s a must-watch for any music fan — and here’s a quick postgame listening list: Questlove’s interview with Object of Sound, and WaxPoetics’ playlist cataloging the music of the film.
It’s been tough to keep up with the nonstop stream of new music this summer. Here’s a bonus batch of links to a few more notable releases, in case you missed any + might want to dive deeper:
Tyler the Creator has a new album out and his entire Lollapalooza performance is available to stream // Brandi Carlile has a lovely new ballad and played it on Jimmy Fallon // Vince Staples played NPR’s Tiny Desk to promote his self-titled album // Coldplay returned with two singles, the excellent “Higher Power” and the 10-minute “Coloratura” // Rostam’s album is nice and so is the music video for “From The Back of A Cab” // CHVRCHES have a new album coming soon, single “He Said She Said” is a fun one // The Killers have a new album and Phoebe Bridgers is on it and yes, I have made the appropriate calls…