We are officially in the middle of summer, and getting on for peak road trip time. If you’re short of songs for your summer playlist, we’ve got a few tricks/tracks that you might not have considered. Get ready for sleepy strummers, beauteous ballads and feisty footstompers with the RAWS Summer Playlist.
1. Alt-J: Last Year
One of the highlights of a scatterbrained third album, alt-J conjure up gut wrenching warmth in this song, which tells the story of the year leading up to the storyteller’s suicide. Whispers and fuzzy guitars dominate at first, before the song totally transforms, with a beautifully wistful cameo from Marika Hackman and a cor anglais solo that solidifies the song’s mournful tone.
2. Gorillaz: Let Me Out
While much of Humanz felt alien even for a Gorillaz album, the groove-stricken ‘Let Me Out’ brings back some old friends, and some new fun. Former Gorillaz collaborator Pusha T and legendary soul singer Mavis Staples join forces to create one of the more memorable tracks released this summer. Short, sweet and bruising.
3. Alaskalaska: Bitter Winter
A rich mix of jazz, 80s sounds and modern pop make up the dense collage of material that is Alaskalaska. The London-based ensemble effortlessly layer light beats and 808 interjections over sliding synths and seemingly free sax improvisation. A real summer discovery, particularly for those who enjoy the old and the new joining forces successfully.
4. Radiohead: I Promise
‘I Promise’ is one of the more conventional Radiohead songs you are ever likely to hear – and it’s yet more evidence of the band’s staggering backcatalog of material that was never even released. Originally intended to be a part of OK Computer, the song instead became a live favourite, and with its simple anthemic drive, it’s easy to see why. Thom Yorke’s pained vocals have never sounded more earnest, and the song will rattle around in your head for hours.
5. Zola Jesus: Exhumed
More of a summer workout track than a wistful road trip singalong, Zola Jesus is back to her combative best here, with piercing vocals and intimidating string backing throughout. Every use of percussion brings the battle to your ears; emphatic gun shots, tribal rhythms and glitchy, unnerving spurts of activity. The result is something to set you on the edge of your sun lounger.
6. Fleet Foxes: Third of May / Ōdaigahara
Fleet Foxes’ return is just what 2017 needed – a warm, musical embrace. At almost 9 minutes, their first track is an epic, and just 10 seconds are needed for you to be fully enveloped once more. Full harmonies, lavish orchestration and echoing production – it’s all coming back again. The final few minutes, however, flutter somewhere rather different. There’s swirling polyphony, unfamiliar instruments and less direction, though harmonically you are still very much safe. Five years on, Fleet Foxes might be showing us something new.
7. Vince Staples: Big Fish
Unmistakably the big summer hit, ‘Big Fish’ is a big statement of intent from Vince Staples’ new album Big Fish Theory. With slick, devastating production, the core hook is brutally simple, with a floating melody complementing it. Meanwhile, Staples’ delivery is matter-of-fact, speaking of his troubling recent past, while swimming in his success, ‘countin’ up hundreds by the thousand’. Keep your ears open for this one.
8. Burkini Beach: Bodyguards
Disguised as a quaint summer tune comes this disturbing tale from Berlin’s Burkini Beach. Though the lyrics are fairly straightforward and to the point, you’re left with more questions than answers, as the teller of the story explains his perilous situation to his loved one. The delivery and style of storytelling is reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens, and is engrossing from start to finish.
9. Sampha: (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano
In Sampha’s song ‘(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano’, it’s fitting that the piano has a personality of its own, and glues the entire song together. Its imperfections are what make the song special, as Sampha yearns for the familiarity of his mother’s home. It’s hard to write a truly inspired piano ballad, but the impassioned verses pinned by Sampha are ones to get lost in for sure.
10. The Mountain Goats: Rain in Soho
No guitars and no holds barred by The Mountain Goats on this single, as part of their album dedicated entirely to goth culture. The driving piano, choral backing and gradually intensifying vocal delivery makes ‘Rain In Soho’ a big grower; indeed, the lack of guitars means that everyone has to work a little harder to get properly worked up. The result is something slightly terrifying.