Music Feature

The Top 20 Summer Jams Ever.
We did it.
You're wrong.
These are them.

Neal Christyson and Steven Casimer Kowalski


The Dead Milkmen - Beach Song

N: Because sometimes summer is too damn hot and I get cranky. And in those moments the Dead Milkmen are right there for me.

S: Oh, I almost picked ‘Bitchin Camaro’ because I just wanted to write about the band names in that song. DM definitely reinforce that irresponsible, stupid, school’s out vibe that people internalize when they’re 7 and never, ever let go of. This song is basically a temper tantrum. Up the punks, right?


MNEK - Every Little Word

N: While summer is nostalgic, if we don’t make the now awesome there is no future nostalgia. Boy that sentence is a doozy. Who cares? Here is your 2014 Summer Jam. Go forth and do awesome things.

S: Summer Jam 2014? What about Iggy and Ariana and Charlie and that Duke Dumont track “I Got You’? I respect the bold claim but I’m keeping the field open until at least midway through July. This one really deserves to be in the conversation. Is there a little New Jack Swing in there? I think maybe there is.

# 15

Chuck Wood - 7 Days Is Too Long

N: One Summer not too long ago, a group of friends and I spent a significant amount of time dancing to soul music. This song always brought the house down. Everyone was hot, sweaty, and looked awesome. Then you walked outside and it was still hot and sweaty. It was perfect.

S: I thought this song was massive. I’ve heard it on the radio since I was a kid and it has shown up on no less than 3 mixtapes from my college years. But it isn’t on Spotify. A nice copy of the original 45 can run upwards of $25 and it looks like no one really knows anything solid on Chuck Wood. How is that possible? How can this track be such a part of my life (or at least feel like it is) and yet it’s a ghost. Summertime miracle, man.

# 13

Uffie - Difficult

N: Yes this song is ridiculous. I may one day come to regret putting it on this list. But it’s just so much fun. It’s no coincidence that those are also the three ways I can describe some of the best summer nights I’ve ever had.

S: Totally mad call right here, Neal. I just read the lyrics and she’s on some Lorde ‘Royals’ stuff. I am happy she is writing checks but who wants to do that? I use autopay, man. There are 2 monthly bills I must write checks for and it is such a drag. I think my checks have an address from 2 houses ago. It is a nightmare. Uffie, get it together.

# 11

Aloha - Saint Lorraine

N: This song is pure high school. Speeding down the Shoreway back from the Beachland Ballroom. Windows down. Hoping my Dad doesn’t mind that it’s a half hour past curfew.

S: This whole record is a summertime masterpiece. It is right there with the great summer-night albums like Astral Weeks and Stardust.

# 9

Screeching Weasel - Hey Suburbia

N: This is the flip side to In The City. It’s long summer nights on backyard mini-ramps. Attempting to skateboard with my friends who actually could. Arguing about the titles of Sex Pistols songs (Yes he starts the song with “You’re only 29” but the name of the song is actually "Seventeen". It doesn’t make sense but that’s what it is). "Hey Suburbia" is about making sure you enjoy the nights you’re in. The nights which in my case, ended up being some of my absolute favorites.

S: Your summers seem far more self destructive than mine. Honestly, some of my best summer memories are sitting in my parent’s basement playing Starsiege: Tribes, eating Goldfish Crackers (sponsor me?) and drinking too much soda. But this song is perfect for that, too, because there isn’t much that’s more banal and suburban than that memory which, despite it being kind of sad, I cherish very much.

# 7

The Jam - In The City

N: A lot of my summer jams have memories directly linked with driving or riding in a car with all the windows down. It’s just how this works. In The City is pure adolescent daydreaming. It’s driving around and looking for something to do. It’s longing to be somewhere else. A city full of rad people doing smart things with no shortage of fun options and open doors any night of the week.

S: So much energy here. And that video, with the Tony Wilson intro!? You will have a hard time finding a song wound up tighter than this.

# 5

Righeira - Vamos A La Playa

N: My friend Conrad introduced me to this song years ago. I loved it instantly. Each year since then I look forward to that first hot day so I can play it, sing along, and really mean it.

