Summer beers are filling the seasonal shelves, charcoal is on sale, and soon daylight savings time will give us a chance to finally enjoy our evenings outside. Just as nature sheds brown grass and grey skies for vibrant green growth and deep blue skies, we replace our muted earth tones with an energetic pallette. Our taste in fashion is echoed in our taste for music as the cozy sounds of winter become the banger anthems of summer.
In these last weeks of winter, I’ve been both savoring the cold weather vibe as well as building hype for grilling season by enjoying a mix of downtempo jams and upbeat anthems I just can’t resist dancing to. Here are some of my favorites:
Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf – Methods
Genre: Chill Rap
A record player’s soft crackle and a warm keyboard notes embrace you and invite you to listen carefully. Charizma’s soft voice compliments the atmosphere, but he raps with a cadence, emphasizing syllables on the backbeat.
Once you pick up the pattern in Charizma’s flow, you can feel the beat there. The first time I heard this song, I found myself nodding along to just the words over the imaginary beat. The beat kicks in right after Charizma says “Dreaming of the usual/A rap beat” and it is IMMENSELY satisfying to feel it fill that gap where you just know a beat belongs. I found his choice in wording there to be very interesting too, because I was definitely dreaming of a rap beat at that point in the song.
Vanilla – Golden
Genre: Electronic Jazz
I can’t get enough of Vanilla’s Origins mixtape. It’s warm, jazzy, and strong enough to dance to, but not too invasive, making it the perfect background music for anything. I chose to share “Golden” specifically because I think it has one of the most engaging vibes on the album.
A soft blanket of strings with a hint of accordion makes me feel like I’m floating through the canals of Venice on a warm evening. A saxophone sample then dominates the song with so much attitude it transforms the atmospheric sounds into a groovy jam. If you like what you hear I highly recommend giving the entire mixtape a listen.
Shad – Rose Garden
On the more upbeat end of the spectrum, “Rose Garden” has an unexpected story. The bright sample we hear in the beginning is from a song of same title performed by the girl group, The Three Degrees. Here’s where it gets interesting–The Three Degrees’s song is actually a cover of a pop country hit, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” by Billy Joe Royal.
Give this a listen and try to imagine it fitting into a rap song.
The worlds of country and rap rarely collide, and when they do, the results are hit or miss. Sometimes you get Yelawolf, but sometimes you get Kid Rock. Thankfully, “Rose Garden” is one of the winners. The bright, bouncy beat and uplifting lyrics raised my spirits on many long walks across campus during my undergrad.
GRiZ – It’s All Good
Genre: Electronic Funk
I’m a huge fan of GRiZ’s sound. It’s loud and energetic, but what makes you dance is that funky swing he’s able to capture from his samples. After hearing his “Say It Loud” album, I watched his behind the scenes video and was impressed to see that he actually tracked down funk musicians to jam with him and record all of the samples he used. His hands-on approach to making sure his samples all captured the right sound gives the album a polished, cohesive sound that forces me to dance along.
“It’s All Good” checks all the boxes for an electronic funk track. Soulful vocals over a piano cadence build with wind instruments and occasional wubs into a groovy dance anthem. The second drop, however, is where the true beauty of this song lies. Just when you think you’re safe in the funk, GRiZ reminds you that you’re supposed to be dancing and hits you around the 2:35 mark with a drop that barely gives you a chance to react before your body is moving.
Umphrey’s McGee – Booth Love
Genre: Jam band
Umphrey’s Mcgee is difficult to categorize. According to Wikipedia, “UM experiments with many musical styles, including rock, metal, funk, jazz, blues, electronic, bluegrass, and folk.” I would file Booth Love under funk.
The word of the day is smooth, and in that regard “Booth Love” is just buttery. My headphones actually slipped off my head the first time I heard this. Beautifully harmonized lyrics, a low, funky beat, and tastefully intrusive horn responses result in a versatile track that you’d wanna dance to in a bar but would also add to your mattress music playlist.
As excited as I am to get outside for concert season, I like to balance my musical diet with plenty of relaxing tracks to savor the precious few cozy weeks I have left before I put my sweatpants away for the summer. I’m eager to share the sounds of spring with you as they come and I encourage you to check out the other work of the artists I post if you like what you hear.