Ten Songs You May Have Missed in 2020 But Can Listen to On Repeat Over Summer
Refresh your summer playlist with these tracks — from feel-good hip hop to anthemic indie-rock.
December 21, 2020
In any other year, the songs of the summer are those that have been heard blaring from car windows, festival stages and nightclub speakers. While we've had a few songs take on this energy despite the circumstances ('Blinding Lights', 'Heat Waves' and 'WAP' to name a few) for most of the year, it's just been us and our Spotify accounts. Now, as we head into what we are all hoping to be an action-packed, smoke-free and dance floor-heavy summer, it's the perfect time to refresh your summer playlist. Here are ten tracks you may have missed this year that are bound to give you those summer warm and fuzzies, primed and ready to soundtrack your road trips, bushwalks and pool parties.
GOLDEN VESSEL: MIDWEST
Dive headfirst into the feeling of a summer road trip with this track of the latest Golden Vessel album colt. Each song on the album is primed for stares out of a car window, which the creative force behind the project Maxwell Byrne seemed to know, releasing it alongside a road trip-themed visual album titled eyes on the road. 'Midwest' encapsulates this the best. As soon as the first note hits and Byrne's deep baritone vocals kick in, you can see the trees passing by your window, stereo up, snacks on hand. The gentle instrumental plays off the persistent bass to create a sense of forward momentum. It's an anthemic ode to hitting the road with your crush and, while we may not be able to drive across the midwest right now, it's the perfect time to take to the road and explore regional Australia.
KHRUANGBIN: TIME (YOU AND I)
Like their music, the cover of Khruangbin's fourth studio album Mordechai explodes with colour. They're a group built on bringing forward the brightest and bounciest sounds of past generations into today. The highlight of the album is 'Time (You and I)', an easygoing soundtrack fit for any summer occasion. Sunshine exudes from every second of its five and a half minute run time. Over a smooth disco-heavy instrumental Khruangbin come to the conclusion that nothing is perfect and everything comes to an end, but that's ok. They're along for the ride, one full of baselines and dance floors. Towards the end of the track, the band recite the phrase 'that's life' translated into various languages. Turkish, Korean, Hebrew — it's universal. We're all here living our lives, just trying our best to have fun.
LIL SPACELY: STILL TRAPPIN' (FEAT. ELIJAH YO)
2020 was a landmark year for Australian hip hop. Artists like The Kid Laroi, Onefour, Sampa the Great and Tkay Maidza saw overseas success previously unseen in the local scene. The area undoubtedly leading the pack has been Western Sydney, catching the attention of US rap superstars and international record labels. Among it all, Lil Spacely, one of the area's rising stars, released 'Still Trappin', a sonic victory lap for Western Sydney. Bursting at the seams with sunshine, the track's beat glistens as Spacely tells us of his come up, ambitions and his love for his hometown of Blacktown. The track's biggest pitfall is that it was released during a winter lockdown. There couldn't a song more suited to a summer party — and luckily we have all summer to enjoy it.
BIG DOG: FIGHT IT NOW
'Fight It Now' is the debut single from Sydney band Big Dog. Written during the devastation of the 2019/20 bushfire season, the song conceals a thread of climate anxiety under rich guitars and gentle melodies. Wrapped in warm Australiana reminiscent of Paul Kelly or The Go-Betweens, the track is filled with nostalgic energy. This warmth softens the blow of its cautionary lyrics, warning of future smoke-filled summers without immediate climate action. Musically, 'Fight It Now' conjures feelings of sitting on your porch on a balmy afternoon, but, lyrically, it's a sombre reminder of the country's climate crisis, and as a new summer begins with more extreme weather events, the song remains as relevant as ever.
