Sunday, March 8, 2009

List of the Day: Summer Jams!

So here's how posts get made:

Last week, my sister put up a Facebook status message saying something like "I need some good summer music right about now." Seeing as how southeastern Minnesota is currently in the midst of an ice storm, this is understandable.

So, based on that, I dropped everything I was doing (it wasn't much) and spent the rest of the week coming up with a two-disc mix of my favorite summer jams.

On the one hand, I feel sort of ridiculous about the amount of time I've spent on this mix.

But then again ...

Back in St. Cloud, where summer is actually a long weekend in July (don't miss it!), Ellard and I used to absolutely OBSESS about naming the Summer Jam of the Year, as if by doing so we could stave off winter for a few hours. We were like summer jam scientists. I'm sure he'd going to read this post foaming at the mouth and screaming, "How could you forget about _______?!?! So, on the other hand, I feel like maybe I should have spent more time on this mix.

Anyway, let's start by defining a summer jam. First, simply having a summer-y word in your title is not enough. "The Drama Summer" by The Starting Line is not a summer jam. It is an emo song. Nothing off of Summerteeth by Wilco qualifies either. Same goes for songs with the word "sun," "beach," or ... I dunno, "bikini." This is not a word find.

Secondly, these songs do not necessarily have to be summer releases. While Ellard and I were working so hard at nailing down the Summer Jam of the year, we were looking for the biggest hit of the summer, but, years later, that distinction doesn't mean all that much. "I Kissed a Girl" was probably the biggest song of last summer, but I doubt it will be playing at barbecues in twenty years. "Somebody Told Me" by the Killers was probably the biggest rock song of summer 2004, and that song sounds like someone's veins freezing. Timing is a factor for this playlist (songs aren't hurt by being actual summer jams), but not dispositive.

In the end, this should be a mix you can play at your barbecue, in the car on the way to the beach, or recovering from a nasty sunburn. Disc I has more of the radio hits that I hope everyone agrees qualify as summer jams, while Disc II mixes in a few more indie tunes that I think convey that good-time feeling. As always, CDs available on request. Or, thanks to the miracle of, just listen to them here on the site:

Disc I

1) The Beach Boys - Wouldn't It Be Nice?

I know I'm going to piss off Ferrario for saying this, but is there anything worse than hearing a Beach Boys song in the middle of winter? It's February, it's below zero, windy, dark, and "Surfin' Safari" comes on the radio. That's why people get Seasonal Affective Disorder.

2) DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince - Summertime

The all-time greatest song named "Summertime." Take that, Sublime and George Gershwin!

3) Notorious BIG - Mo Money Mo Problems

As a whole, I'd say West Coast hip-hop is more summer-y than East Coast, but this song is definitely the exception that proves the rule.

4) Santana f/ Rob Thomas - Smooth

Rob Thomas sneaks onto the list. I'm as confused as you are.

5) Third Eye Blind - Semi-Charmed Life

This right here is the one. If I had to pick one song and say, "Now this is a summer song," it would be this one. Best song ever about crystal meth. Also, somewhere Ellard is yelling, "Make sure it's the version with the 'And when the plane came in she said she was crashing ...' bridge thing!"

6) Yellowcard - Ocean Avenue

I think this is the only song Ilana and I truly agreed on for this list. I HATED this song when it came out, and then it was the theme song for an MTV show that I hated, and now I love it. It's possible I don't really understand music.

7) Outkast - Hey Ya!

Yes, yes, I know that, technically, this song was released September 9, 2003, and yes, Ilana, I know that, had it come out in September, it might not be a summer jam. However, those of us who have the internet know this song leaked months earlier. Elliot, back me up on this. Three things about this song. One, it's probably the greatest pop song of our generation. Two, my buddy Sav always said that, whenever he heard this song, he imagined me skipping down the street with my hair flopping - I'm not sure why I'm telling you this. Three, this song is here representing all the great summer jams of 2003 - from Murphy Lee's "What the Hook Gon Be?" to P. Diddy's "Shake Ya Tailfeather." What a year it was.

8) Nelly - Ride Wit Me

It may be impossible to quantify exactly how important Country Grammar was to small-town Midwestern white kids in the summer of 2000. Nelly WAS rap music.

9) Beyonce f/ Jay-Z - Crazy in Love

Another one from that wonderful class of 2003. This might be the only song on the list that actually WAS the biggest hit in the summer it was released.

