The Playlist Project: Beach Songs

Music Lists

Welcome to The Playlist Project, where we’ll be posing musical questions to Paste staff, interns and writers and then compiling their responses into a handy playlist before opening it up for discussion in our comments section.

Get your swim trunks and your flippy floppies: summer’s here, and that means it’s beach season. Whether or not you’re on a boat, much less living in a locale that’s actually near water, we all have certain songs that make us feel like we’re ready to go to the beach. So, this week’s Playlist Project prompt is…

What’s your go-to beach music (or, if you’re landlocked, pool music)?

Josh Jackson, Editor-in-Chief
Cayucas, Big Foot
In the last few years no record has come through the Paste office and made us long for summer days quite like Cayucas’ Big Foot. Released at the end of April in 2013, its arrival promised relaxing days at the beach, margarita in hand. Bouncy but laid-back, catchy but carefree, you can almost smell the sunscreen or honeysuckle or whatever smell you best equate with summer. It’s great for warm summer drives or freezing winter days when you need to hold onto the hope that the Earth’s rotation will eventually bring you back a little closer to the sun.

Bonnie Stiernberg, Music/TV Editor
Allah-Las, Worship the Sun
Unlike some of us on staff who seem to hate fun and things that are good (looking at you, Shane), I love the beach. And there’s nothing I’d rather hear when I’m laying out worshipping the sun than…well, Allah-Las’ Worship the Sun. Its surfy tracks are perfect, whether you’re actually hanging 10 or just spread out on a towel watching those little squiggly heat mirages rise up from the sand.

Hilary Saunders, Assistant Music Editor
Bob Marley, “Three Little Birds”
When you live in a city where you can enjoy the beach roughly 360 days of the year, it’s easy to forget that beach season is a luxury for some poor suckers. But whether I’m land-lubbing it somewhere or laying out on sandy shores, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” always sounds like island life to me, and reminds me not to worry about a thing.

Jim Vorel, News/New Bands Editor
Gold Motel, “We’re on the Run”
This song, and just about everything else on Gold Motel’s 2010 debut Summer House sound perhaps a bit less like purely beach music than the music you would listen to while getting psyched on your way to the beach. Top down on the convertible, cruising a mostly empty stretch of California highway on a sunny day, with an umbrella, blanket, and fully stocked cooler in the trunk, and a hooky, instantly memorable chorus that everyone in the car can belt in unison.

Garrett Martin, Comedy/Games Editor
General Johnson and the Chairmen of the Board, “Give Me Just a Little More Time”/ “39-21-46”
Pretty much the only music my parents ever listened to was beach music, aka Carolina beach music, like the Tams and the Embers and the Chairmen of the Board. General Johnson and the Chairmen’s “Give Me Just a Little More Time” and “39-21-46” predate the notion of “beach music” as a genre, but they helped create that sound, and are two of the best songs ever, so I’ll pick ‘em both. Johnson regularly worked the Carolina beach music circuit in the ‘80s and ‘90s, which is how I found out about him when I was a kid. I know it’s super literal to say that beach music is my go-to beach music, but there’s a reason it’s called that, you know? Also I kind of hate the beach, so I’m not the best guy to talk to here.

Michael Dunaway, Movies Editor
EELS, “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues”
The bass groove, the toe-tapping percussion, the feeling-good chord progression, they’re all there in “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues.” But leave it to the ever-weird Mark Oliver Everett to write the perfect summer song and pair it with probably the most squirm-worthy lyrics of any
song on this list. “The clown with the frown driving down to the sidewalk fair/ Finger on the trigger let me tell you gave us quite a scare,” indeed. But man, when that chorus kicks in, all the darkness disappears instantaneously. It’s seemingly too simple: “Goddamn right, it’s a beautiful day,” repeated a few times, then a flat “uh-huh” for emphasis. But goddamned right, it just works.