S: I know we placed songs above this one but it was so hard to do. This song is perfect. These guys also had a song called ‘The Summer is Over’ which charted in Italy so, yeah, they knew their wheelhouse. I typed all of this while dancing. REAL TALK.

# 3

Mungo Jerry - In The Summertime

N: I lived with someone who loved this song and would play it in the summer when everyone else wanted to go to sleep. It was his way to try and keep us all awake and lively. It usually worked. After many evenings like this I realized the song was actually great. I also noticed the lyric “have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find.” While I would never personally advocate having a drink and then having a drive (unless an appropriate amount of time has passed in between the two of course) I do love that line. Summer is a time for foolish adventures. It’s a season which practically demands it of us. This song just wants to make sure we enjoy it.

S: I would kick you for how obvious this choice is but I picked ‘Summertime’ by The Fresh Prince which is the only summer song more obvious than this Mungo’s cut. And yeah, summertime isn’t the most intellectual of seasons so if we’re going to bop around being dumb it might as well be to this baby elephant walk remix.

# 1

Cam'Ron - Hey Ma

N: There is something about summer and a laid back rap jam that just go together so well. And if you are going to pick one you may as well pick the best, which is this one. Let’s slide.

S: Can’t really argue too hard with this pick. And Killa Cam is poised for a comeback if/when his A-Trak collaboration Federal Reserve comes out. And, bonus, that great piano sample comes from ‘Easy’ by The Commodores which is in and of itself an outstanding summer jam.


Soul Coughing - Soft Serve

S: I mean ice cream, right? This song is about laying around totally stoned which, regardless of whether you’re down for that, is going to be better in the summer than in the winter.

N: Soul Coughing? I had to look this song up on Youtube and the first video which came up was of a guy Hacky Sackying (Sacking? Footbagging? I don’t know.) He looks like a guy I would have seen outside the student center in college. I judged him just like I am judging you for picking this. Whatever man, summer.

EDIT from Steve: I found that Footbagging vid for everyone to enjoy, Neal.


War - Lowrider

S: They still print Lowrider Magazine. So while local papers are cutting down to 4 days a week and Newsweek is going all digital, Lowrider Magazine continues to print. How is that possible? Anyways, one summer I was in Columbus, Ohio and there was a car rally and I saw, I kid you not, a Clementine Orange El Camino Lowrider, the horn of which, played the horn hook from the song Low Rider. It was in July which brings us up to speed on this cut.

N: I’m pretty sure the description of the car you saw is far more believable than Lowrider Magazine still being in print. The one and only time I saw a copy was in the check out line at Marc’s, and I assumed even then it was at least a few years old.


Nelly - Hot In Herre

S: This song, along with DJ Kool’s ‘Let Me Clear My Throat’ are the 2 throwback beats that instantly motivate my body to dance. And don’t forget that Pharrell had a hand in this beat which, given his recent insano hit streak, makes this song feel really contemporary.

N: I just saw something with Nelly talking about writing this song. He said that he and Pharrell were young and just wanted to make a song that would get the party started. Nailed it.


Janelle Monae - Tightrope

S: Biologically, I am programmed to roll the windows of my car down when this one comes on. And driving around with music cranked up is my favorite thing about warm weather. Watch the video, if I asked you to identify a time of year when you’d be into dancing like that would you say, ‘November?’ No you would not.

N: This video is one of my all-time favorites. While the suits may be a little hot for summer the dancing is so damn cool it makes for a nice temperature balance. Which is very important in the summer.


Booker T. and The MG's - Green Onions

S: Google ‘Green Onions’ and your top link will be to Youtube so you can listen to this song. You have to love a track that supersedes its namesake. Trying to cook something using Green Onions? Well you’ll need to wait a minute because Booker T. has different plans for your afternoon. PS - SANDLOT.



June Christy - Something Cool

S: What could be more summery than sitting outside having a cold drink on a hot day? I don’t smoke anymore but oh brother does this song make me want a cigarette. And while I wish I could tell you I’d be outside kickin it with a Mojito I’m far more likely to be tipping back a Budweiser. Eat cornbread, raise hell, friend.

N: Look at you reaching back deep to pick this song out. Maybe you didn’t, though. I’m not entirely aware of the geography of your music collection. Either way it is an excellent choice for this list.


DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - Summertime

S: Did I stutter? Separate yourself from all Will Smith context and recognize a few things. One, ‘The Fresh Prince’ is a great name for an MC. Two, lyrically, a song including BBQ, carwashes, basketball, slow rolling in your car, Alpine sound systems, bass, parks, family reunions and waterplugs surely wins the Summer Jam Award for ‘Most Evocative.’ Beyond that, it isn’t aggressive or pushy, this song understands that it’s hot and it’s your day off and you’re trying to relax, man.

N: You pretty much nailed everything that needs to be said about this pick, so I will just write what I said to you when we first talked about doing this list. “So we each pick ten songs and I’m not even going to bother thinking about Summertime because I know you’re going to pick it.” This song is the musical version of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. Just oozing summer all over the place.


Gucci Mane - Lemonade

S: ‘Lemon pepper wings and a freeze cup’ sounds, at times, like the only desirable food to eat when it’s 95 degrees outside. Also, Let’s get this debate going right now. This is the best beat of the 2000’s. Period.

N: I love when I completely forget about a song I love and then something reminds me of it. Thank you for that. Also, I have a birthday coming up, “Yellow Polo, Polo slippers, white and yellow Polo socks” is, coincidentally, my birthday list if anyone is looking for ideas. As for the best beat of the 2000’s… nah. Looks like we know what list we are making next.


Ween - Bananas and Blow

S: Summertime is great for just fuckin around. And though I hold a super grown-up job, the work days in June, July, August still feel more laid back. People are taking time off, cutting out earlier on Friday, getting sunburnt between Friday and Monday. Look, Parrothead culture is stupid. In the 90’s, Jimmy Buffet fans were basically Juggalo’s. They were an easy punchline who didn’t even care to defend themselves. So, a song that skewers that culture isn’t exactly the most creative thing. But still, this is so funny. It’s a terrible joke made great by delerium.

N: One of my college roommates used to listen to this song when he was sweeping. A straw hat was a necessary part of the routine as well, it was perfect. It makes me happy that when we initially started tossing around songs we both had this one picked out. It also makes me happy you put it on your list so I had room to put an Uffie song in and make you talk about it. Sucker.


Pavement - Summer Babe

S: Pavement is the most relaxed band I’ve ever heard. Bands like Phish and The Dead get all that hippie cred, but really, all those musicians are incredibly talented and work very hard when they play. And I’m not saying Pavement don’t know how to play. I’m saying that, in their best years, say...1991-95, they made loose, ramshackle jams that, at times, sounded great despite the band playing them. We’ve all seen a local opener momentarily rise above their skill level to turn out a sloppy-lucky-great-song. Pavement did that every single time they played with every single song they wrote. ‘Summer Babe’ reminds me of a 20 minute nap that leaves me feeling hazy for an hour. And the band playing just doesn’t give a shit about me and it’s great.

N: The only Pavement album I actually own is Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. I’ve been meaning to change that for over a decade now but haven’t gotten around to it. This pick reminds me that I should probably get around to that. This song is just so… breezy. I love it.
Go ahead, Google “Best Summer Music” or “Best Summer Songs.” Do it, we’’ll wait… Look at those big name websites; Rolling Stone, Billboard, Timeout NY, Yahoo. Think of the editorial power at those places. And just look at those terrible lists! It’s like they just typed “Summer” into Gracenote, took a screenshot, and went to lunch. Summer Jams are important. Too important for a lazy list. So we made this one.

This isn’t just some best-of-summer playlist compiling all the songs that have “summer” or “beach” in the title. Yeah, sure, there are a few of those in here. But we’re going for something bigger here, something more personal. Something with like, you know, actual human feelings. Summer is such a great season for nostalgia and memory. Summer is heat, sand, lakes, rivers, backyards, drinking in parks, bad decisions, GREAT decisions, slow afternoons, late nights, early mornings and, at least for us, it’s the perfect time for new experiences. The songs on this list ARE summer to us. Sure, your list might be different. But ours is better because we’re professionals. Make sure you listen along all summer. Roll those windows down. We’ll be kickin it with you for sure.

-Neal & Steve