Songs of the Summer

Every summer, a few songs come along that dominate pop culture, blaring out of cars and on beaches, with even casual listeners recognizing the biggest hits. This summer was undoubtedly won by the inescapable “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber. Other major pop stars, like Bruno Mars, DJ Khaled, Ed Sheeran, and Kendrick Lamar, also took over the radio waves across

However, several lesser-known artists — Dan Auerbach, Trombone Shorty, Curtis Harding, and Son Little — also released new music this summer, including songs that may have been just as popular and omnipresent if had they had been attached to a mainstream pop star like Mars or Bieber. While the big hits of today often fade from memory not long after they fall from the charts, the inventive and soulful sounds of these four artists will likely captivate fans for years. Here are those songs of the summer.

1. Dan Auerbach, Waiting On A Song

Auerbach is the most famous of this group — as singer and guitarist for the Black Keys, he has already topped the Billboard Charts and snagged Grammys for singles like “Tighten Up” and “Lonely Boy.” Released in June, his second solo effort Waiting On A Song diverts away from the blues rock sound of the Black Keys, instead crafting an album that feels like it was just discovered in a time capsule from the 1970s.

While there are some slower, moodier songs like the masterpiece “King Of A One Horse Town,” this nostalgic-sounding collection features sunny tones that are a drastic contrast to the dark sounds of Auerbach’s work
with the Black Keys and The Arcs. The country-pop vibe and silvery guitar sounds make many of the songs seem like they were written by George Harrison, Tom Petty, or Paul Simon. This sound comes
in part from the team of greats Auerbach recruited to assist him—Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, Duane Eddy, and John Prine as well as several legends from Nashville, where Auerbach now lives. The airy guitar and soft vocals of Waiting On A Song make the album feel like it is was designed to be played in the summer, and the irresistible bounce of the catchy “Waiting On A Song” and “Shine On Me” feel like they were meant to be played cruising along in a Mustang Convertible on a sunny day.

2. Trombone Shorty, Parking Lot Symphony

The first two tracks of Trombone Shorty’s fourth studio album, Parking Lot Symphony, set the tone for how Shorty will blend sounds on the album. The opening song “Laveau Dirge No. 1,” a mournful, wailing jazz number, is followed by the up-tempo cover of The Meters’ “Ain’t No Use.” Hailing from New Orleans, Shorty fuses jazz with rock, soul, and funk, with a hint of hip-hop in some of the beats. While the album’s genius stems in part from its diversity — from the slinky, groovy “Dirty Water,” which features electric piano, to the lush harmonies on the title track and the relaxing, soulful “No Good Time” — Shorty makes his bid for song of the summer with three songs that feature memorable hooks and danceable rhythms: the anthemic Allen Toussaint cover “Here Come The Girls,” which celebrates his love for the opposite sex with a dynamic riff and a simple but infectious chorus, “Where It At?”, which is darker lyrically but remains catchy due to its funky groove, and the brash, hip-hop inspired “Familiar” that shows off Shorty’s swagger. Had Bruno Mars recorded any of these songs, you’d already know them by heart... and you still should.

3. Curtis Harding, “On and On” and “Wednesday Morning Atonement”

This summer, Harding released two singles, “On and On” and “Wednesday Morning Atonement,” giving fans a taste of what’s to come when he drops his sophomore album Face Your Fear next month. These tracks give a nod to his previous album, Soul Power, which combined elements of blues and rock for a vintage soul feel. “On and On” features an upbeat drum beat, hopeful horns, and Harding’s emotional, expressive vocals. “Wednesday Morning Atonement” is a murkier track, full of eerie piano, fuzzy guitar, and smokey vocals. Before Face Your Fear drops, be sure to check out Soul Power. Standout tracks include the inspiring “Keep On Shining,” the exuberant “Don’t Wanna Go Home,” and the bluesy “Castaway.”

4. Son Little, “Blue Magic (Waikiki)” and “Demon To The Dark”

Like his label mate Harding, Son Little is influenced by soul music. However, while Harding sticks with a more retro sound, Little uses that inspiration to create something wildly new. Little also released two singles this summer, “Blue Magic (Waikiki)” and “Demon To The Dark,” in anticipation of his second album, New Magic, which came out this past Friday. “Blue Magic” is a laid back song, with sunny vocals floating over a soft guitar melody and lighthearted xylophone. The song makes you let go and forget about the stress surrounding you and just enjoy the moment. “Demon To The Dark” feels gospel-inspired, with Little pleading for forgiveness with his smooth, honest vocals while gloomy piano plays underneath. These two tracks are a bit of a departure from Son Little’s eponymous first album, which had a much more bluesy, hazy feel. Furthermore, Son Little featured a heavier use of electronic sounds, such as on the psychedelic “Go Blue Blood Red.” Other highlights include the rambunctious “The River,” minimalistic and romantic “Lay Down,” and otherworldly “I’m Gone”. However, “Blue Magic” and “Demon To The Dark” are the perfect songs for a mellow summer day.