Sure you could spend this summer listening to the Beach Boys Greatest Hits on non-stop repeat, have radio one constantly booming out, or just have it sound-tracked by the sound of your snoring as you catch up on precious lost sleep. But how about a proper album? These albums are so summery they’re practically Pimms in musical form. They’re also just brilliant standalone collections of songs. So if you’re off on a long car journey have one of these playing out the stereo; if you’re taking the train grab some good quality headphones; or if you’re at home get yourself a comfy chair, a cold drink, sit back and relax, you could even listen to it outside.
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)
Probably the sense of euphoria in musical form Coldplay tried (and failed) to achieve with Mylo Xyloto. Childlike guitars dancing around mantra-like vocals; occasional explosions capture those feelings of pure joy. Take a ‘trip’ into the sunny, but mysterious, minds of Animal Collective.
The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)
Singles band mainly, but this album rocks – to the extent that it’s my favourite ever. Although experimental with the aesthetics, the melodies stay true to their distinctly pop roots, the harmonies as wholesome as ever. The seminal record from everyone’s summertime band.
Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)
Three smart-ass kids from New York tear it up with unparalleled interplay on Paul’s Boutique. Alternating rhythms, occasional funk, and a wicked sense of humour create a heady mix, as explosive as the wild evenings of summer.
The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)
Regardless of how infantile they get, a Beatles song is sure fire catchy. The playfulness of Abbey Road quite accurately captures the feeling of freedom: no exams, no summatives; time is all yours. Alternatively, bathe in the beauty of George Harrison’s two greatest masterpieces, including the summer song to beat them all: the admittedly simple, but immaculately pretty, ‘Here comes the sun’.
Beck – Odelay (1996)
Get lost in the sprawling, ever-changing, often sampled world of Beck Hansen. Swelteringly hot, dizzyingly manic. Don’t try make sense of it, just enjoy.
Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A. (1984)
Tales of working men: stories of desperation, of unemployment, of love loss. An ‘Up Yours’ to patriotism, topped off by the title track, the greatest anti-anthem of them all. Big choruses give a summer feel, albeit a summer of harsh realities in Reagan-era America.
Eric B. & Rakim – Paid in Full (1987)
A massive breakthrough, forcing a new direction in rap; an album about the music industry, the power of the DJ and the flow of hip hop. So wonderfully eighties and so brilliantly summer; cool beats, sharp lines and undeniably danceable. Rhythm at its finest.
Elliot Smith – Elliot Smith (1995)
The whole confusing concoction of feelings one experiences in their younger days walk over rhythmic guitars. The vocal melodies are beautiful, the grit between his teeth of angst evident; one-man acoustic work at its most complete sounding; sleepy but alive, emotions of the summertime.
The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin (1999)
A raw and unpolished masterpiece; grandiose but grounded. The whole band is in incredible synchronicity; its either meticulously planned or, more likely, a work of pure genius. Wayne Coyne’s scratchy and fragile vocals add to the effect. A summer album that reaches epic heights that few others can boast; an orchestral score for the stoned.
Oasis – Definitely Maybe (1994)
Larger swigging working class lads from Manchester serve up nonchalance with attitude. Rolling guitars, bouncing percussion, snarling vocals, summer haze. Providing comfort for football fans in that long period between seasons.
Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted (1992)
Despite the obscurity in the lyrics and the befuddlement of the song structure, you never once question a track on Slanted and Enchanted. Ferocious one second, near angelic the next. Either way you can’t help fail to be Stephen Malkmus’s ‘Summer Babe’.
Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994)
Two albums by a single artist on a list justifiably requires reasoning. Here it’s quite simply that both albums rock like few others. ‘Crooked Rain…’ contains more than its fair share of must listen to summer songs, the lyrics conjure up wonder and bewilderment in equal measure, it’s warm, untamed and predictably unpredictable.
Public Enemy – It takes a Nation of millions of hold us back (1988)
For some a hot summer means more than just the weather. Beats: Slick; Lyrics: Angry; Flow: Faultless; Album: Essential. Alternative viewpoint of America: Alive.
Sam Cooke – Portrait of a Legend (1951 – 1964)
A compilation, yes, but an album to send a massive smile onto the face onto anyone who hears it. We have songs for parties for hot summer nights, songs to wake up to on sleepy Sunday mornings, and songs to simply weep at the beauty of. Never again will 80 minutes contain so much soul.
Slint – Spiderland (1991)
Unconventional. The band ranges from trance-y background to violently energetic, the vocals from spoken word to shouting. Wherever the music goes it’s always engaging, though, reflecting beautifully the violent fluctuations of life. Average summertime activities are described wildly and complete fantasy scenarios mundanely, there’s tales of loneliness and of love and of death; contradictions make this album.
The Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993)
The perfect way to start an album? ‘Cherub Rock’ isn’t a bad way to go about it. A record full of distorted guitar heavy songs with grunge-y, but somewhat delicate, vocals. Disappear in the grandness of it all.
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989)
The album floats effortlessly in its own majesty: Jangly, twinkling guitars; unassuming, but strong, rhythms; soft Mancunian vocals. Being drunk in the sun only completes the experience.
The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
They buy drugs, they take drugs, they drink, they smoke, they go to parties, they waste the days, and live the nights, they dress up, they dress down, they fornicate, they sleep, they dream, they battle, they chase, they survive, they die: the sticky-floored summertime of the New York art rock scene.
Weezer – Weezer (Blue Album) (1994)
The endless summers of young adulthood in 41 minutes. Lyrics so nerdy they’re cool; guitars so corny they’re not; melodies so pop-y they rock. Anti-hip just hit big time.
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)
Love and war and Death. Written and recorded in a pre-9/11 world, and staying remarkably non-preachy, the album acts an eerily accurate prophecy of the future direction of America. Built around intricate percussion, squealing guitars and moving pop melodies there’s a warmness to it all, contrasting beautifully with the wistful lyrics. Above all, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a celebration of human life.