Summer is my favorite season. This may be a holdover from all those years of school when summer meant freedom from homework and classrooms. Instead, we could climb trees, watch TV, read too many books and eat too much junk food. 

I love all things summer: July thunderstorms, public swimming pools, the smell of chlorine, road trips and ice cream, hiking and campfires, staying up too late and waking up too late, early mornings at the lake, fireworks, and festivals. 

Sunburns and aloe are both in abundance. 

I adore the blazing heat of a summer day and the relief that comes when you find a cool shady spot or some body of water to spend time in. 

Summer can be hazardous. Not everyone has a safe place to escape the heat. Sometimes hikers wander into the desert wholly unprepared. It’s a good season to practice both caution and generosity. 

Of course, what this summer will hold, who knows, given the pandemic. It seems like some gatherings and some travel will be possible, as we enter this next phase of pandemic life with more and more friends and neighbors vaccinated. Over the last year, outdoor activities have already offered a great escape for people who can’t stand staying home one more second. 

How do you capture all that is summer in a song? The joy. The hazards. The restless energy. I’ve been trying to answer this question, searching for songs that capture the reckless energy when days are longer and hotter, and that sweet relief when a summer day lingers then slowly cools into night. 

This is my list so far: 

“Summertime” by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, and “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (because why not start with the most obvious choices? I wanted songs about summer. These are unequivocally songs about summer). 

Then, not far off theme, “Feels Like Summer,” by Childish Gambino, and “Summertime Sadness” by Lana Del Rey. Both songs have the nostalgia that comes after that first summer excitement fades. Of course, one’s about summer love and the other’s about climate change, but both of those topics are pretty relevant to the season. “July” by Noah Cyrus is also among my melancholy summer songs. 

“Sunshine” by Atmosphere brings that post-party joy. “Couch Potato” by Jakubi has been on repeat in my headphones for the last couple of weeks. It has just the right amount of joy and attitude for summer. Do you ever revel in your own laziness? Wake up late and stretch, decline to brush your hair because there’s nowhere in the world you need to go? That’s the couch potato I’m aspiring to be this summer (at least occasionally). Rest is highly underrated. 

“Cool Kids” by KWAYE makes me want to dance across the plaza.  “Abusey Junction” by Kokoroko is my favorite find so far. Somehow the instrumental track captures that end-of-day summer evening relief.  

I stole some of these suggestions from a friend who was sending me lots of music a while back (and messing with all my YouTube recommendations in the process. I keep getting video suggestions for bass tutorials – I do not play bass).  He has better taste in music than me, but we’ll pretend that if you don’t like any of these songs, well, it’s just one he suggested.

There will also be plenty of new music to listen to in June and July. There are new albums to look forward to from a lot of artists, including Billie Eilish, Lana Del Rey, Modest Mouse, and Prince. 

If you have any summer song suggestions, send them my way. I’m on the hunt for more music to set that summer mood.  

Cathy Cook, El Defensor Chieftain