Monday, June 21, 2010

Signs of Summer: Summer records (Part 1)

We end our Signs of Summer 5,027-part series with a bang by bringing you a two-day extravaganza, wrapping the entire thing up with our picks for five favorite summer records. Today, I will offer my thoughts on those essential, must-have releases that become imperative whenever warm weather and sunshine come around, and tomorrow, your normal summer correspondent will put a bow on the series he began decades ago. After tackling television, vacations, ice cream, grills and countless other aspects of quite possibly your favorite season, we thought culminating with music would be the best way to go simply because, well, we love music. And, let’s be honest: You can’t have a great summer if you don’t have a great soundtrack. So without any further ado, below are five suggestions (in no particular order) to work into your rotation as the summer sizzles upon us. Any and all suggestions are welcome in the comments section, or you could even e-mail us at Now friends, it is time to release the cracken...

1. O.A.R. – Any Time Now

It’s a double disc, but it’s recorded at the 9:30 Club, which should already earn it points above the band’s other discs. Taken from a time in which the group wasn’t a bad Goo Goo Dolls cover band yet, this set is all anyone really needs of the band. Plus, it showcases a bit of a homecoming, and the banter in between songs ranges from fun to sentimental to happy to sad. The impromptu version of “Stir It Up” is both delicious and appropriate and “Conquering Fools” puts the band in its most inspired light ever. The album is such a good all-around collection of performances that it even makes this song likable again…

2. Zebrahead – Waste Of Mind

This is more sentimental for me than anything because it was the only record I listened to during what will forever be remembered as the best summer of my life. And my God, that was decades ago. If you can only manage to tune out the rapper, and concentrate more on then-lead singer Justin Mauriello’s happy-sounding off-key vocals, you can come away with nothing but pleasantness. “Feel This Way” is a romantic groovy gem, “Jag Off” is a Zebrahead classic that features a funky guitar line and come on, now. If a song is titled “Bootylicious Vinyl,” it has to be involved with any and everything “summer.” Doesn't it?

3. Jay-Z – The Blueprint

Why? Because you need hip-hop to have a successful summer, and what better way to do it than to consider the greatest hip-hop album ever made? “Girls, Girls, Girls.” “Izzo (H.O.V.A.).” “Hola Hovito.” “Heart Of The City.” That’s what’s up. Get the window down, the sun shining, music blasting and an open road in front of you, and I’m not so sure there would a better summertime feeling. Hell. Even if you’re angry, you can turn the dial to this, and listen to how Mr. Carter murders pretty much everyone in the game…

4. Dave Matthew Band – Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King

Yes, I know it’s a bit early to put this on such a list (the record has been out for only a little over a year), and I understand that if you’re going to put a Dave Matthews record on a list like this, it ought to be Crash or Under The Table & Dreaming. But there’s just something about this album that screams summer to me. Maybe it’s sitting on the top of my roof while having it blare through the windows. Maybe it’s because the horns are way more colorful here than they have ever been on any Matthews record. Or maybe the good vibes of the band’s live shows translates more on this set than any other studio release the guys have offered. Whatever it is, the way he repeats the words “love you” on “Seven” makes me want to take a walk and fall in love with a woman instantly on a hot summer day. And goodness, it’s funky.

5. Sublime – 40 OZ. To Freedom

My father always tells me that whenever you’re down, all you really need to do is put in a reggae album, and you’ll feel better. “It’s impossible to not be happy when you listen to this kind of music,” he’ll say. He’s right. We’ve already had something from O.A.R., so it’s only right that we finish off this list with some more reggae. Probably the most Jamaican Sublime has ever been, the first five tracks of this record are legendary in my eyes. Hopped on the train when the self-titled record came out, wanted to explore the band, and when I found this record, and those first five tracks, I never wanted to listen to “Wrong Way” again. Besides, this was my favorite song in the history of songs for a very, very long time…

Honorable mentions: 311’s From Chaos or Music. Elvis Costello’s Get Happy or Secret, Profane & Sugarcane. Ben Harper’s Diamonds On The Inside. Joss Stone’s Introducing… The “50 First Dates” soundtrack. Bob Marley’s Legend. Lit’s A Place In The Sun. Incubus’ Make Yourself. Kanye West’s Late Registration. Saves The Day’s Through Being Cool. The Urge’s Too Much Stereo. Thursday’s Full Collapse. Brand New’s Your Favorite Weapon. Jay-Z’s The Black Album. Eve 6’s It’s All In Your Head. Bill Withers’ Live From Carnegie Hall. Eminem’s The Eminem Show. Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits. Hot Hot Heat’s Make Up The Breakdown or Happiness Ltd. Jill Scott’s Experience Jill Scott 826+. Kermit Ruffins' Livin' A Treme Life.


  1. O.A.R.? Yuck, summertime or not this band stinks....number 1?

  2. No, no, no. These were in no order now. Read the introduction! And I have soft spot for OAR. Just sayin'.

  3. After much more contemplation I am actually insulted that OAR is on this list and G Love is nowhere to be found on me something better than G Love & the Special Sauce to listen to while drinking on a hot summer day?