Sara Bir, Food Editor
The Ramones, “Rockaway Beach”
The Ramones were my first true love, but it wasn’t until I lived in New York City (Queens, specifically) that I fully understood the gist of their bare-bones Beach Boys ode “Rockaway Beach.” It’s not a beach song, per se, but a song about how gross and sticky the city feels on a sweltering day; it’s about escapism, about getting to the beach. How? Hitching a ride. Because the bus is, apparently, too slow, and it involves loud disco. Even a crowded city beach feels worlds away from dog-day concrete playgrounds and rooftops, and “Rockaway Beach” salutes its eternal promise of respite in some of Dee Dee Ramone’s most economic poetry: “Chewing out a rhythm on my bubble gum/Sun is out, and I want some.”

Kathryn Potraz, Assistant Design Editor
Grouplove, “Naked Kids”
“Naked Kids” is filled with Grouplove’s trademark optimism, hand-clapping and cheerful yelling. It’s impossible to listen to this song without feeling like summer’s around the corner; the lyrics hit the summertime trifecta of riding in a car with the windows down, playing chicken in the ocean, and enjoying a dinner with friends after a full day. The beat is infectious, and it’s the perfect choice for a drive to the beach—with the windows down, of course.

Shane Ryan, Staff Writer
Elliott Smith, “Waltz #2”
As I’ve mentioned before, I think the beach is pure hell. I’m a huge fan of the ocean and swimming pools, but sitting out on the beach all day long is a hot, sandy, sunburned nightmare. It’s like being stranded on a desert island, but without the adventure or the promise of death. Once, at the beach, I saw someone get knocked unconscious by a rogue umbrella, and when they took him off in the ambulance, I envied that man. Just kidding, that didn’t happen. But the beach is awful. It makes me sad, and so my beach song is the saddest song I can think of at the moment, “Waltz #2” by Elliott Smith.

Beca Grimm, Contributing Writer
Annie Philippe, “C’est La Mode”
Annie Philippe is like the cool girl who chills quietly in the corners of cocktail parties France Gall would throw. “C’est La Mode” roughly translates to “it’s the style,” which, when paired with jangly percussion, ‘60s psych guitars and Philippe’s saccharine vocals seems to suggest the style is margs rimmed in both salt and maybe a hint of sand. And that’s a style worth emulating.

Rachel Bailey, Contributing Writer
Teen, “Better”
“Better” by Teen is always on my beach/pool playlists. It’s catchy and it just kind of moseys along with this tossed-off confidence (“I’ll do it better than anybody else, ha!”) without really going anywhere. And well, that’s pretty much how I want to feel when I’m laying on the beach—confident without too much swagger and not in a hurry to get anyplace.

Pat Healy, Contributing Writer
Weezer, “Surf Wax America”
I try to go surfing at least once every summer. I am a horrible surfer. But every time I’m in the water on my rented board, waiting for a wave that I will inevitably wipe out on, I sing “Surf Wax America” to myself and wonder how many surfers Weezer reached with this song. Is it all just novices like me who sing “the sea is rolling like a thousand pound keg” to keep warm, or did Rivers Cuomo and company actually reach any legit surfers? It seems a little bit like it’s surf music for people who don’t actually surf, but I’m okay with that. You take your car to work, I’ll take my board, probably not more than once a year, and badly too.

Bryan Rolli, Editorial Intern
Wavves, King of the Beach
Wavves frontman Nathan Williams is a man of simple pleasures, namely getting really baked and lounging on the beach all day. These two pastimes account for the bulk of the lyrical themes on the group’s 2010 album, a sun-kissed ode to both the sound and essence of classic surf rock, tricked out with lo-fi sonics and William’s trademark nasally sneer. “You’re never gonna stop me,” he wails on the album’s title track. Hell no, dude, I’m right behind you.

Carina Browder, Social Media Intern
The So So Glos, “Island Ridin’”
The So So Glos’ “Island Ridin’” is more of a driving to the beach song than a beach song, but its carefree summer vibe and catchy chorus make it such a great tune. Despite the bleak lyrics, the song has a late night beach or pool party feel to it. And come on. Try to listen without singing along. I know I can’t get through without at least one “I’M. GETTING HIGH. ER THAN YOU.”

Now it’s your turn. Let us know your go-to beach songs in the comments below.

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