If you calculate summertime according to the weather, then we’re halfway through the season. If you follow the calendar definition, kicking off on June 21 and ending on Sept 22, then we’ve still got plenty of summer days to kill. The one thing we can all agree on, though, is the need to maximize the remaining days no matter what: sipping shandies at your neighborhood barbecue, digging through impromptu yard sales, reading along the Esplanade, sweating out the toxins at an overcrowded house show, or walking around at night without the hint of a chill in the air.
This also means it’s time to declare a song of the summer. That coveted title is given to a track you can’t get out of your head, anticipate finding on the radio dial, and eventually succumb to, letting it soundtrack your summer whether you intended for it to or not. While we at DigBoston have had our fair share of Scorpion singles and Ariana Grande ballads shoved down our throats, we prefer the more tried and true taste of music from our own backyard. Why let somebody else score your 2018 memories when a neighbor could, and is, doing a much better job of capturing the vibe?
That’s why we’re presenting our top picks for Boston’s official song of the summer. From rap to post-punk to acoustic folk, our city has eight frontrunners worth your ears. Don’t be surprised if you wind up spinning all eight tracks this summer, because sometimes picking a single hit just isn’t possible.
Elephants – “Burger Drama”
It’s been two long years without new music from Elephants, which makes the four-piece’s return to form—the two-track Birthday EP—feel particularly vibrant. Lead single “Burger Drama” is three minutes of pure indie rock bliss. From the vaguely disheveled guitar melody Ryan Young tears through to Loren Ipsum’s chipper backing harmonies, it’s an energetic song worth pregaming to in your bedroom and then putting on at the party later that same night, reckless drunk dancing encouraged.
Floyd Fuji – “House Party”
Take a second to enjoy that smoke for an extra minute or two. If you’re blasting “House Party,” then that means there’s no rushing around this summer, so take your time. Donning the new moniker Floyd Fuji, Kyle Thornton rides the neverending vibe of a Mellotron on this groove-laced soul song while trying to convince a girl to swing by his party. It’s a classic scenario with a familiar vibe, mellowed out to the max, but he makes it his own on “House Party,” creating a new face as Floyd Fuji while also using the Thornton strengths to stretch beyond his usual pop songwriting.
SUPERTEEN – “First Time Living”
Those of you who treat Dripping like gospel and Lucky Leaves like dessert will find a new purpose in your days with Over Everything, the newest album from Salem rock act SUPERTEEN. As gripping as the record is, it’s the knotty, frantic, post-punk epilogue “First Time Living” that will make you feel like it’s, for fear of missing the obvious comparison, your first time living. It’s the musical equivalent of feeling so overwhelmed that you start to cry tears of stress, but midway through the misting realize there’re a few trusted friends by your side ready to help you conquer it all, no matter how messy that may seem. Tension has always had a funny way of amplifying bliss.
The Drunk Monkeys – “Always Wasted”
On the flip side of stress is the Drunk Monkeys with “Always Wasted.” While the song title alone sounds very Boston and very summer, it’s not trying to engage with that brand of recklessness. Instead, the song willingly toils with self-doubt and sadness over a pool of cascading horns and jazz-like acoustic pop. It seems to pair with the chorus line (“I’ll be just fine”) perfectly until you realize each verse is told from the perspective of a child, a teenager, and an adult respectively, the slow acknowledgement that the statement is less reassuring as you age. It’s a summer song for those who want to embrace realism without losing their happiness.
Billy Dean Thomas – “Rocky Barboa”
There’s no more addicting anthem in Boston’s music scene right now than “Rocky Barboa” by Billy Dean Thomas. The self-proclaimed “Queer B.I.G.” details what it’s like to rise up when friends shoot you down, life throws you roadblocks, and money isn’t stacking up with ease. True to title, it’s the rap song about building yourself up when others won’t, especially when you know you’re worth it, and then building off that even more. Billy Dean Thomas is the rap contender Boston needs, and this slice off the conceptual EP of the same name is a one-stop shop to understanding why. Watch the music video to see what we mean.
Firewalker – “Cyanide”
Those looking for a heavier soundtrack will be eager to blast “Cyanide” out their car speakers. Firewalker has been making subtle but steady ripples in the hardcore scene outside of Boston. Within city limits, their music feels particularly important, a type of hardcore that stomps down hard and lets singer Sophie Hendry stomp down even harder without becoming overdramatic. Hendry’s growl borders on death metal delivery, which means you nod along, partially out of fear, when she sings, “I just hope this message gets to you on time” even if hardcore isn’t your thing.
Brittle Brian – “Big Piano, Passive House”
According to Brittle Brian, “Big Piano, Passive House” isn’t actually all that new. The standalone song was released because it’s an old track she finally felt ready to purge. Perhaps that’s why the song has an inexplicably hesitant vibe, like Brittle Brian herself is beginning to bubble with emotion but isn’t sure what’s causing it. As each instrument enters the frame—crackling ambient air, piano, keys, squeaky saxophone—quieter than the next, she finally begins singing, narrating her daily activities with a side of self-harmonizing that feels despondent. It may not scream sunshine to most, but it will to anyone who blasts Grouper from their bedroom as an August ritual.
The Water Cycle – “Old Enough”
It wouldn’t be summertime in the city if there weren’t a few college kids still lingering in between the cracks of the sidewalks. Chances are the majority of them are enjoying the Water Cycle. While most of the band’s music feels like some post-Mac Demarco jangle pop, the charming acoustic number “Old Enough,” the opening track off The Water Cycle Falls in Love EP, is a shoe-in summer singalong. With a snarky guitar line, the trio talks about being heartsick during early adolescent years and studying romance advice. If you squint, it’s like listening to Jonathan Richman’s solo material while flinging fries to the seagulls on Revere Beach.