It’s September and Summer is almost definitely over (although global warming and the changing temperature will make you think otherwise) and here at Upside Down Shark we think it’s a good time to look upon the sweaty times we’ve recently had and explore the songs that have made our summer. Feel free to let us know what your Summer playlist consisted of this year!
In June I saw an aptly named Beastie Boys tribute band called “The Beast Decoys” and they helped rekindle my B-Boy passion for their music. Whenever possible I have made sure to throw on their back catalogue on shuffle and just admire their lyrical styles and reflect on how there will probably not be another band like them. Paul’s Boutique is such a high quality album from every point be it mixing, lyrics or the samples on samples on samples, it is a rap album that all rap fans should listen too.
On the other end of the spectrum. The Aquabats released a new compilation album this year titled “Super Show! Vol. 1 (Music from the Aquabats! Super Show)” and ever since seeing them play live last year I have been happily gobbling up any music they have to offer. They are such a diverse band spreading positivity through a variety of genres that is so unique to see and a treat to the eardrums.
Arguably the most recent album beaming into my ear goggles is Celebrity Mansions by Dinosaur Pile-Up. This is just a good rock album that was released at the perfect time of the year, great length for a short summer drive that doesn’t out stay its welcome and once it finishes makes you want to fire it up for another play through.
2019 has been a weird one for me when it comes to music, at least until very recently (August was f**king killer!). There’s not been an awful lot that’s stuck with me, and so I’ve found myself diving back and listening to songs and albums from previous years rather than having a definitive ‘Song of the Summer’ from this year. So, 3 of the songs here are songs that have just found their way into my psyche this Summer, and 1 is a favourite from one of the few good albums that was released in the first half of 2019.
First off is a song that, in truth, I hadn’t heard until this year, that has gone on to be not just my song of the Summer, but arguably my song of the year. Artangels is the title track from an album released by Electro-Pop artist Grimes in 2015. I was turned onto her by fellow UDS chum Neale after she released a song that I heralded as ‘one of the best Nine Inch Nails songs that Trent Reznor wasn’t involved in’ (it’s called We Appreciate Power if you want to listen, but it’s not an official part of this list). There’s something about the song Artangels that I just can’t escape - the production is world class, the repeated guitar riff is so bubbly, the chorus is euphoric and above all else, this song genuinely just exudes the feel of a Summer’s day to me.
The next song I’ve picked takes us all the way back to 1998. Push It was the lead single from Garbage’s second album, Version 2.0. This is a song that, in the past, I haven’t really gravitated towards - it’s a song I’ve enjoyed but never really given a second glance. This changed, however, in July when I saw Garbage play an excellent show in London’s Kew Gardens. Being outdoors under a beautiful evening sky as the pre-chorus to this song builds was a gut punch of emotion for me, and I’ve not been able to stop listening to it ever since.
My third song is the only song released this year, and comes from the fourth album by Garage Rock party starters, Royal Republic (who are a band I completely adore and want to be so much bigger). The new album, Club Majesty, is a slight departure from their previous straight-ahead Rock ‘n’ Roll bravado sound, and holds more of a Disco-Rock feel - it’s an album full of songs you can’t help but wanna move to. For me, this is no more apparent than on Boomerang, a song with an undeniable bounce and a chorus that will implant itself into your brain for months to come.
My final song might seem a bit left field, but it’s another song that’s really resonated with me this year. State Of Grace is the opening track on Taylor Swift’s 2012 album Red. Very likely the most well known song I’ve chosen, this song ascended into my consciousness this year after I decided to relisten to all of Swift’s albums in the run up to her new album, Lover (which, incidentally, I didn’t enjoy very much at first but it’s grown on me). State Of Grace feels a bit airy - it feels like there’s room to breathe - and in turn this creates a landscape which allows for some incredible soaring guitar work and vocals that just scream Summer to me. This might even be my favourite Taylor Swift song now
I’m always more or less a year behind when it comes to processing new music, despite the fact that I’ve got the time right at this moment to probably go off and listen to something new from this year, like Sleater Kinney’s The Centre Wont Hold, which I’ve been anticipating since their last major release back in 2015. Apologies in advance if some of these tracks are a bit out of date, or the picks for a Summer list might seem obfuscate, but chances are it’s probably not been too long since I got round to checking them out!
