Before the leaves turn red and we shift our gears into the chilly fall, here are ACRN’s certified summer bangers of 2019. Add them to your Back-to-School playlist while summer extends its stay!
Emily DiAlbert, Editorial Director: Tyler, The Creator – “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU”
The most iconic breakup song of all time, Tyler, The Creator’s “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU” introduces listeners to the acceptance level of the five stages of grief—aka the best one when you’re getting out of a relationship. In the first half of the track, the instrumentation alone—marked by electric staccato beats, honeyed background vocals and flowing synth harmonies—will have you unashamedly dancing like Carlton from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”.
The lyrics make it even better. Even if you’re not going through a breakup, you’re singing “My love’s gone” right along with Tyler. The second half of the track is a lot more sentimental and evolved, which transforms the track from “banger” to “banger with a side of tears.” The electric beats from earlier begin to shimmer, accented by elongated baselines, and Tyler does something that’s hard to do after your ex-partner screws you over in some way: he thanks them. While the song fades out shortly after, the emotions it evoked are stuck with you. “Thank you for the time, thank you for your mind / But I don’t ever want to fall in love again.” Dang. Maybe it was a sad girl summer after all.
Marvin Dotiyal, Features Editor: Wolf & Bear – “Deleto”
You’d be lying if you said summer isn’t associated with fun and paradise. But we all know that the best part of it is undeniably the consequences—the rude awakenings that tailgate your hazy misadventures, the futile attempts in piecing a puzzle of your memory and the stinging aftertaste of existential dread to top it off just right.
“Deleto” by Wolf & Bear is the morning after, staying cool under the parasol with a watered-down screwdriver on the side as if everything is copacetic. With swanky guitar maneuvers and a buoyant mid-tempo groove, the song radiates its sunny, suave attitude in a matter of seconds with a crisp drum intro. The Sacramento post-hardcore stalwarts abstain from their frenetic songwriting; instead, they tone it down with a slight change of pace, honing their musicality in a different style. But behind the song’s poolside melodies and wavy luminances of reverb, the lyrics reveal the opposite: the looming anxiety that keeps you preoccupied—until you make the same mistakes again in the best summer of your life.
Abby Jeffers, News Editor: Snarls – “Walk In The Woods”
Though it was released late in the summer, “Walk In The Woods” by Columbus indie-rock band Snarls captures the warmth of the season well. Its glimmering melody and jangly guitar chords provide no shortage of levity to the track, and the guitar and bass hold just enough grit to offset the track’s clean vocals. Vocalists Chlo White and Riley Hall trade melodies and golden harmonies as Hall begs, “I can’t quit you, baby / No matter how hard I try.”
“Walk In The Woods” is far more alternative and glittering than Snarls’ only other release, a self-titled EP from 2018 that leans more toward soft emo music. The latest single both literally and metaphorically marks a brighter future for the band’s forthcoming debut record. Still, though it is a departure from the band’s previous tones, “Walk In The Woods” maintains the same enthusiasm and magnetism, and Snarls’ shining new sound is nearly irresistible.
Lane Moore, Reviews Editor: State Faults – Dreamcatcher, Pt. II
While visceral screamo isn’t usually synonymous with fun in the sun, State Faults’ long-awaited third LP, Clairvoyant, defines the ethereal summer feelings that have no definite names—they are sentiments that can only be felt. The metaphors of “Dreamcatcher, Pt. II”, the album opener, are as elusive and intangible as a “fistful of summer,” radiating imminence before ultimately slipping through the cracks between one’s fingers.
However, my favorite quality of State Faults is their ability to find joy and vindication within that feeling of empty handedness, as vocalist Jonny Calvert-Andrew exclaims, “A wish on a dead star / I’m opened up / My heart spills its hate / Sorrow escapes me / Is this awake?” The track’s instrumentation alternates between spiritual ambiance and zealous intensity, and this juxtaposition makes each of Calvert-Andrew’s low hums and grave cries feel especially moving and cathartic.
“Dreamcatcher, Pt. II” is an anthem for the summer lull. Its tension and preoccupied thought feel like waiting for a text on a lonely summer night, while its excitement and energy is the fleeting high of a summer fling. It’s a song for daydreaming, hope, and most importantly, becoming “lost in together.”
Jessica Jones, Copy Editor: Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave”
I stumbled across this song during one of the many heat waves that occurred in Columbus this summer. The upbeat tune opens with your classic Motown sound—twangy guitars, staccato horns and jingly bells. I found myself listening to this song over and over again, not only because it was perfectly fitting during the 98 degree days, but also because of how dang catchy the lyrics are!
“Heat Wave” was being played any chance I got: in my car, by the pool or in the comfort of my own home next to the AC. The swingy beat coupled with the chilling harmonies of the Vandellas never fails to give me goosebumps, even when I’m sweating my ass off in the sun. How many songs can you say make you feel like that?! While the song may not exactly be about a literal heatwave, it’s about that feeling you get when you fall in love (or perhaps, lust). Martha Reeves did a perfect job comparing those longing passions to the dog days of summer, earning itself a permanent spot on my summertime playlist.
