Due to the extended vacation we had as schoolchildren, summer music tends to resonate more deeply with us than music from other seasons. More free time means more time with our ears pressed to the radio, leaving some summertime songs ingrained in our brains. Not only do we remember these songs, but we recall specific details in our lives from the time when they were popular. From first love to first heartbreak, these songs represent a personal coming-of-age that occurred in a scant three months. Often bittersweet, these memories are never truly put to rest.
Brought together to celebrate summer 2016, the 24 songs on Lullabies and Open Roads mix new songs with old ones. Fifteen of the selections are summer-sounding songs from the current year. The other nine represent 10-year anniversaries from summers past, beginning in 1926 and ascending a decade at a time though 2006. From romance and heartbreak to lonesome barstools and freewheeling jaunts along the highway, they offer a wide range of summertime emotions. Give this mix a listen as soon as possible, as the new school year will be here before you know it.
#1. Summertime – Billie Holiday (1936)
Lending her idiosyncratic voice to a George Gershwin classic, Lady Day brings sadness to a summer where the cotton is high and the living easy.
#2. Stoplight Kisses – The Cactus Blossoms (2016)
Drawing vocal inspiration from the Everly Brothers, Canadian siblings Page Burkum & Jack Torrey offer advice on how to kill time while you and your beloved are waiting for the light to turn green.
#3. I’m in Love Again – Fats Domino (1956)
The Fat Man is in top form as he croons about his fickle heart being aflutter. An exuberant blast of adrenaline, the song topped the R&B charts for seven weeks.
#4. Lullaby – Dori Freeman (2016)
Discovered on Facebook by producer Teddy Thompson, Freeman dazzles on her self-titled debut. Expect the Virginian to turn up on various top 10 lists at year’s end.
#5. Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces – The Jayhawks
The alt-country standard-bearers continue to crank out memorable pop nuggets. This lilting gem is one of their best, featuring a melody that lingers long after the song has stopped playing.
#6. Devil’s Haircut – Beck (1996)
Summer finds a young boy’s fancy shifting to baseball, the beach and girls. These pleasures are usually accompanied by mom’s insistence on a summertime haircut.
#7. She Makes Me Laugh – The Monkees (2016)
The reunited popsters convey summer love on this giddy Rivers Cuomo composition. Whether she’s trying to be funny or not, the guy in the song can’t stop laughing at his romantic good fortune.
#8. Tendency to Riot – Sarah Borges (2016)
The good news is that every track on Borges’ Good and Dirty EP is outstanding. The bad news is that it contains just five tracks, highlighted by this boisterous rocker.
#9. Tuff Enuff – The Fabulous Thunderbirds (1986)
Amid cries of “sell out” from their blues audience, the Fab T-Birds added considerable oomph to AM radio by incorporating a more rock-based approach on this summertime smash.
#10. Boyfriend – The Goon Sax (2016)
The lead single from the Australian teen trio’s Up to Anything debut album has a Go-Betweens feel. That’s no surprise as the band is fronted by Robert Forster’s son, Louis.
#11. Won’t Go Crazy – Kyle Forester (2016)
The Crystal Stilts and Ladybug Transistor keyboardist shines on his solo debut. His contemporary power-pop sound is in full bloom on this hypnotic tune about being reluctant to show one’s feelings.
#12. Heebie Jeebies – Louis Armstrong & his Hot 5 (1926)
His inventive cornet-playing and distinctively gruff vocals anchor one of Armstrong’s defining moments. It’s the sound of American music evolving into something spectacular.
#13. Cadillacin’ – Paul Burch (2016)
On Meridian Rising, Burch presents a song cycle about country icon Jimmie Rodgers. This feisty track has a universal message as getting behind the wheel of a fancy new car is always cause for excitement.
#14. 17 Miles – Jared Deck (2016)
Nothing says “summer” quite like hopping in the car and exploring unfamiliar places. Though one may not be far from home, the open road makes it feel a million miles away.
#15. Roadrunner – The Modern Lovers (1976)
Produced by John Cale, Boston native Jonathan Richman’s Velvet Underground-inspired homage to cruising along the Massachusetts Turnpike with the radio on remains a pedal-to-the-metal favorite.
#16. The Apollo King – Dion (2016)
The Bronx legend revisits his ‘50’s roots on this rollicking tribute to Big Al Sears, a onetime Duke Ellington saxophonist who later became a lynchpin on New York City’s R&B scene.
#17. (Girl We Got a) Good Thing – Weezer (2016)
Channeling the Beach Boys, Rivers Cuomo and company invoke summertime on this this dreamy track. The love-struck speaker wants his girlfriend to share in his good vibrations.
#18. Swinging Doors – Merle Haggard (1966)
The Poet of the Common Man pays his respects to his second home. With “swinging doors, a jukebox and a barstool,” a lonely soul can always take comfort in the room with the neon sign.
#19. Off the Ground – The Record Company (2016)
The infectious groove makes this blues-rock ditty a road-trip essential. Just drive to the nearest freeway, pop it in the tape deck and crank the volume good and loud.
#20. Crazy – Gnarls Barkley (2006)
A rare song in that it is seemingly liked by everyone, this R&B party starter wasn’t just a summertime phenomenon but is also one of its decade’s best singles.
#21. Sour Candy – Bleached (2016)
Led by sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin, the SoCal punk-pop quartet dives headlong into the world on this beach blaster while also admitting “the past ain’t kind and the future scares me.”
#22. Trailer – Mudcrutch (2016)
Replete with reminiscences about graduating high school and days spent dancing to Lynyrd Skynyrd, this sweet little tune finds Tom Petty waxing nostalgic about past choices.
#23. Five Minutes More – Frank Sinatra (1946)
The end of summer can be difficult on young hearts. While they realize it’s time to move on, they wish that the magic can last just a little bit longer.
#24. Forever Wild – Willie Nile (2016)
Memories of summers past can evoke a wide range of emotions. Even though those days are long gone, reliving them in our mind keeps the youthful flame flickering inside us.
Coming in July: A tribute to the best damn radio station I’ve ever heard.