Starting with something light (and actually recent), Breakfast - Peaness. A really lovely song about Brexit and voter’s remorse. I love the jauntiness of the verse, contrasted against the more pensive chorus. There’s something so simple about the way Peaness build their tunes, they’ve got a real knack for producing ear-worms. Definitely check out Are You Sure?, their EP from 2017 too.
Slow Motion Replay - Mass of the Fermenting Dregs is the final track on last years No World Order. A suitably bitter-sweet track to round off the album, marked by really strong melodies that carry it all the way through to the end. They’re one of those bands that seem to have a mastery over every genre they tackle, seamlessly hopping between grunge, shoegaze, electro-pop, and all kinds of styles in their 8 track album - it’s got a bit of something for everyone. You almost wouldn’t believe it’s their first album in over a decade.
Status - Machine Girl is the purest essence of cyberpunk in music I can think of. The Ugly Art is an unrelenting force of electronic beats, fierce vocals, and brutal live drums. There’s not a whole lot like it, and they’re really pushing the boundaries with their live performances, which you can check out on YouTube. They’ve got a really unique appeal, but I implore you to give them a try.
Stretching the limits of what pop can achieve, Faceshopping - SOPHIE. I wish I’d listened to Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides sooner. An extremely versatile accomplishment of an album, it’s bubbly, it’s exciting, it’s fun. A really electrifying collection of songs that exaggerate and play with what people really love about pop music in the internet age.
Oh, and you can’t mention summer tunes without the Official Summer Anthem since 2014.
[In an unexpected twist of events, Anamanaguchi released a brand new single after I’d written my portion of this article, so go ahead and check that out too]
This summer I discovered IDER, a synth-pop duo influenced by folk, RnB and EDM. Emotional Education is the first full-length album from London based Megan Marwick and Lily Somerville, and is an ode to the chaotic emotion of the millennial experience; it is a harmonised journey that traverses universal themes of love, loss, mental health and self-identity in a society lethargic under the weight of social media influence.
The eleven-track record is resonant and unapologetically honest, with Marwick and Somerville articulating the triumphs and tragedies of a generation. Tracks “Wu Baby” and “Mirror” are my favourites; Wu baby is about the violent delirium of lusting after someone new, whereas Mirror is about rediscovering your own identity, for better or worse.
Other notable tracks include “Brown Sugar”, a song about sexual freedom without the limitation of social boundaries, and “Body Love”, which focuses on the bittersweet release of letting of love lost. With Emotional Education, IDER succeed in producing a disarmingly honest reflection of themselves; the album’s dream-like melodies disarm the listener and belie a depth of emotional largely absent from the charts. It is for this reason that I’ve had the album on repeated, driving in my car, windows down and the warmth of the sun on my skin.
I have been listening to the band Rammstein with their new album Rammstein 2.
Also Bastille’s Doom Days is good.
One of my favourite tracks from the summer of 20-FINE-teen is You Look Like Death by Gender Roles. The first single of their debut album Prang, it manages to adeptly blend elements of Brit-pop, grunge and punk to forge something unique but still welcomingly familiar. With a massive chorus that quickly becomes an earworm, all signs point towards Gender Roles taking over the British rock scene very soon. You can check out our review of Prang here.
From the young upstart to a scene veteran, we have Dinosaur Pile-Up with Celebrity Mansions. A light-hearted rib on Gen-Z influencer culture, it’s the kind of tune that begs to be played at full volume on a long summer road trip. Weezer-esque riffs combined with Matt Bigland’s distinct vocals make this an essential addition to any rock playlist.
Lastly from me we have Mexican Radio by Authority Zero. Originally written by Walls of Voodoo, I’m hesitant to call this as a cover, as many of the lyrics are altered to critique the state of US international relations at the start of the millenium. But rest assured that this is still a bop, with guitars, drums and vocals drenched in West Coast sun. Definitely one for fans of Green Day, and just one of the great singles by this criminally underrated skate-punk band.