Summer’s here. Whether you’re still in quarantine, hitting the clubs that dare to be open or jumping in the car for a road trip, ’tis the season for feel-good music, cranked up loud. So take a break from fretting about COVID-19 and browse this list of ten summer jams from Colorado musicians. Then start making a mixtape for your next backyard boogie, trip to the beach, drive through the mountains or dance-off in the kitchen with your pets.
This summer is ours. Let's dance.
“Because I Want To”
Wellington Bullings’s “Because I Want To” is a jazz-infused R&B song that’s as breezy as a cool summer evening that follows an afternoon thunderstorm. Bullings, who's on the eve of releasing her debut album, dropped the track earlier this year as a declaration of self-empowerment. She’s going to do things her way, and if you sing along enough times, you might be inspired to do so, too. Dress like you want. Sing what you want. Be who you are. It’s summer, and that’s what we do. Why? Because we want to.
Yuzo Nieto’s supergroup, Pink Hawks, opens its paean to elote — those dressed-up corn cobs sold on the streets of Mexico — with Elias Garcia’s noodling guitar. Then the song erupts into a furious dance number, with vocals from Alejandro Fuentes and spiritually infused bars from rapper, artist and educator Molina Speaks. It’s a celebration of Chicano culture, food and the spirit of resistance, with the resounding chorus blasting ICE and celebrating the resilience of the people. Pink Hawks, whose musical influences span the globe, continues to demonstrate that music and joy are crucial to a revolutionary spirit. And in the summer of 2020, what more could we ask for?
Andy Frasco and the U.N.
Life can be stressful, and the older we get and the more jaded we become, it’s easy for our hearts to freeze over. In the best of times, summer is about thawing the ice and letting the spirit flow freely again. Andy Frasco & the U.N.’s "Getaway" is a good reminder: It’s okay to take a break and get some perspective. Like much of Frasco’s music, it’s horn-driven pop that grins from ear to ear, the product of a singer’s troubled mind, which is resolutely focused on broadcasting positivity — even when that’s the hardest thing to do.
“Get It Up”
Trap music has proven that it’s possible to find some pleasure in the daily grind. And in summer — when the school system has convinced us that we should be relaxing, yet we're too often hustling at unsatisfying jobs — putting a little romance into earning a living can make all the huffing and puffing bearable. Longtime Denver rapper Nyke Nitti may be rapping about slinging drugs in “Get It Up,” but anybody who’s trying to put food on their table, cash in their pocket and a smile on their face can find inspiration in this song. It’s an upbeat track about pride, hard work and saving. Get it up!
Husband-wife hip-hop duo the Reminders dropped the upbeat “Horoscope” in January. It takes the trite line “What’s your sign?” and turns it into a cosmic love-at-first-sight ditty. This is a song for people looking to the stars for answers, hoping that destiny is real and fate might make magical things happen. It’s feel-good, funk-inspired, upbeat rap. So light up some incense, break out the Tarot cards, and see what the fates have in store for you. And the next time you think you might be falling in love, don’t forget to do your research. Ask: What’s your sign?
Brothers of Brass
People in the streets during the Black Lives Matter protests are familiar with the joyful sounds of Brothers of Brass — a band that has gone from busking outside some of the city’s biggest cultural events to leading thousands in marches. Back in May, the Brothers dropped their track “Legal State,” a song shimmering with joy. With playful horns, the instruments speak — and the language is love. No, you’re probably not going to hear Brothers of Brass outside sports events and concerts much this summer, but you can hear them at a protest...and from speakers near you. The weather's warm. Light up the grill, light up your pipe, and get in a “Legal State” of mind.
Kah Li, Nay Renee, Waterboy
Wicked Regina George, the antagonist of Mean Girls, has inspired several songs in recent years, but rising Denver rappers Kah Li and Nay Renee’s version takes the crown. They embody that bougie, cruel character with glee, writing catty lyrics delivered alongside a catchy hook about petty squabbles between young women. If you’re looking for a song with bounce to strut along to while ignoring the backbiters, crank this up now. This season’s yours, Regina. Why not own it?
Don't let the chipper intro fool you: For a gritty pop-rock song about embracing life, Wildermiss’s “Supermagical” is super-angry. But that makes sense. People have been cooped up. We’ve been ready to blast out of the house, party and have some fun. And while all that comes with risks — and those need to be squarely considered — this summer surely needs some anthems about living fully and well. With “Supermagical,” Wildermiss inspires us to embrace the moment. And it also reminds us that that might be harder than we'd like.
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Every summer has its melancholy moments, and Tennis captures that feeling as well as anyone in “Swimmer,” through the shimmer of Patrick Riley’s guitar and Alaina Moore’s aching vocals rising into a strained chorus. "Swimmer" is a beachfront song — but not for chipper tourists on vacation, letting loose and enjoying themselves. This is a song for the townies who watch from the outside, feeling awkward and compelled to try to have a good time, even though sometimes that’s unbearable. For those who know how swimming can sometimes feel like drowning and fun in the sun can feel like a death sentence, this depressive song fits the bill.
Danae Simone — who grew up in Denver, moved to Atlanta and was steeped in that city’s thriving hip-hop scene, then returned home to the Mile High City — dropped “Want Me” back in April, but this is a sweltering summer track. And now that people are getting together again, COVID-19 or not, romance is in the air. Produced by the Foodchain’s Mic Coats, “Want Me” is lusty. It’s desperate. And it could become Denver’s summer-crush anthem of 2020. So find someone to cuddle with, and see if you can wring some love from this diseased year.