First, start with a tune. The beat doesn't need to be complicated or involved--nor should it be, actually. The summer is the time when we like to relax. So songs with heavy guitars or thick, aggressive rocking drum lines don't usually make for great summer playlist fare. (That's a generalization, not a rule!)
It should invoke some thoughts of nature and of being outside, everyone's favorite summer pastime. Beloved summer activities like hiking, going to the beach, riding a bicycle or sitting in the park all have one key thing in common: they take place outside. So the music we listen to during the summer should mirror that.
Next, when making a summer playlist I like to think of what I'm going to be doing when I'm listening to it. And here's where it's important to be realistic. With the summer and trips to the beach come one, inevitable, ugly beast: traffic. And there's no way I'm sitting in bumper-to-bumper on the George Washington Bridge unless I've got my playlist there to keep me sane. This means two things: either the song should make us want to slow down and enjoy what's around us, or demand that we dance like crazy people (beach dance party? OK with me). These may seem contradictory, but they aren't; in both cases, it comes down to tuning out the environment and enjoying friends and the moment.
Lastly, you need to actually have heard of the song, and that's where I come in. Get ready for a new series: Songs of YOUR Summer. Each post will come with a small set of a few songs to help you build your playlist. Without further ado, here's Batch #1.
"Pacific Theme" - Broken Social Scene
Instrumental tracks can be great for the summer. They don't ask too much of us, which is key. Sometimes I find myself overly absorbed with an artist's accent, or songwriting and forget to just enjoy the song. Instrumentals are kind of just there, and that's perfect. I dare you to stay angry at the weird guy eating a banana in the car next to you, who you are just positive is responsible for the traffic, while listening to this one.
"Sea Legs" - The Shins
It's kind of cheating, because The Shins are appropriate for any time. They're that good. I don't really need an excuse to listen to them, but it doesn't hurt to have one. "Sea Legs," with its funky bass and captivating vocals, belongs on the list.
"Bouncing Around the Room" - Phish
Phish, so famous for their ridiculous fanbase and crazy touring schedule, rarely fail to impress with the actually quality of the music. Take it or leave it: they know how to jam, and it's really easy to get behind a track like this one. The spontaneous piano, the harmonies, the repetition of the title - it all gives you hardly any choice but to follow it's command and start dancing.
"My Doorbell" - The White Stripes
Just like "Bouncing Around the Room," you're going to have a hard time sitting still to this one. It's got a really simple drum that will make you tap your toes. It'll be one of the more active songs on the list and fills the role well.
There we have it. Four songs to get started.
Let's not forget the most important part about a summer song: it has to be enjoyable! The guidelines are just basic ideas, but there's nothing that says that a song that contradicts any or all of those can't be great. These songs should be fun, above all. Stay tuned for more songs to add to the playlist!