Music for the Dog Days of Summer

As the days shorten and back to school ads start popping up, you need music that tells you that it’s still very much summer and everything is going to be OK.

Technically, the summer season stretches through most of September, although you’d never know it this year. For one, fall fetishists come out in droves in August, singing the praises of changing leaves and cooler temperatures. Oh, and we’re still in the middle of a head-spinning pandemic that’s turned the calendar on its head. That said, we think it’s both warranted and wise to hold on to the best aspects of summer for as long as possible this year and an easy way to do that is via the proper playlist.

So we’ve compiled some musical acts that hold fast to the feel-good aesthetic of the current season. The kind of carefree sounds you should associate with August and September, especially with your vacation likely upended, your job altered, and your way of life something you never could have predicted.

Call on the following bands to put a cold drink in your hand and a pool noodle or two under your arms.

Poolside

Very much living up to its name, Poolside plays chillwave music fit for a soak. The LA band offers a savvy blend of disco and dance music that sounds like it’s had a cocktail or two in the sun (the group has been described as “daytime disco”). It’s relaxed enough to shut your eyes to while touting enough bounce — once you turn the volume up a bit — to inspire a celebratory shot of rum. Poolside is even capable of turning a classic Neil Young song into a sun-drenched jam.

Rich Aucoin

Rich Aucoin’s vacation-friendly indie pop defies its far north upbringing. The musician calls Nova Scotia home but his warm and infectious music feels far closer to the equator. Latest full-length record Release is a joy from start to finish and even syncs up perfectly with the original animated version of Alice in Wonderland.

Monster Rally

A retro collage artist of sorts, Monster Rally is your new favorite tiki band. It’s the stage name of Cleveland’s Ted Feighan, who samples from old records and weaves together elements of tropicalia, hip-hop, and exotica. It’s like well-mannered tropical storm, dousing you with a cool spray of mist. The music will inspire you to weather any storm.

Guava Island

If you haven’t watched Donald Glover and Rihanna in Guava Island yet, put it on your end of summer to-do list. It’s an enjoyable short film with an even better soundtrack of mostly Childish Gambino works. Smooth, refreshing, and uplifting, this soundtrack gives 2020 the smack across the face it deserves.

Blood Orange

Most of us know of Dev Hynes, the brilliant mind behind Blood Orange. Over the last decade-plus, the musician has turned out an impressive allotment of vintage-sounding R&B. While prolific and always on-point musically, Blood Orange’s best release for these purposes is 2011’s relatively overlooked Coastal Grooves. Falling somewhere between surf-rock, brooding soul, and even a little punk, it’s a total triumph.

Kalapana

We’re all aware of the merits of Hotel California. If you like the Eagles, check out Kalapana. It’s basically the Hawaiian version of the band, with glowing vocal harmonies and a brand of soft rock that’s refreshingly energizing. You can’t go wrong with any release in the discography, but the “best of” releases truly are exactly that. Kalapana perfectly captures the moment when rock ‘n’ roll decided to chill out a bit, treating the genre to a more laid back, Hawaiian-ized style.

Khruangbin

Texas trio Khruangbin is up to good work. Between recent collaborations with the likes of the golden-voiced Leon Bridges and its own groovy instrumental tracks, the band is on the rise. Fans of funk, boisterous beats, and instrumental noodling will fall for this fantastic band. A little psych, a little dub, Khruangbin is your new favorite strain of sonic weed.

Local Natives

LA indie icons Local Natives have the current southern California sound down pat. Every record seems to reveal a new reflective layer of the land of endless summer. With latest effort Violet Street, the accomplished band offers an homage to the Beach Boys while delivering its own stamp of anthemic West Coast rock.

Nao

English musician Nao describes her sound as “wonky funk.” It’s a fair label for something that expertly marries new soul with funk and electronica. Her 2016 release For All We Know remains an unbelievably catchy collection of nostalgic pop, elevated by an obvious and incredible vocal ability. This is the one you throw on to launch a sweaty dance party that says, “No way summer, you’re not going anywhere.” If you’re not moving to the single Get to Know Ya, do check your pulse.

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