The Alternative Sound of Summer 2020

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Graphics by Nicole Bae

By Megan Doherty, WERS Staff Writer

After months of dreary days accompanied by overcast weather, the sun is finally starting to shine through. You know what that means ‒ time for new music! The quest for the ultimate alternative jam is always hard. For me, streaming service recommendations always seem to be hit or miss. Oftentimes, they make me think songs were just thrown onto playlists not because they're good, but simply because they're new. 

So, I've made it my mission to cut out the hard work and marketing nonsense for you to find all the best new summer jams. With bright, lively tunes, this playlist will help you embrace the warmth that's headed this way. Whether you're cruising down the highway, tanning by the pool, or enjoying the cool air conditioning inside, these tracks will get your head bopping and your heart into the summer feeling. 

Don't Let Me Down ‒ Milky Chance, Jack Johnson

If you've been listening WERS lately, you've probably noticed by now we're loving this tune. "Don't Let Me Down" sounds like a classic Milky Chance song that's funky, danceable, and unique, but has an added light, summer groove throughout. 

To make this song even better, it features folk-rock icon Jack Johnson. Milky Chance lead singer Clemens Rehbein's and Johnson's distinct voices and unique musical style blended together has the potential to make this track the song of the summer. They've modernized folk in this bouncy, summer tune and, as a result, brought the genre back into the spotlight.

Cheesin' ‒ Cautious Clay, Remi Wolf, sophie meiers, Claud, HXNS, Melanie Faye, Still Woozy 

Contemporary R&B, breezy pop, and a smooth guitar solo to wrap it up? Yes, please. Don't be overwhelmed with the amount of people featured on "Cheesin'." It sounds just like Cautious Clay's signature production style, but with added vocalists taking turns on each verse. 

My only complaint with this song is that it's too short ‒ I want more! Whenever I listen to "Cheesin'," I imagine a jam session between a group of friends. I see them all singing and playing over a drum loop and a bright, groovy guitar riff. I really hope this is how Cautious Clay started writing this fun tune, and if so, I want to be invited next time. 

Kerosene! ‒ Yves Tumor

The best word to describe Yves Tumor's music is cool. Sitting between psych-rock and modern pop, it's nothing like I've heard before. I found "Kerosene!" when shuffling through my new indie playlist, and I'm so happy I didn't mindlessly play my usual go-to music that day. 

Filled with glam, soul, psych rock, Britpop, R&B grooves, and an audacious guitar solo, it's a new favorite of mine. Just as quickly as I fell in love with "Kerosene!," Yves Tumor's latest album Heaven To A Tortured Mind also became a staple in my everyday listening. The whole record sounds like a commanding type of modern rock that draws you in with Tumor's distinct persona and style. Genre-bending doesn't fully capture the extent of how innovative and unique their music is. It's an enticing evolution of genres with attitude, luxury, and experimentation that induces a state of daydreaming.  

Summer Girl ‒ HAIM

"Summer Girl" was one of the first singles HAIM put out from their latest album, which came out at the end of June. It radiates warmth and peace in the form of soft vocals, soothing saxophone, and a simple bass line. Every riff, loop, and solo seems effortlessly breezy yet whole. The somewhat minimalistic approach emits a calming, carefree feeling. 

I really hope we get to see "Summer Girl" make an appearance in a movie. Whenever I hear this breezy bop, it immediately takes my mind to vividly see two women on a road trip. They're cruising in a convertible with the top down, waving their hands like a worm through the warm wind. Sunglasses block out the sun's glare, allowing them to completely relax. 

Hurry Home ‒ No Rome ft. beabadoobee & Jay Som

If you like beabadoobee, Jay Som, acoustic songs, and The 1975-style production, this song can easily become a favorite. It begins with acoustic guitar and airy vocals, then transitions into a busier section with its percussion and horns. Even though the production ramps up, the song remains smooth and easygoing throughout. 

You probably already know beabadoobee and Jay Som as incredible artists who fuse the likes of bedroom pop with rock and grunge. No Rome creates a similar sound with his music, but places more emphasis on the Chillwave genre. Their three voices and artistic style effortlessly complement each other. It's so beautiful that it feels like they were meant to write and perform music together. 

Say What You Want (I Like Who I Am) ‒ The New Respects, Josiah 

Just from the title alone, you should already be a fan - or, at the very least, intrigued. I know I was when I first saw it. The New Respects are a family band from Nashville. Thanks to WERS, I was introduced to the pop-soul band when I got to see Ripe live. From the first strum of a guitar, their strikingly fun and playful energy amazed me. 

"Say What You Want (I Like Who I Am)" has influences from a little of everything ‒ funk, pop, rock, hip-hop, you name it. All the various musical components meld and groove into one buoyant jam that personifies and radiates confidence.

Break My Baby ‒ KALEO

KALEO brings a darker yet upbeat feeling with "Break My Baby." A somewhat menacing-sounding guitar riff cuts open the rock track; It's intense. However, their signature whistling and woos balance out the moodiness. 

When the chorus comes, lead singer JJ Julius Son switches to falsetto to accompany an acoustic guitar before the electricity and energy crashes back in. I always love the raspiness in his voice, and amping it up for "Break My Baby" was definitely a smart and effective choice. The grit acts as the perfect enhancement to the blues elements in this tune. With the guitar's strum pattern and overall powerful feeling the song projects, it reminds me of Hozier's sound but with heavy, fuzzy guitar riffs.

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