10) Jay-Z f/ UGK - Big Pimpin'

From a brief period in my life when I thought I was cool because I watched "Rap City: Da Bassment" on BET. Thanks for everything, Big Tigga!

11) Katrina and the Waves - Walkin' on Sunshine

Over Ilana's emphatic objections. Probably because every time I hear it, I imagine the Jack Black dance from High Fidelity.

12) Tim McGraw - Something Like That

My all-time favorite song about a county fair. Also, token country song for the list.

13) Paul Simon - Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard

I have no idea what this song is about. So when I say that I think it could be the happiest song ever written, I'm scared of the lyrics about priests and police and spitting on the ground. If this song is really about child abuse or something, please let me know.

14) Snoop Dogg - From the Chuuuch to the Palace

Snoop, Neptunes ... that could really be the whole summer jam playlist. Could have saved me a lot of time.

15) Kanye West f/ T-Pain - The Good Life

Years from now, we'll remember this as the song that killed Kanye's career. You know how people credit Bob Dylan for turning the Beatles on to drugs and making them awesome? I think T-Pain had the exact opposite effect on Kanye. "Hey, instead of making awesome soul-influenced beats, how bout you just sing off-key and we'll run it through a machine, and all your songs can sound the same."

16) Simple Plan - I'd Do Anything

As I've said many times, an absolutely perfect pop song.

17) Trick Daddy f/ Cee-Lo and Big Boi - In Da Wind

Cee-Lo's promise to "disconnect your line" is one of my all-time favorite hip hop threats.

18) Cam'Ron - Hey Ma

Best dance ever.

19) Styles P - Good Times

Soundtrack to Schoeb and I driving around the South Side of Chicago and fearing for our lives.

20) Ice Cube - It Was a Good Day

Please consult this handy flowchart.

Disc II

1) Lamont Cranston Blues Band - Upper Mississippi Shakedown

Though I doubt Branny and Schoeb read the blog, they would know this song as the one that played after every St. Cloud River Bats win. "Goin' to a party / Down by the river tonight!"

2) Toots and the Maytals - Pressure Drop

Reggae's great at the BBQ, but can we all agree that Bob Marley is played out? Instead, consider Toots and the Maytals: great even when you're NOT mind-blowingly high.

3) Stevie Wonder - Sir Duke

Stevie is another BBQ staple. I had a roommate in San Jose who said that, if she had to listen to only one artist for the rest of her life, it would be Stevie. I don't know who I'd go with. Rolling Stones? I'll have to think about it.

4) Beck - Tropicalia

I was thinking about putting an actual tropicalia song in this spot (because everyone needs more Brazillian psychedelica), but then Os Mutantes sold out and let McDonald's use "A Minha Menina" in that youth soccer commercial, so they're out. This blog has integrity!

5) Len - Steal My Sunshine

Go into any used music store in the country, and you will find twenty copies of this album selling for a dollar apiece. That seems like an unfair legacy for any band who could make a song as great as this one. It's the Canadian summertime version of Weezer's "Undone (The Sweater Song)"

6) Ash - Walking Barefoot

I remember it being like fifteen below zero when I bought this album, living in a run-down house with basically no heat. Walking barefoot? Yeah. I was wearing two pairs of socks in the shower.

7) Beulah - Gene Autry

"And when I get to California / Gonna write my name in the sand"

8) The Delays - Hey Girl

Mmmm ... harmonies.

9) Rooney - Blueside

Remember, they were the band that the O.C. gang was going to see during one of the horrible Oliver episodes? Well ... they were.

10) Those Dancing Days - Home Sweet Home

I might just be making this connection because they're fake surfing in the music video.

11) DJ Quik - Summer Breeze

I didn't really know who DJ Quik was, and the JD brought this CD with us to the LA Marathon one year, and we just drove around listening to it and eating those olives he's obsessed with and ... I forget where this story was going.

12) Nine Days - Story of a Girl

Nine Days played St. Cloud State one year. My friends and I knew the band that was opening for them, and we tried to convince them to go on, open with a cover of "Story of a Girl," and then just say "Alright, everybody, we just saved you three hours. You can all go home now." They did not do this.

13) Snoop Dogg f/ Justin Timberlake - Signs

Why was this song not the absolute biggest hit of all time? It's got Timberlake saying the F-word!

