Opinion
3 min

Songs of summer

10 tunes for pool parties and other seasonal activities

The Pet Shop Boys of summer.
Pet Shop Boys: “Vocal” Pet Shop Boys

It’s that time of the year when we tirelessly search for fresh additions to our pool-party playlists. It’s often hard to gather just the right mix of summer anthems and laid-back tracks. Good news: Playlisp has compiled a list of 10 tunes to assist you in this endeavour. Of course, if you’re not feeling these songs, anything from the 2009 Brüno soundtrack should do the trick.  (Click on the song titles to hear the tracks and enjoy!)

Imagine It Was Us
Jessie Ware

After having a banner 2012 with her acclaimed debut, Devotion, Jessie Ware entered the world of dance-pop with the underrated gem “Imagine It Was Us.” The track, produced with frequent collaborator and UK funky-house master Julio Bashmore, debuted on the North American re-release of Devotion. Ware told me earlier this year, “I wanted something that was going to be quite fun to play at festivals and was a bit lively — and also just give a nod that I’m not abandoning the dancefloor totally.”

Vocal
Pet Shop Boys

The Pet Shop Boys will release their second album in less than a year later this summer. Last year’s Elysium, recorded in Los Angeles, was the British pop duo’s introspective, pool-lounging moment, but Electric heralds a return to bombastic London dance music. The second single, “Vocal,” is particularly massive, with Neil Tennant paying homage to the simple joys of vocal dance music: “Anything I’d want to say out loud will be sung/This is my kind of music.”

Painful Like
Austra

Toronto electro-pop group Austra upped their production prowess and overall sound quality with their Chicago-house-influenced Olympia album, which came out last month. “Painful Like,” the second single, furthers a long tradition of melancholy dance tunes by pairing uplifting and introspective lyrics about “the disillusionment of growing up gay in a small town” over a satisfyingly deep bass line.

Bad Skin
Hunx and His Punx

Bad skin, teen angst, social wimpery, trash, isolation, schizophrenia, peroxided delusion, rat parties and vengeance are a few of the topics trash rockers Hunx and His Punx tackle on their upcoming Street Punk LP. The lead single checks the first item on the aforementioned list in a concentrated burst of snarling energy.

Oh Come On
The Julie Ruin

Bikini Kill and Le Tigre front-woman Kathleen Hanna is making a gradual return to the spotlight after taking an extended hiatus to deal with Lyme disease. During that time, she turned her bedroom project, The Julie Ruin, into a full band that includes Kathi Wilcox, of Bikini Kill, and Kenny Mellman, of Kiki and Herb. On the bouncy lo-fi jam “Oh Come On,” the feminist punk rocker sounds as raw and animated as ever.

Body Party
Ciara

Ghost Town DJs’ “My Boo” just won’t quit. R&B diva Ciara is the latest top-40 artist to sample the 1990s bass anthem, transforming it into a sinewy slow jam with help from producer Mike Will Made It. The song marks a return to form for the singer who seemed trapped in music-industry marketing hell during an admirable attempt at reviving ’80s electro with singles like “Gimmie Dat” and “Sweat.”

Without You My Life Would Be Boring
The Knife

On Shaking the Habitual, Swedish pop innovators turned queer theory enthusiasts The Knife reinvented their sound by taking a detour into electro-acoustic improvisation. One of the album’s more rollicking (and accessible) tracks is “Without You My Life Would Be Boring,” a jerky percussive jam that whizzes and buzzes with whistles, overlapping tribal rhythms and shrieking vocals.

Defeated No More
Disclosure

Upstart British dance duo Guy and Howard Lawrence have pulled off the difficult feat of composing a dance album that works from beginning to end. Their debut LP, Settle, is packed with immaculately produced house bangers like “Defeated No More,” a floor-filler featuring Friendly Fires singer Ed Macfarlane that is typical of Disclosure’s ability to meld British house music and pop.

Look Around You
Boris Dlugosch, featuring Róisín Murphy

Ex-Moloko singer Róisín Murphy reunited with her “Sing It Back” and “Never Enough” collaborator Boris Dlugosch for this wistful, one-off single. Dlugosch’s thumping disco groove plus Murphy’s sophisticated pop sensibility equals pool-party-playlist magic.

No Bueno
Angel Haze

Although the unflinchingly irate refrain — “Bitches owe me!” — would suggest rapper Angel Haze is in no mood to be fucked with, the hilarious music video for “No Bueno” indicates otherwise. The Frank Borin–directed clip features a pair of drag queens, a spiral-permed little person, a handful of geriatrics and a topless dominatrix, among many others, doing their best to keep up with Haze’s rapid-fire flow.