10 Essential Summer Albums

“Summertime and the living’s easy” or so Janis Joplin once said in her languid, sexy way. Sublime followed that with “Bradley’s on the microphone with Ras-MG” and I think we can all agree that “Summertime” is one of the greatest summer tracks of all time covered by a few different bands that make us feel like partying on the beach or heading out for a road trip. No matter what you’re doing this summer, a few great albums will make it even better.

Since I already tempted you with some Janis Joplin we’ll make her first on the list with Big Brother and the Holding Company and Cheap Thrills. This album just reminds me so much of my teenage summers. All the tracks scream out loud with that free spirit of summer, and of course “Summertime” is just about the best anthem of the season.

If Cheap Thrills gets the number one spot, then Sublime’s self titled album has to get the second for their amazing cover of “Summertime” as well as every other song on the album. The song “Santeria” has special summer meaning to me with all the memories attached to it from teenage years. I swear even if you’ve never heard it before, if you close your eyes when you listen to that song it can transport you to a California summer. Pretty much anything by Sublime makes me feel like summer.

I don’t think you can do a summer music list with mention The Beach Boys Sounds of Summer. They’ve been called by many, “the essential summer band” As if their name and the name of the album weren’t enough their sound and lyrics make you long for the sun, sand, and summer love.

Seeing as I’ve called Dazed and Confused one of the essential movies for the summer it only makes sense that the Dazed and Confused Soundtrack be included here. Plus seeing as one of the first songs is “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper, one of the most basic summer anthems, this list would be incomplete without this album. There are many other fantastic 70’s tracks that will make your summer road trip a cruise worth remembering.

Another road trip album that must be added to the list is Grateful Dead’s American Beauty. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a summer trip through the mountains without “Truckin'” playing at some point. “Sugar Magnolia” is a quintessential summer song that will really get you in the mood for a laid back summer, hippie style.

To me one of the first albums I thought of when I started pulling up memories of summer music was The Doors’ Waiting for the Sun. The song “Spanish Caravan” for me completely embodies summer, “Love Street” makes me wistful for teenage romance, and “Summer’s Almost Gone” takes us all the way to the end and then back again with “My Wild Love”. I really do love this album in summer, and any other season too.

Another album that takes me back to my summers is the untitled fourth album from Led Zeppelin often called IV. One of the most popular albums they ever released as it has “Stairway to Heaven”, but the songs that really say summer to me are “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Black Dog”. “Rock and Roll”, both the Led Zeppelin song and the genre as a whole bring me back to summers at the lake and cruises to the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.

It’s the happy days of summer that stick in your mind though, and songs like “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles. One of my favorite albums overall Abbey Road is full of upbeat summer music. “Come Together” has one of the most infectious beats that will bring together any party and fill it with that summer vibe.

Summer isn’t just about being a carefree teen, parties, and road trips. It’s about fun with your family and for me; summer was about hanging out with mom. Sheryl Crow and her Very Best of — album reminds me of my mom and our drives to chase the sunset. “Soak up the Sun”, “Winding Road”, and “If it Makes you Happy” may not be summer party anthems but they have that summer road trip feel, and the mom friendly music style.

Last but definitely not least Bob Marley and the Wailer’s Legend could fill up half a summer for me. Reggae is the tone and mood I wish every season could fill us with, but truly is only embodied by summer. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the lake, the ocean, or just wishing you were on a beach, “Three Little Birds” will make you happy. “Get up, Stand up” and “One Love” are essential Bob Marley songs as well and cement this album as the number one summer CD pick for me.