14) Reel Big Fish - Sell Out

I forget why Drew used to play this song to piss of Elliot, but I remember it being funny.

15) The Darkness - I Believe in a Thing Called Love

I'll remember them for two things. One, they got up and left in the middle of an episode of the "Loveline" radio show for no reason. Two, they used their guitars to battle a space monster in this music video. That's a pretty good legacy for any band.

16) Shade Sheist f/ Nate Dogg - Where I Wanna Be

Any summer mix needs some Nate Dogg.

17) Long Beach Dub All-Stars - My Own Life

I'm done with Sublime. I'm also done with 311. And yet they have a very summer-y quality about them. So we're cheating and going with this song off of the album that the band made after Bradley died.

18) Red Hot Chili Peppers - By the Way

Reminds me of watering sod and dreaming of moving to California. And now here I am.

19) The Decemberists - July, July!

July is in the summer, right?

20) 213 - Another Summer

The least Kanye West-like beat Kanye West has ever made.

Honorable Mentions: Aaliyah - "Are You That Somebody?"; Architecture in Helsinki - "Do the Whirlwind"; Blur - "Country House"; The Broken West - "Down in the Valley"; CSS - "Music is My Hot Hot Sex"; The Cars - "You Might Think"; De La Soul - "Ooohh"; Dogs Die in Hot Cars - "Godhopping"; Earth, Wind, and Fire - "September"; First Class - "Beach Baby"; Fountains of Wayne - "Radiation Vibe"; James - "Laid"; The Kooks - "She Moves in Her Own Way"; Mungo Jerry - "In the Summertime"; Oasis - "Acquiesce"; Scarface - "On My Block"; Silver Sun - "Golden Skin"; Super Furry Animals - "Northern Lites"; Tom Tom Club - "Genius of Love"; Turtles - "Elenore"; Weezer - "Keep Fishin'"; Wilco - "Monday"; Zombies - "Time of the Season"; 2Pac - "California Love"

Anyway, tell me about your summer jams.


  1. Don't worry, Ferrario may be pissed off, but you'll have to wait until he's done fellating Al Jardine (thank you, wikipedia) to hear his rejoinder. I think you're safe for the next couple months.

    I would like to nominate Angel, by Shaggy.

  2. Wow! You did put a lot of thought into that. Thanks Aaron. Can't wait to see you in April. We were trying to think of what we could write on tshirts to support you and ilana, but we were coming up short. Maybe we'll just stick with signs. Love ya.

  3. Ferrario speaks:

    Number 1, Al Jardine only gets hand jobs, so this is why it did not take me long to respond. Brian Wilson is the only one who can have all of me.

    You're right though: I am pissed off, but not for the reasons you think I am. Does it bother me to hear a Beach Boys song in the winter? Of course not. You perceive this as such, because my guess is you've only been introduced to the 30%-40% of the Beach Boys catalog that got radio play. These songs heavily fetaured words like "surfing", "beach", "sun", and to a lesser extent "t-bird". Of course, these songs all evoke California summers which are diametrically opposed to Minnesota winters. However, if you honestly listen to "God Only Know", "In My Room", "Heroes and Villains", "Long Promised Road", "Please Let Me Wonder", or "Surf's Up" (shocker on the last one I know) and still think of summer, I might just go ahead and accuse you of predjudice. While it is completely true that the Beach Boys are perhaps the greatest summer band of all time, some of their most poignant and meaningful songs evoke the staggering bleakness of winter.

    It's funny you mentioned the bridge part of "Semi-Charmed Life" -- I was in the car with Alisha last week and that song came on and of course they skipped that part. I remarked that it was my favorite part of that song, so obviously your friend has good taste.

    Other songs I would add to the list: "Two Princes" by Spin Doctors, "Smooth Criminal" by Alien Ant Farm, "Rockin' the Suburbs" by Ben Folds, "Good" by Better Than Ezra, "Summertime Blues" by Eddie Cochran, "Song 2" by Blur, "Brimful of Asha" by Cornershop (yeah, that just happened), "Sunshine of Your Love" by Eric Clapton, "Epc" by Faith No More, "Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger, "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World, "Panama" by Van Halen, "I'm Comin' On" by Ten Years After, "Somewhere Across Forever" by Stellastarr*, "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones, and "The Impression That I Get" by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

  4. I have 1 off-the-cuff addition to the B-sides disc (which would actually just be another A) that should follow these 2 albums; Nuclear by Ryan Adams.

