Once you graduate from your final level of schooling, summer instantly turns into something different. School's out forever, so it's no longer capital-S Summer, it's now simply the time in which your commute to work is at its warmest and sweatiest. As a result, we need our culture to help remind us why summer is still special and how amazing 3 months of nothing used to be. To help us through, we have summer blockbusters, we have fireworks and most important to us at Noise Pop we have the song of the summer (herein referred to as S.O.S.). The S.O.S. is a tune meant to unify all the parties we attend and all the parties we overhear. An S.O.S. should be peppy, upbeat, easy and interactive -- whether that means a pump of the fist or a twist of the hip. Ideally it talks about summery things: love, beach, water, sun, youth, but at its best it simply evokes these things. A great summer song makes one feel younger, in a visceral sense; it lets our brains, for three minutes, think: "I don't have school tomorrow!"
A couple years back, Buzzfeed designated all the S.O.S's dating back to 1940, seemingly based on each song's chart position. The results were a bit wonky. Sure, 1964's list had The Beach Boys, but six years prior they had "Purple People Eater," a song so out of place it might as well have been "Monster Mash." Flash forward to the late '80s / early '90s, and we see the type of definitive summer songs that we've come to associate with the term: "Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot, and, well, "The Macarena." As things started to get real pop, a divide became clearer between the pop song of the summer and the indie song of the summer. In 2005, every party in the Marina played Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" while every party in The Mission played LCD Soundsystem's "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House." If you need more proof, just look at the difference between Stereogum and Vulture's list of recent summer songs. That said, these things obviously aren't absolutes; depending on levels of irony and hipness, anything could be played anywhere. Last year there was some unity between the pop and indie worlds -- both the pop S.O.S., Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," and the indie S.O.S., Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks," were likely both played at every summer get-together. These two songs may seem like they live in two different worlds, but they each hit some of the S.O.S precepts.
These two vastly different songs demonstrate the simple complexity of the S.O.S. Part of the beauty of an S.O.S is that there are clear forerunners, but number one is in the ear of the beholder. The S.O.S is about personal, not critical, experience. And there are plenty of great choices this year. In the pop world, let's face it, "Call Me Maybe," is probably the winner. It's impossible to ignore the song. It's damn near the platonic ideal of a summer song: it's catchy, bright, escapist, earnest and a bit frivolous. There is an aw shucks quality to it and an utter void of seriousness that is perfect for reckless summer fun. But, that isn't the end of the S.O.S story. "Call me Maybe" may be the pop ringer, but we've collected some well-matched contenders in the indie corner with a little more... depth.
"I Love It" by Icona Pop literally mentions summer, has a solid four-to-the-floor dance beat, evokes dumb youth, and just begs to be heard in a room with kinetic bodies pressing against one another. Hot Chip's "Night and Day" is the other main contender for the summer's most danceable song and features a sing-a-long chorus to boot. Best Coast's "The Only Place" is a summer song in the way all of her songs are: it's a bouncy number about being young "with the sun in our eyes" and going to the beach. Here We Go Magic's "How Do I Know" isn't as explicitly summery but it has an intangibly summer vibe and is easily the summer song's best fit for some top-down convertible driving. "Five Seconds" by Twin Shadow has the drive and bounce of a summer song and would seamlessly fit into any teen movie from the '80s. Purity Ring's "Fineshrine," with its romantic pulses and glitch drumrolls, would be a perfect soundtrack for the 2020 remake of any of those teen movies from the '80s. Or maybe the best choice is not one but two songs, if both those songs are by Frank Ocean. He released the best and most talked about album of the summer and two, for a lack of a better word, chill songs -- "Super Rich Kids" and "Sweet Life" -- that are ideal accompaniments to the jangle of beer bottles in a cooler. Still, the front-runner for indie S.O.S. has to be Japandroids "The House That Heaven Built." The song is drenched in anthemic nostalgia. It demands a fist to be righteously pumped and a singing along of "Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh-oh-oh, ohh." It's life affirming and summer affirming: "If they try to slow you down, tell 'em all to go to hell."
The next Noise Pop Podcast is going to tackle the indie song of the summer and we want to hear from you. What is your contender for indie song of the summer? You can leave a message on the Noise Pop Podcast hotline 585-4NOISE5 and we just might play your message on the air, along with your song choice. You can also leave a comment below.