Best summer music

Time Out’s ultimate seasonal playlist will keep your spirits up

Best summer music

1. Summertime by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (1957)
Summertime is a gorgeous lie. As written by George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward for the seminal 1935 American folk opera Porgy & Bess, it’s a lullaby sung by a poor young mother in the slums of South Carolina, assuring her child of a tranquil world that is nowhere around them. Originally sung in a classical soprano range, Summertime has been reinvented in many modes, including Janis Joplin’s achingly desperate 1968 account. But it’s hard to beat the warm, soothing version that Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong recorded for their 1957 Porgy & Bess album. Curled in the warm voices of these peerless vocalists, you’re transported to a gentler place, with the Daddy and Mammy of jazz standing by. Adam Feldman

2. Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys (1966)
Teeming with key shifts, complex harmonies and unique instrumentation (it features a cello, a jaw harp and an electrotheremin), this Beach Boys classic was a feat of both composition and production. It took seven months, four different recording studios and over US$50,000 (nearly BD19,000) to create this sunny masterpiece, which eventually landed at number six in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Kristen Zwicker

3. Hot Fun in the Summertime by Sly and the Family Stone (1969)
Released in August 1969, Hot Fun in the Summertime by funk trailblazers Sly and the Family Stone dropped at the height of the band’s career, after its legendary performance at Woodstock earlier that summer. It even landed the group the number two spot on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as three on the Billboard soul charts in 1969. And how could it not? The song’s happy-go-lucky melody, coupled with frontman Sly Stone’s soulful tone, makes for a tune that perfectly encapsulates the mood of every summertime to come in just a two-and-a-half-minute time span. Rachel Sonis

4. Sun is Shining by Bob Marley and the Wailers (1971)
This track might open with the reggae icon singing, “Sun is shining, the weather is sweet / Make you want to move your dancing feet,” but it’s more likely to inspire you to lie outside with a frosty iced drink in hand than get down. Mellow even by Marley & Co.’s standards, it’s a perfect soundtrack choice for a chilled-out afternoon. Tim Lowery

5. The Boys of Summer by Don Henley (1984)
Maybe the most wrenching of all the “Where did we go wrong?” baby-boomer anthems, this 1984 triumph finds the Eagles kit man mourning not just the summer love that got away, but the dashed ideals of an entire generation. Some might chuckle at those synthetic seagull caws and dated drum-machine tones, but anyone who doesn’t feel a chill when Henley recounts seeing “a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac” probably needs a pulse check. This is beachside existentialism 101. Hank Shteamer

6. Paradise City by Guns N’ Roses (1987)
One second you’re lying on a towel drifting in and out of sleep, and the next you’re kicking sand in your friend’s face, shredding air guitar. What happened? Odds are this GnR blazer is to blame. The song’s sing-along lyrics and blistering guitar solos (it’s lead guitarist Slash’s favourite song to play live) have been elevating chill summer hangouts to hard-rocking parties since it first appeared on the band’s debut album, Appetite for Destruction. Kristen Zwicker

7. Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (1991)
You don’t have to live in the LA sunshine, dress like the Fresh Prince or even remember the ’90s especially well to recognise this song as the ultimate summer jam. Delivered by ’90s hip-hop pop heroes Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff, this dreamy ode to the fairest of the seasons checks off pretty much every summer essential, from shooting hoops on the street, to dancing at a barbecue and reminiscing about past loves – but the real joy of Summertime is that it’s so easy. Sophie Harris


8. California Gurls by Katy Perry (2010)
You can’t help but jam out to the absurdly cheery, bubblegum-smacking melody and catchy lyrics in this global megahit (featuring Snoop Dogg, no less). Perfect for driving down the highway with your windows down, California Gurls is a summer tune for the ages.Rachel Sonis


9. Seasons by Future Islands (2014)
This stunner kicked off more than the Future Island’s fourth studio album: it introduced the synth rockers to America when they served up a riveting performance on the Late Show with David Letterman. Frontman Samuel T. Herring’s slick shimmy and guttural roar inspired a fair few memes, which were outnumbered only by critical accolades. Cue it up the next time you’re in the mood for a little quiet contemplation in the sand. Kristen Zwicker


10. I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) by Jamie xx (2015)

London’s Jamie Smith, AKA Jamie xx (of indie-pop outfit the xx), cites New York City’s Hot 97 as the inspiration for this upbeat, Persuasions-sampling tune. During a residency in 2013, Smith listened to the station, prompting him to try his hand at making something that could sit among the freewheeling hip-hop hits he heard. The result was this sunny gem, featuring Atlanta rapper Young Thug and Jamaican dancehall phenom Popcaan. It’s a departure from the producer’s signature heady amalgamation of dance and rave influences, but a masterfully executed one and a guaranteed recipe for good times. Kristen Zwicker

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