Playlist: Summer 2016

We’re pretty sure summer is gone now, even if there's no official date to tell us (not one we remember, anyway); the tents have been put away, the garlands have been packed up and our coats are buttoned and ready to go. That said, the music of the summer remains and endures, and we’ve put together a bumper pack of songs we loved this summer.
 

1. Massive Attack ft. Ghostpoet: Come Near Me

The combination of the Bristol trip hop legends and multiple Mercury Prize nominee Ghostpoet was only going to produce exciting results, and they truly deliver here with a pulsating movement of ominous electronica. Ghostpoet’s voice revels in the dank depths of the deathly refrain, and a fantastically dramatic music video only adds more to this story of unhealthy obsession.

 

2. Warpaint: New Song

This is as pumped up and poppy as we’ve ever seen Warpaint, who combine their signature brand of subtle, swirling vocals and echoing guitar with a new driving beat and sense of direction. 'New Song' has many meanings attached to it – literal connotations aside, the lyrics point towards a new exciting love interest, suggesting a reinvigoration to the band since their eponymous second album. But most of all, 'New Song' is a new Warpaint, and the signs are good.

 

3. Frank Ocean: Self Control

We had to include something from the music saga of the summer. We got livestreams, staircases, and above all confusion, but Blond has now arrived (albeit exclusively to Apple Music) and 'Self Control' contains all the hallmarks of the best parts of the album – beautiful simplicity combines perfectly with little production intricacies, although it’s worth noting that that is one of Ocean’s standout vocal performances too.

 

4. LVL UP: Pain

With their first single on the Sub Pop label, New York lo-fi band LVL UP explain their violent emotions calmly and clearly, in a song that laments the maltreatment of their love by another. Through the scratchy, straining backing that threatens to unleash a roar at any second, the vocals continue serenely singing the death toll “I hope you grow old and never find love” over and over, directed at the one who caused such harm. Its lack of rage is shocking, and gives so much more strength to the core of the track.

 

 

5. Bon Iver: 33 “GOD”

Another long-awaited return, Justin Vernon is delighting once more, though more unpredictable than ever. New single '33 “GOD”' is ruled by instability – you’re never quite sure what element is driving the song forward, and the lyrics couple together religious imagery and pure silliness. What remains is the sound, which twists and turns, and is not always as comforting as we’re used to from Bon Iver, but basks in beauty, and expertly adds electronic foundations to the staple diet of gospel harmonies and warm piano backing.

 

6. Angel Olsen: Sister

Angel Olsen’s new single 'Sister' is an 8-minute acoustic epic that explores her particular feelings of confusion, and finds content in the lack of a clear vision. In the opening act, Olsen, who was adopted at the age of 3, appears to be describing everything she would show the sister she never had. Without warning however, we find ourselves hearing her repeat the line “All my life I thought I’d change”, quickly spinning into a tornado-like electric guitar solo, giving the somewhat epiphanic lyrics more power the more they’re repeated. It ends on an undecided note, which is exactly what Olsen wanted.

 

7. Chromatics: Dear Tommy

Fans have been waiting for 4 years for the latest full length release from Portland’s Chromatics, and 'Dear Tommy' is the first step towards the final reveal. The song is slowly evolving, deeply personal and wonderfully crafted – Adam Miller’s voice is altered to appear slightly androgynous, with the lyrics detailing a love letter to a (presumably) male companion. Each movement is slow but titanic in its impact, each drum beat thumping, exercising its power and driving home the anguish of the words.

 

8. Aathens: I Wanna Be A Totem

London post-punk quartet Aathens recorded their debut EP TVEP in one take in a rehearsal space in London, filming it with four beta cameras. 'I Wanna Be A Totem' fits this approach like a glove – it’s bullish, wonderfully simple and sympathetic to its punk rock roots. The band have stated that the EP was all about stripping back; so far it’s mission accomplished.

 

9. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma: Love’s Refrain

The multi-instrumental Jefre Cantu-Ledesma continues his astonishing rate of output with 'Love’s Refrain', the latest in a long line of tracks relating to love from the California-based musician. A haze of ambient, electronic bliss washes over you, but before long the intensity begins to tighten. Layers keep adding on top of each other, and progressively the polyphonic magic is replaced by muddy, dense textures, and eventually pure noise.

 

10. The Beach Boys: Sloop John B

It’s not a true summer without the beach, and no summer playlist is complete without The Beach Boys. While still a classic track, this adaptation of the traditional Bahaman folk song 'Sloop John B' doesn’t get quite the same amount of credit in comparison to your typical surfer songs. It’s a relatable tale of homesickness (and seasickness), with typically gorgeous vocal harmonies and a footstomping melody. What’s not to love?

 

11. The Velvet Underground: Heroin

Sometimes it feels like every second of a Velvet Underground album is sun-kissed. Their 7-minute classic 'Heroin', which speeds, slows and ultimately disintegrates, is nevertheless 7 minutes of almost total bliss. The shine on the guitar, the slowly emerging drones that feel like sunbeams and the DIY drums contribute toward what appears to be the ultimate freedom, though things fall apart pretty quickly.

 

12. The Libertines: Don’t Look Back Into The Sun

In a soundtrack to the early 2000s, The Libertines would be fairly dominant, and with that we give you the summer of 2003. Pete, Carl and co serve up mindless, sunny fun, a timeless guitar riff and just enough feedback to keep you happy. This is one to holler, not to whisper.

 

13. Foxygen: How Can You Really

Known more for their experimentalism than affinity to any particular style, Foxygen’s …And Star Power album managed to pack in a few soft summery hits, with the standout being the weirdly familiar 'How Can You Really'. Mastering the art of nostalgic songwriting, we’re still sure we’d heard this somewhere before, but one thing’s for certain: the smooth vocal performance of Sam France fits this style like a glove.

 

14. The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter

Almost nothing is more identifiable with a hazy summer than that guitar opening. A real Rolling Stones belter, 'Gimme Shelter' has everything: a strutting Mick Jagger, the twiddling magic of Keith Richards, and of course the legendary backing vocal performance from Merry Clayton, often described as the best backing vocal of all time.

 

15. Whitney: No Woman

We have a confession to make: we may have already written about this particular song in a 2016 playlist. We’ll make an exception for 'No Woman', though, as it couldn’t fit the summer mood better. Mac DeMarco-influenced guitar, soft brass backing and another delicate vocal performance in a nostalgic setting -  it comes as no surprise that the song was produced by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado. There’s so much to discover and love about this song, and the perfect environment to do it in is undoubtedly lying down in the grass with your eyes closed, with the sunlight threatening to break through.