The cover's off the grill, the windows are down and sweet freedom is on the horizon. Ahh, summer is coming. And while it's still early, there have already been more than enough entrants in the summer jam sweepstakes to make a short list. A few ground rules:
1. Must have been released in 2010. 2. Cannot have been a top 40 hit already. 3. Results are subject to change pending future releases (we're looking at you, Kanye, Bruno Mars, Big Boi, Janelle Monae) 4. All summer playlists should still include All Summer Long, Pet Sounds, Aja and Pretzel Logic. This will be true until the sun explodes.
Alright, think sunglasses and the smell of Coppertone...
10. "Hurricane J" by The Hold Steady Heaven Is Whenever sounds more like Separation Sunday than anything in between the two, which is great news if you were already a Hold Steady fan. If you weren't, this won't change anything. Either way, "Hurricane J" is all payoff: Wail-along chorus, Beat lyrics sung-spoke over chugging guitars, piano-assisted climax. This one will slay at the festivals.
09. "Diplomat's Son" by Vampire Weekend The album's already had its moment, but this song hasn't yet. These guys will always be a summer band, despite their insistence on releasing albums in January. Of many possible inclusions on this list, "Diplomat's Son" beats out the rest for bearing the most resemblance to Ezra's neon side-project Discovery and also for being the most Afro-poppy, which, after all, is why everyone started loving (and hating) this band in the first place.
08. "Love Again" by The-Dream ft. T.I. Not-at-all-bold prediction: Both of these dudes will be all over the place this summer. The-Dream is releasing his third album this summer, and it looks very much like the one that makes him A-list huge. T.I., meanwhile, came out of prison and has yet to drop a clunker of a verse, despite racking up a Lil' Wayne-esque number of featured appearances. As for this track specifically: Oh man, those horns...
07. "The Crash Years" by The New Pornographers Canadian indie super group returns with Together, a much better album than the last one. And this is the standout single, reminiscent of the best early stuff, featuring the usual insane awesomeness that is Neko Case and whistling and tambourine and all the rest.
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06. "Our Deal" by Best Coast Girls hands the California baton to Best Coast, who started turning heads with a lo-fi debut last fall. This is the first of the songs off her full-length. In frontwoman Bethany Cosentino's words: Drums like The Beatles, guitars like the Ramones, vocals like Phil Spector.
05."Lovelier Than You" by B.o.B. It's not current number one single "Nothin' On You," but it's pretty close. The basic plot line here is: Bobby Ray finally gets massive success just as he actively stops making that the primary focus. The album is probably going to get a lot of critic types talking about the evolution of rap and the startling array of collaborators here, but, for our purposes, all that matters is that this song is all blossoming love and smiles.
04. "Round and Round" by Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti The verses lull a bit, but is that chorus ever worth it. Way ahead of the game on dreamy tape-hiss, Ariel Pink finally gets some production value and this, the lead single of his upcoming full-length, Before Today, absolutely soars.
03. "Wavin' Flag (Celebration Mix)" by K'NAAN This is probably cheating for all kinds of reasons: The song is more than a year old, and this new version is the product of corporate sponsorship. It's the official song of this year's World Cup, and the lyrics have been slightly altered accordingly. It's this high on the list because this was some serious Kumbaya magic on the first go-around. And the money thrown at this version was used on backing choir and orchestral touches and fifty drums. All of which serves to enhance the exact things that made the song good in the first place. The World Cup tie is ultimately worth goodwill points, and it will always be OK to root for K'NAAN because he had the sort of childhood where his friends were eaten by lions.
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02. "All I Want" by LCD Soundsystem The soon-to-be released This Is Happening is about as good as the previous LCD Soundsystem albums, which is to say AWESOME! James Murphy and company have a tendency to withhold catharsis, steady and cool for eight minutes, and then it's on to the next track. This is the "All My Friends" of the new album, the dreamy reward, the one that gets everyone at the barbecue head-bopping and asking who this is. It gets a little unhinged at the end, but the entire six-minute, 44 second run time is satisfying.
01. "Armada Latina" by Cypress Hill ft. Marc Anthony and Pitbull This one's getting close to being a hit already -- probably if we had written this list in two or three weeks it would flunk rule #2. But that's not the important point here. Just listen to this thing. Then listen to it again, and keep listening to it, louder and louder, until everyone within a thousand yards has showed up in shorts with meat to grill. Helloooo, summer!