    Did I just post a long hate filled rant about why Ryan Adams is worthless? Yes - but hear me out …

    That album came out (was illegally downloaded at 508) in the winter sometime of 3rd year. By the begining of 4th year the album was irrelevant. Summer in St. Cloud is 1 long weekend in July with 2 “summer weekends” 1 weekend in late April/early May and 1 weekend in September/early October. Elliot refers to late April/early May as summer dress season and I would call September/early October summer v-neck summer.

    During v-neck summer, the usual suspects (Aaron, myself, Elliot, Branstad, Schoeb, couple extras) were enjoying a Thursday evening at DB’s for happy hour – beers and tacos for everyone. We were upstairs, tables in the middle of the place, no one around us. Nuclear comes on. We all kind of nod and enjoy the song. Conversations do not stop, nothing moves in slow motion, we are enjoying the tune though. On the walk back home, likely through the C-oborns parking lot we figure it out, run home (continue to walk – full of taco and beer), and play the song a couple of times.

    That my friend is an off-the-cuff addition to the summer jams.

  5. Ferrario:

    My original summer jams playlist was over 100 songs, and it did include "Smooth Criminal," "Panama," and, amazingly enough, "Brimful of Asha" (its greatness cannot be denied).

    It absolutely should have included "The Impression That I Get" and "Flagpole Sitta" as well, and really pretty much your whole list is solid. Well played.


    I obviously did a lot of soul-searching when it came to "Nuclear." No question that it was a summer jam for us but, if you weren't a member of the Extended Happy Hour crew, do you think it would translate as such. Two points:

    1) It starts with the line "This is where the summer ends."
    2) Ryan Adams (though I obviously appreciate his work) is almost always incredibly depressing.

    You're right, it probably deserved a spot on Disc II. Maybe I'll put it on a Disc III with Ferrario's suggestions. Hopefully, this will be a box set eventually.

  6. Ferrario speaks:

    If you do the box set, you must petition every one you know to contribute funds to sponsor one of those music compilation infomercials. There are rules though (unlike 'Nam): (1) no software more advanced than Photoshop can be used; (2) whoever you hire to actually sell the product on TV must be at least 50 years old (bonus if they are 50, but look more like 75 due to the 3 pack a day smoking habit from 1967-1992); (3) airtime can only be purchased between 1am and 5am; and (4)I hold at least a 20% stake in the liner notes. I'm in for $100 if this happens ... seriously.

  7. Sean Paul - Like Glue
    Wayne Wonder - No Letting Go

    shall i continue?

  8. Mmm ... "No Letting Go" ... that should have been on there.

    And yeah I want you to go on ... gimme your top 20.

  9. re: Ferrario speaks

    If you could get Billy Mays I could be in for some cash ...

  10. So what exactly are the criteria for a good summer jam here? For me, undoubtedly, the song has to be inspiring, get me into a good mood, and just overall be pretty upbeat. I think pretty much all of Aaron's songs (the ones I've heard and can bring to mind at least) and most of Ferrario's (same caveat) fulfill this.

    That said, I don't see Sunshine of Your Love at all. The "do do do do, do do do do do do" baseline is not remotely uplifting to me, although I do like the song.

    Also, I think you know what I'd say in response to statistics such as "30-40% of the Beach Boys catalog," "My original summer jams playlist was over 100 songs," and "3 pack a day smoking habit from 1967-1992."

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  12. First off Trick love da kids

    Second, no Bob Marley? If anything says summer, it's Jammin' or some other Marley Jamaican Jam. Might be overplayed but is still a staple of any beach cafe or summer bbq play list.

  13. Can we add Human by the Killers because we sang it the entire time we were in San Fran as a potential summer jam? I think everyone hates that song though

  14. Adam (Rochester, MN)April 1, 2009 at 8:12 PM

    I may not be a regular reader of the blog, but I eventually read it..

    Is there a good song that sets the mood to us going to a Twins game, heading down to Dinkytown afterward, buying a beer and a shot out of spite because the hot beer tub lady called us out that we wouldnt come back, driving back to St. Cloud, and probably stopping to pee at least 3 times, including one time in the parking lot of Cub Foods? If there is a song for that mood, I know you can get me one..