DUA LIPA: LEVITATING
Dua Lipa's Future Nostalgia was created for late nights and bustling dance floors, two things that seemed like distant memories throughout the majority of 2020. Despite this, the album managed to blaze a global trail of feel-good pop energy. Any of the singles from the 80s-tinged dance-pop album could fit snuggly into your summer playlist (especially as dance floors and nights out return across the country) but 'Levitating' is the most joyous of the bunch. The anthemic chorus, punchy bassline and Dua Lipa's electric vocals radiate fun. It's overflowing with the energy we've been missing in 2020 and everything we're hoping 2021 will be.
True to its name, 'Warm' is a sunny slice of bedroom pop. Wollongong artist Stevan lays his heart on the line over twinkling synths and a subtle bass groove. Sporadic drums run through the song providing momentum. Completing the wholesome summertime energy of the track is the video, starring Stevan and his new best friend Tilly, a blue heeler cross border collie, and their adventures checking off classic summer bucket list activities: exploring the beach, hanging out at the park and eating rainbow Paddle Pops. Whether your partner in crime is human or dog, 'Warm' will help fill you with adventurous and heartfelt energy you're in need of this summer.
PHOEBE BRIDGERS: KYOTO
Phoebe Bridgers' take on the world struck a chord with many this year, with the singer going from underground singer-songwriter to Grammy-nominated Tik Tok sensation. Her music is effortlessly relatable and realistically bleak without ever slipping into overbearingly sad. She approaches topics like loneliness and anxiety with a sense of humour and wit. In a difficult year full of isolation, this perspective was comforting. 'Kyoto' served as Bridgers' breakout hit and an endearing ballad that refuses to get tired. Its bright guitars and horn section are contrasted by the track's dark lyrics of travelling through Japan while dealing with persistent calls from your ex. In Bridgers' world, just like in real life, everything can get pretty overwhelming, but we'll get through it all if we just don't take ourselves too seriously.
BANOFFEE: TENNIS FAN (FEAT. EMPRESS OF)
A typical element of the Australian summer is the Australian Open. The sight of an international tennis star out on a sweltering Melbourne day is as engrained in the fabric of this time of year as much as an icy pole or overcrowded swimming pool. Banoffee's 'Tennis Fan' builds itself around a series of tennis samples from umpire calls to balls being struck. Somehow, she weaves the samples into a metaphor for social anxiety and loneliness, lamenting on not being invited to a tennis match or the movies. It's layered songwriting, but, most of all, the song's a fun summer bop filled with dance grooves and high school nostalgia. With 'Tennis Fan' and its subsequent album Look At Us Now Dad, Banoffee marked herself as one of Melbourne's most exciting young artists and the queen of the tennis court, no matter what her crush says.
THE AVALANCHES: MUSIC MAKES ME HIGH
Throwing back to their classic 2000 album Since I Left You, 'Music Makes You high' throws together an eclectic collection of samples in the process of building a kaleidoscopic collage of sound. Through the magic of The Avalanches, it bottles the energy of being in a buzzing crowd hanging on every note of the music. It's the sound of a packed 1am DJ set at Freda's or an overflowing side stage, late afternoon at a music festival. The song's distant crowd noises, energised dance groove and 1980s disco sample transport you to possibly the closest thing to a dance floor many of us experienced this year. Like so many great Avalanches tracks, 'Music Makes You High' takes pieces of music history and compresses them into three minutes of joy.
FLEET FOXES: SUNBLIND
Fleet Foxes returned in 2020 with their sweetest, most assured album yet. In many ways, it felt detached from the year's doom and gloom, preoccupied with its own journey of growth, as lead singer Robin Pecknold reckons with life and growing older. Of all the songs on the record, 'Sunblind' feels the most in touch with the year we've had. Partnered with triumphant instrumental, Pecknold sings of finding comfort in the works of late musicians (Bill Withers, John Prine, Jeff Buckley) and in nature, specifically water. While it may not have been intentional at the time of writing, when he sings "but I'm loud and alive, singing you all night", it's a perfect soundtrack to riding off into 2020's sunset. Everything may not be perfect but we're moving forward into brighter days.
Listen on Spotify below.
Published on December 21, 2020 by Ben Hansen