Some of us over here at New Times are in the middle of our first summer here, and at times the heat can be, well, overbearing. Here are 12 songs that have helped us forget that third digit hanging on the edge of the thermometer, compiled by Mandi Kimes. Click here for a Spotify playlist.
1. "Arizona" - Kings of Leon I can forgive Kings of Leon for releasing "Use Somebody," because before that atrocity, they released a roots-rock anthem for my home state. Title aside, this song, with its southern flare on the guitar, sounds like driving through the desert. The wailing, explosive melody on the guitar is the sunburst rays hitting your skin as you venture through Squaw Peak. With late-night desert parties and drinks to cool you down, the lyric "Too drunk to remember" might also be a well-known summertime feeling.
2. "Summer Holiday" - Wild Nothing Wild Nothing has always been my go-to band for road trips. With their dreamy soundscapes and their mumbled singing, it's easy to get lost in the music, but not on the road. This song, in particular, talks about teenagers sneaking out of their houses past curfew to visit their summer flame. Next time you escape on your own summer holiday, take Wild Nothing with you to aurally document the trip.
3. "Tune Out" - The Format Long live The Format, Arizona's own pop band with long, flippy hair and a notebook full of sad, hopeful lyrics. The classic lyric "I tap the brake while you crack the window / The smell of smoke is making my lungs explode / The 51 is backed up and too slow / Let's tune out by turning on the radio" is one that only a person from Arizona could write (thanks, Nate Ruess). It's been more than 10 years since the release of "Tune Out," and traffic still sucks on the Arizona State Route 51, the heat is still just bearable, and the radio is still our only escape from the unfortunate driving circumstances.
4. "Hot Tonight" - Tokyo Police Club Tokyo Police Club writes a lot of dance jams, and their new Forcefield album is one catchy pop track after another. This song off the new album describes the typical Arizona evening in summer: HOT. "Hot Tonight" is more of the "big kid" summer jam, with its pounding infectious beat and its outlandish lyrics where David Monks sings about drinking in the park and burning the house down. It's a house party gone wrong.
5. "Summer Love" - Justin Timberlake Justin Timberlake is cool because he's a Side A/Side B kind of guy. Before he released the two-part 20/20 Experience, he released FutureSex/LoveSounds, which contains the sexy Side A with the sweeter Side B. "Summer Love" is found on the second half and is about finding that sultry seasonal lover. The beat drops just as the sun sets and cool summer breezes chill your spine, as Justin's sweet harmonies sail you away. JT can be my summer love all year round. Just sayin' (catch Justin Timberlake at Jobing.com Arena on 8/9).
6. "Arizona Summer" - The Cold Desert Even though the local band isn't around anymore, this song will remain my favorite of theirs. It describes the way everything opens up to beauty for summer. The flowers blossom, the air clears, and the freedom of letting go and letting loose is rapid. The chorus repeats "It would be beautiful if you were here" -- apt, given how Phoenix's population dips so drastically each summer.
7. "East of Phoenix" - Pony Express Jeff Cloud, mastermind of Pony Express, released this track with friends Frank Lenz and Richard Swift through his own record label, Velvet Blue Music. Summer days can be long, mellow and droning, like the guitar on this track. The clock keeps ticking and the sun keeps beating down, but the music allows us to slow down and enjoy all the free time we have.
8. "Summer Skin" - Death Cab for Cutie It's hard to think that dreary Seattle boys could write a summer tune, but Ben Gibbard and his band of indie cuties patched together a smooth-sailing piece. Ben Gibbard paints the picture of summer in his lyrics: "Squeaky swings and tall grass / The longest shadows ever cast / The water's warm and children swim / And we frolicked about in our summer skin." It's a child's perfect summer scenario: not giving a single care and enjoying the freedom of summer.
9. "Summertime" - The Head & the Heart Fire up the grill, crack open a cold beer, and jump into the pool with this sizzling tune. Charity Rose Thielen moans and wails in between the verses and choruses and when she sings, "It's summertime / I'll make you mine" you believe her. The synth melody that begins each new phrase is as tingly as the first splash of water on your face when you cannonball off the diving board.
10. "In the Hot, Hot Rays" - Fleet Foxes Before Fleet Foxes released their harmony-drenched, sultry finger-picking album that would launch them into folk stardom, they recorded rock songs. "In the Hot, Hot Rays" stands out from the Fleet Foxes discography like the desert dweller amongst civilians who is dripping sweat, searching for water and sunblock for protection and survival. Did I mention it's gonna be hot this summer?
And since it's America's birthday, here are a few more songs to get you in a patriotic mood.
11. "Empty Threat" - Kathleen Edwards This Canadian singer-songwriter did her fair share of globetrotting when she was a child. Since her father was a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Edwards family traveled extensively to Korea and Switzerland. She sings "I'm moving to America" during the chorus, and it's a reminder that our country is filled with tourists and foreign citizens who choose to discover freedom and liberty in a new land. Ellis Island is a great landmark that celebrates the act of immigration and beginning a new life far away from your comfort zone.
12. "The Great American Smokeout" - The Snake The Cross The Crown You can interpret "smokeout" however which way you please this holiday weekend. But for Alabama-based The Snake The Cross The Crown, they speak of the worries and stress of being in debt and trying to work your way out of it. The recession hit us hard a few years ago, and we're still working our way out of it by offering more jobs and affordable options for lower-class citizens. But this song talks about how, eventually, hard work will pay off.
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