How music embodies the summer

What do you remember most about summer? Maybe it’s the annual trip to the cottage, lounging for days at the beach or, if you’re like me: watching all five seasons of The Wire in an infinite loop for the months of July and August.

Whatever your summer memories might be, I bet they don’t include the music you listened to. And if these memories do: go away, you’re ruining my article.

We never really think about it, but the music we listen to can define our summer as much as our experiences and memories that follow.

The tunes that you blast with your buddies at the cottage become a part of your summer experience, as well as simultaneously terrifying and deafening any squirrels within earshot. In fact, any music you hear — whether it’s on television, at the movies or on the radio — becomes a tiny piece of our lives.

Ultimately, the soundtrack to our summer determines, in one way or another, how we experience and remember the events of those sunny, warm and wonderful months.

However, when given a choice, what do we include on our summer playlist? While all music holds some value for us, what is it that makes some songs more attractive to play during summertime? What makes summer music feel so, “summer-y?”

You all know what I mean. Some songs are obviously seasonal. How could The Beach Boys be anything but summer music? Who plays Christmas carols at Easter?

But some are more subjective. For me, Arcade Fire has always felt like springtime tunes, and Modest Mouse is a walk to the bus stop in autumn. It doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t have to, and it will always be different for each person who hears it.

Why don’t you take a second to think about what would be on your summer music playlist, and try to think about why each song made the cut.

The first indication of a song’s “summer-y-ness” can be the song itself. Does it have catchy riffs? Bright tones? Is it so cheerful it makes your ears bleed?

Chances are it’ll go great in your summer playlist. But not always, everyone has their own perceptions and preferences, and my summer sing along might be your autumn antidepressant.

While I find it best to avoid generalizations, it’s possible to go as far as classifying an entire genre as seasonal. Look at reggae. Now some dudes will tell you, “Hey bro, reggae is for all the time,” but I don’t buy that. Reggae is a summer beat, just like Psychobilly is Halloween music and Nu Metal is not. More often than not, the music itself will tell us when we’ll get the most enjoyment out of it.

And then, there are always the lyrics. You tell me what sounds like a better fit for your summer playlist: “Summertime Blues” by The Who or “This Winter I Retire” by Said the Whale? If you said the song with ‘winter’ in the title, maybe you should step outside for a second and then open your eyes.

Lyrics can make it fairly obvious what belongs where, even without the word summer or winter blatantly stated.

If you love summer, that will influence the way that you pick your playlist; songs that have cheerful lyrics or happy endings might dominate.

If you’re one of those people who say they like winter better, head north, and don’t let me catch you ‘round here any more. You have 24 hours.

Memory also creates powerful associations between experiences and music. I still remember Japandroid’s album, Post-Nothing, as the perfect driving music to my summer job at A&W. I’ll also always remember smelling like ketchup on the way home.

All of us inevitably create memories that include music: the song you first sang karaoke to, the song you lost your virginity to, or the song that played while your girlfriend broke up with you at a Nickelback concert.

Obviously not all of these associations are positive (but at least you’ll never listen to Nickelback again).

I’ll always remember the lyric that played right before I had my first car crash — “Live through this, and you won’t look back” from Stars’ “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead.” Creepy right? But it only serves to show how we associate songs with summer or any other experience, largely because of memory.

And finally, never ignore your gut. If instinct tells you to play that song now, play it, because you’re probably right.

Everyone else may ask why you’re playing Cannibal Corpse at a summer pool party, but hey, it’s your playlist. Besides, you’re the only one with any real taste in music anyway.

Make some memories this summer, and remember to turn up the volume.

Leave a Reply