Summer Songs of Awesomeness (i)

It’s summertime. I love summertime. I also love music and lists. I’m pretty fond of meat, too, though I can’t seem to make all four elements work together – Top 10 Metal Ballads About a Summer Ham? – so we’ll just leave that one out.

Instead, let’s go with compiling a list of Summer Songs of Awesomeness.

What makes a song a summer song? There are no hard and fast rules, except for this hard and fast rule: it must be a song you would proudly crank while driving in a convertible (and not feel embarrassed to keep cranked if you ended up stuck at a stoplight next to, say, the Pope, several judgmental teens or Christie Brinkley in a red Ferrari), or a song you would be content to hear while gazing into a summer campfire. Thus, both peppy tunes and appealing mellowish numbers are eligible, and all songs by bands that rhyme with Ficklethack are immediately excluded.

Each Friday during July and August, three new Summer Songs of Awesomeness will be presented here, meaning you’ll have a complete and useful list of summer music just in time for… autumn. Advanced planning? Never my strength.

All songs are available for download at iTunes unless otherwise indicated. By all means feel free to suggest your own Summer Song of Awesomeness in the comments below. If deeply smitten, I may steal it for a future installment.

The Next Best Thing, Aesop Rock (2007)

“Oh what a genius plan
Oh what a marvel of engineering
To rival the great pyramids or cheese in a can.”

I was a fan of rap early on – like, waaay early on. I mean, I wanted to be an S1W when I grew up. Some high school friends and I recorded songs as Four White Boys in the Basement more than a year and a half before Licensed to Ill was released. (Alas, our dream of glory, fame and hot and cold running beee-yatches was shattered when my younger sister discovered we’d been doing our turntable scratches on her Strawberry Shortcake album. I felt pretty bad about it all – I mean, the Sesame Street Fever record was right there.) I don’t bother much now with rap/hip-hop for tedium-based reasons but I like Aesop Rock and this song in particular, which is cleverly written and a great driving tune. Plus, it acknowledges in its lyrics a universal truth: “Even silly pink bunnies look scary in the dark.” Don’t even try to pretend that’s not the case.

Where Do You Run To? Vivian Girls (2008)

“Where do you run
Do you run
Do you run to, baby?”

Upbeat ’60s vibe? Check.
Girls singing in harmony? Check.
Song title ended with a preposition for some reason? Check.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Neutral Milk Hotel (1998)

“And one day we will die
And our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea
But for now we are young
Let us lay in the sun
And count every beautiful thing we can see.”

This is the prototype for a certain type of summer song – one that makes you feel all reflective and a little bit sad. The fleeting-type nature of summer lends itself to songs that touch on issues of regret, lost opportunities and mortality (as well as issues of bikininess, though not in this case). In the Aeroplane also hits another summer sweet spot, in that it can be played with relatively ease by any dude sitting around a campfire with a guitar. And that dude is sooo going to get some.

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