Late Summer Song Recommendations

Big Data!

With another summer of hearing the same eight songs every time you turn on the radio finally winding down, where do you turn for something fresh? What band quietly released a new album that got drowned out in all of the noise? What artists are out there releasing quality material that you’ve never even heard of? And who’s dropping previews of their upcoming fall albums? It is with these questions in mind that I compiled another round of seasonal song recommendations. This list is a combination of songs that I’ve been listening to all summer and stuff that I’ve just recently stumbled upon. Either way, this list will give you a nice mix of indie rock, pop and punk to finish this season and transition into the next one. Enjoy.

“New York Kiss” by Spoon

This is my favorite song right now and I can’t get enough of it. I touched on this in my full-length Spoon piece already, but if you need a primer: Spoon is an indie rock band that has been around for over 20 years that never stops experimenting with its sound. Once known for its brash sound, in the 2000s the band became masters of minimalism. On their latest album They Want My Soul, the band toyed with a handful of genres and sounds, culminating in their submission into synth pop on their last track. It’s especially affecting to listen to in the sequence of the album, but really, it’s pretty wonderful regardless of how you listen to it.

“Who Needs You?” by The Orwells

The sophomore release by The Orwells, Disgraceland unexpectedly became one of my most listened to albums this summer. The rambunctious band hails from Elmhurst, IL, and plays lively, loud music that fits somewhere between garage rock, punk rock and just plain old classic rock. Lead singer Mario Cuomo is a maniac whose Jim Morrison influence is obvious. He doesn’t play any instruments, so he puts all of his energy into wailing, flailing and generally acting insane onstage. His wild performance style is divisive; the kind of thing that causes self-serious people who pride themselves on being serious to question his authenticity. But it’s certainly entertaining.

In January, The Orwells performed their then-forthcoming album’s lead single – and best song – “Who Needs You?” on David Letterman. True to their reputation, the band gave an absurdly amusing and bewildering performance that became a minor viral hit on the Internet. At the time, it was hard to tell if Dave liked it or if he was just mocking them; however, he invited the band back this summer, so it seems he’s a fan. The recording on the album is obviously more polished, but this version is too ridiculous not to share.

“Girl Harbor” by Manchester Orchestra

Four albums into their career, Manchester Orchestra has become something that is supposed to be extinct: a great American rock band. They’re unique in that they’re considered an indie rock band, but their sound is flexible enough to span from mainstream rock radio to a punk music festival. Their latest album, Cope, is loud, intense, often dark and always contemplative. But on some songs, such as “Girl Harbor”, Manchester Orchestra lets enough sunlight in that even the downers are propulsive.

“Violent Shiver” by Benjamin Booker

“Violent Shiver” is the first single and lead track off of Benjamin Booker’s recently released self-titled debut album. As Brent alluded to in his piece at the beginning of the month, Booker is an artist worth monitoring. With remarkable guitar skills and a gravelly voice, Booker is currently on tour, playing exciting music with none other than guitar virtuoso Jack White.

“Dangerous” by Big Data

Earlier this month, a year-old song by the electronic artist Big Data went to the top of Billboard’s alternative songs chart. (It’s since been passed up by “Riptide” by Vance Joy, a pleasant but unremarkable song. Whatever.) It’s the laidback, yet definitely paranoid electronic jam that this summer was missing. It features an addicting trip hot beat and a funky bass line right out of the playbook of Gorillaz. But the best thing is its hilarious and disturbing music video, which takes insidious corporate marketing strategies, and our society’s obsession with sex and violence, to their idiotic logical conclusions.

“Adult Diversion” by Alvvays

If all of that was too heavy for you, a little Canadian indie pop band provides a light, breezy slice of surf rock on their self-titled debut album called “Adult Diversion” that will give you some relief. The band is called Alvvays (pronounced always; see?), and the song is about the very relatable struggle of trying to get someone to notice you. It’s whimsical, sweet and perfect for the last days of summer.

“Left Hand Free” by alt-J

Two years ago a group of English rockers called alt-J emerged and released an eclectic and highly praised debut album. A month from now, they will drop their highly anticipated sophomore release, This is All Yours. Thus far, three enticing but very different singles have been released. The first, the atmospheric – and oddly Miley Cyrus featuring! – “Hunger of the Pines” evokes a mood more than a season. The most recent, “Every Other Freckle,” is better suited for the fall. But the track released between the two, “Left Hand Free” is like the Southern flavored cousin of “Adult Diversion”. Although it’s more commercial than the band’s usual sound and the lyrics are open to interpretation, it’s an impeccable portrait of late summer.

“Brill Bruisers” by The New Pornographers

It’s a stretch to say that The New Pornographers are to indie pop what Spoon is to indie rock, but not too much of one. The New Pornographers, like Spoon, is one of those bands that consistently churns out albums that receive more critical acclaim than commercial. This past week, they released their sixth album, Brill Bruisers. It’s a joyous record that features many influences, but at times, reminds me of what it would sound like if The Shins committed to only making happy songs crossed with The Cars. If that’s difficult to construe, its title track and lead single, “Brill Bruisers” should clear things up.

Happy listening.

Blake Baxter is a native of Illinois and a 2013 graduate of Eureka College. He’s currently writes about television for Voice of TV, and previously covered the Carolina Panthers for Football.com during the 2013 season, as well as college basketball for ESPN Louisville during the 2012-13 season. Additionally, he’s written about sports, pop culture and politics for Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Voices,The College Fix, and The Wine and Cheese Crowd, among other places. Blake works in the communication and marketing field for Technical Solutions & Services, but aspires to write full-time in the near future. 

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