Some music is so perfect for summer you just can't play it any other time of year. It flat-out feels wrong somehow, like holiday music in June.
When I was 14, I spent part of the summer in Gulf Shores, Alabama, riding waves and getting sunburned and reading stacks of dog-eared Marvel comics. I ate hamburgers and ice cream and every radio on the beach was blaring the first album from The Cars. This pared-down low-fi precursor of New Wave instantly set my standard of perfect summer music. Like the prototypical beach book, it has to be slick, calorie-free, a batch of brainless and painless fun. On top of it all you want serious pop hooks that sound better the louder they get.
I mean, look at this gorgeous thick-lipped woman. Her crazy smile, wandering eyes, hand across her forehead blocking ... what? Oncoming headlights? The rising sun? Disbelief at how fast she's going? All of the above? It's a perfect snapshot of how you'll feel when listening to it.
Many summers have passed since then and few albums have been worthy of that accolade. One of the few that immediately jumps to mind is De La Soul's sample-heavy debut, 3 Feet High and Rising, which provided a dazzling soundtrack to summer 1989 that promised a future of technological psychedelia that's still unfolding before our ears.
But I'm here to declare the perfect summer album of 2008: We Started Nothing by the Ting Tings. From its first track, the head-bobbing Good DJ, this raucous English duo lays down one shimmering pop masterpiece after another. You've probably heard the infectious Shut Up And Let Me Go on the iPod commercial, and overseas they had a monster hit with the Toni Basil-influenced That's Not My Name. But the time the title track's two-chord buzzsaw shucks its rusty chain for a chromed layer of funkified horns, I guarantee you'll be reaching for another drink, some sunblock, and the replay button. Put the windows down and crank this shit way the hell up.
Honorable mention goes to Feed the Animals from the Pittsburgh-based Girl Talk. Like that De La Soul debut album, this is a frenetic mash-up of recognizable songs from the past several decades. It's witty and joyous, a pyrotechnic feast where any three minute excerpt will whiz you down corridors of musical history. And best of all, it's free if you don't wanna pay.
And if you're looking for some seriously amazing summer mixtapes ... mix-CDs ... whatever ... then Yewknee.com's Summer Mix Series has got days and days of killer music awaiting your eager ears.