1. “In A Funny Way” by Mercury Rev
Play this song when you wake up on a summery Saturday morning. You’re in the mood to listen to something happy and energetic, something that will get your day really moving. What are you going to do today? Walk around in revealing clothing? Eat some sorbet on a bench in a park? Tan on your roof? SUMMER IS YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER, REMEMBER? It will hold your hand, whisper sweet nothings in your ear, make you feel beautiful. Take summer for all it’s worth. It likes to get sucked dry.
2. “Don’t Worry Baby” by The Beach Boys
Growing up in Southern California, The Beach Boys were an unavoidable influence. They reminded me of a time I yearned to come of age in, a time when Malibu was populated by surf bums, people held clam bakes, and Frankie and Annette were known for their raucous beach parties. Did this time actually exist? Or did people just dress up like mermaids for a day, chill by the beach, and take pictures of it? We’ll never know. But at least we have the genius of Brian Wilson to evoke such nostalgic images.
3. “Long Shot Kick De Bucket” by The Pioneers
So I know reggae is sort of an embarrassing musical genre that has been overrun by frat stoner bros, but there are still some major gems to be heard. Reggae is like a nice added spice. You don’t want too much of it, but a little can be just what the summer doctor ordered. If you’re lucky enough to go on a tropical vacation this summer, you should play this song on repeat while ordering a silly drink like a mai tai and ignoring your parents. You’ll watch the waves crash as the sun bathes your body and lulls you to sleep. When you wake up, you’ll be sunburnt all over your body and this song will still be blasting from your headphones. Sweet?
4. “Be Your Bro” by Those Darlins
Even though this band is brand spankin’ new, they sound so much like Josie Cotton who did that amazing song, “Johhny Are You Queer?” A lot of this ’50s Phil Spector girl group stuff can get annoying but Those Darlins can actually construct a good pop song. Play this song to your summer bugaboo stalker so they can get the message that you’re not into it. I swear, people can get so aggressive when it’s hot out.
5. “Overdrive” by Katy Rose
Um, does anyone remember Katy Rose? I do. Her tunes appeared in movies like Thirteen and Mean Girls and then she just faded into pop oblivion. Her hit single has always stayed with me though because it’s just so unabashedly pop. Play this song when you’re feeling like the # 1 summertime brat and are in the mood to make some declarative statements. Songs with choruses that just go “yeaaaaaaaahhhhhhh” are usually pretty awesome.
6. “Down 4 U” by Ja Rule and Ashanti
A summer mix tape would not be complete without a Murder Inc. moment. These people ruled hip hop in the early ’00s with the Ja Rule, Ashanti and J. Lo collaborations. Play this song for all of your friends and watch them go “What? I completely forgot about this song. OMG!” and you’ll all sing along to it basking in the memories of being in middle school and watching the music video on MTV. It’ll be fun. Promise.
7. “Protection” by Massive Attack
You know when you’ve spent all day in the sun and your whole body just feels like jello? You feel exhausted and mellow and sort of euphoric. Play this song when you come home and lie down. Rub your warm arms and bare legs with the air conditioning blowing and just let this girl’s beautiful voice take you out to unconsciousness.