Shooting pool at Q’s across from Pizza Perfect a few summers back, subliminal programming—or perhaps one too many Tool songs—forced me and a friend to shell out some change for “Seven Nation Army” on the jukebox. As soon as the unforgettable riff growled from the speakers, a frat boy quickly snapped sarcastically, “Oh, I haven’t heard this song in like, five minutes.”
What surprised me, aside from the shameful fact that at 27, I still thought of the world in frat boys-versus-me terms, was the notion that we are all connected as a captive audience of music, victims of the rotation effect. He ended up buying us a beer, and for a moment, our worlds converged as we laughed about the way songs get lodged in your head. We agreed that everything about the song “Seven Nation Army” makes it a great summer tune—the steady beat, the infectious repetition, the explosive energy. Summer is time for kicking life’s ass, and you need a soundtrack to spur you on to glory. Yes, yes, we laughed.
Then he mentioned 311, and we instantly retreated into the shadow of our differences. It was like that moment in the movies where someone commits an atrocious faux pas at a party, a record scratches to a halt and the action freezes. Dude, did you say 311? I would never put 311 on a summer mix tape. But I would include these fine songs, ripe for summer listenin’:
The Cribs: “Mirror Kissers.” If you like your Brit rock spastic, rough around the edges and fantastically forward-motion, get in on this song while the gettin’s good. The band is from Wakefield, England, which means bloody nothing to me, but this song seems actually to actually propel you forward while listening. Key effect: Whoa-oh! sung as often as you need it. Play it: when you’re getting ready on Saturday night.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: “Gold Lion.” Yeah, it’s the single, and though there are plenty o’ reasons to keep listening to the rest of Show Your Bones, this little ditty showcases the band’s growth magnificently. The jangly intro recalls a little Love and Rockets’ “No New Tale to Tell,” but the vocals are tight—Karen O doing the Oh-oh’s in blissful falsetto.Play it: at your deck party when no one’s dancing yet.
The Subways: “With You.” The thing I’ll never forget about seeing The Subways is that they never stopped moving. Singer-guitarist Billy Lunn left the stage for a moment, politely asking the balcony audience to move their stodgy asses, while bassist Charlotte Cooper bounced maniacally. The aptly titled Young for Eternity produced a few gems, and “With You” has the kind of urgency about togetherness that’s as sexy as it is sweet. “When I’m with you/ It seems so easy,” Lunn growls, as though it’s the first time he’s ever been in love. Play it: when you’re moving in for the hook-up.
Giant Drag: “This Isn’t It.” It’s important not to blow your wad too soon on a mix tape. This shoegazer fuzz pop number is the perfect transitional tempo: breezy and wistful, with a twinge of regret. The song is the breakup anthem. Play it: on repeat when you know your summer crush is expiring.
The Pretty Vicious: “Shake.” I’ve got a secret: I lived in Los Angeles and liked it. My favorite find on the local rock scene was The Pretty Vicious, a native band whose song “Shake” is Hollywood personified. “Take a walk down the L.A. skyline/ I’m gonna make you mine,” the song begins in a sultry exhale. Steeped in late nights, glitter and myth, it stomps through romantically dark pop with strains of Jesus and Mary Chain and Siouxsie Sioux. Play it: on a late summer night after last call.
Damone: “Out Here All Night.” Do you like metal? Do you like pop? Do you wish more girls could shred? So do Damone, and they’ll have you air-guitaring faster than you can throw a goat. The menacing twin-leads in “Out Here All Night” give way to singer-guitarist Noelle LeBlanc, whose part Patty Smyth, part Joan Jett coo at the track’s open says it all: “Summer’s comin’ too fast/ Winter’s been here too long.” Play it: cruising in a muscle car.
Feable Weiner: East Coast Girls. If, when you think summer, you think Beach Boys, then look no further than Murfreesboro to find an updated twist on an old classic that gives California girls a run for their money. The song is the single off the band’s new album, 2FNHOT, and it even features ’Boro veteran Matt Mahaffey on a sweet harmony intro that’s as Brian Wilson as it gets. Play it: driving to the beach.
Wolfmother: Dimension. Wad blown, launched into hyperspace. Ever heard Led Zeppelin? So has Wolfmother. From the opening dirty riff to the first vocal whinny, this track’s got ’70s sludge rock all over it. Trampling through Deep Purple and Sabbath, Wolfmother are but rock farmers, harvesting the sweet riffs. Play it: whenever. It’s summertime—crank it.