Lauren McCain, Contributor: Anderson .Paak – “Jet Black” (feat. Brandy)
If you found your summer to be lacking in funk, soul or ’70s nostalgia, look no further than Anderson .Paak to find the solution. With the release of his fourth studio album, Ventura, .Paak fully immerses listeners in a vintage ’70s groove in a way that he hasn’t before, even managing to snag a duet on one track with arguably one of the most influential Motown singers of all time, Smokey Robinson.
“Jet Black” sounds like it boogied straight out the lit-up dance floor with its funky beat and bouncing rhythms, and a feature from popular ’90s R&B singer Brandy brings a sensual tone into the mix. .Paak and Brandy’s voices melt smoothly as butter together, resulting in a dizzying, seductive song that requires a lot of restraint to not groove to—I wouldn’t know, as I have never tried to resist the Groove™. If you missed having this song in your soulful summer playlist, it’s never too late to add it for the upcoming funky fall (and you should).
Anna Birk, Contributor: Childish Gambino – “Summertime Magic”
Childish Gambino’s song, “Summertime Magic”, is charming enough to make anybody “want to dance all night long,” as he would put it in his own words. As part of his 2018 EP, Summer Pack, Gambino hits all of the summer feels right on the mark. Summer Pack followed “This Is America,” Gambino’s 2018 spring single that brought listeners awareness regarding race and violence. “Summertime Magic” gave a slight switch-up, considering he often produces albums that hold heavier tones.
From the opening marimba beats to the multiple overlays of Gambino’s voice in each refrain, this song has it all. The song tells a story of endless summer love and the perfect bliss that encompasses it. Gambino holds a talent for securing empathy from his listeners—and through a buttery vocal resonance—accomplishes this feat perfectly. The steady rhythm throughout the song allows for the feeling of being in a tropical paradise while a beat drop in the chorus adds excitement. As melodies grow throughout the song, a blissful sentiment is captured, and the image of a perfect summer night illuminates. The lyrics, “You feel like summertime,” and “Do love me, do,” welcome an old school nostalgia, leaving listeners wanting more.
Taylor Linzinmeir, Contributor: Lizzo – “Truth Hurts”
I think it would be a serious disservice to talk about our top summer songs without mentioning “Truth Hurts”, the iconic track off the deluxe version of Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You. The song has spent the last three weeks sitting very comfortably as number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 and probably won’t be going anywhere any time soon. At its core, “Truth Hurts” is an upbeat post-breakup anthem, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a song for literally anyone doing anything, at any time. Having a bad day? Listen to “Truth Hurts” and remind yourself that you are, in fact, that bitch. Having a good day? Listen to “Truth Hurts” and make it even better. The lyrics are uplifting, the chorus is catchy and the beat is strong. There is nothing more you can ask for in a boppin’ summer song.
Jonah Krueger, Contributor: Clarence Clarity – “Bipolar Rainbows”
Let’s face it: underneath the sunshine-induced smiles and the extravagant beach parties, there lies a certain melancholy—a melancholy that is somehow utterly linked to the summer. Though released in December, no song embodies such a feeling in recent memory like underground, maximalist pop icon Clarence Clarity’s “Bipolar Rainbows”. I mean, with a song title like that, how could it not?
Clarence Clarity pulls this off because of one simple fact; the man understands the mechanics of popular music like few do. If he didn’t pull it off with such style, it would almost border on the cliché. The track features an ever addictive hook, booming claps, a slowed-down bridge and even a “so-good-you-should-have-seen-it-coming” key change for the last chorus. It is an undeniable pop song at heart that deals tastefully with serious emotions, all done in the unmistakable voice of an artist with less than 100,000 monthly listeners on Spotify—how could it not be every indie boy’s song of the summer?
Micah Organ, Contributor: Tyler, The Creator – “I THINK”
Tyler, The Creator has been making hits since his Odd Future days, so it’s no surprise that his solo material still can’t be beaten. “I THINK” takes the contrast between a danceable beat and the uncertainty and anxiousness laced in the lyrics. The chorus is undeniably catchy and likely to get stuck in your head, much like it was stuck in mine for most of the summer. Even though lyrically, this song may not fit the traditional summer vibe, I found myself drawn to the simplicity of its message paired with the joyous, synth-heavy beat. This song has so much flexibility to it you could listen to it hanging out with friends, or you could just as easily listen to it alone in your room at night, in your feelings. I can’t say I didn’t do both over the course of the summer.
Amy Szmik, Contributor: Of Monsters and Men – “Wild Roses”
After a four year hiatus, Icelandic indie-pop band Of Monsters and Men finally released a brand new album, Fever Dreaming. Transitioning from their traditional folk sound, the quintet shocked their fans when their new album was more pop-influenced. Released initially as a single before the actual album, “Wild Roses” is a pop-tinged song with personal lyrics. Danceable and catchy, the song just puts you in a summer mood to be outside all day long.
Frontwoman Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir’s voice blends beautifully with the upbeat noise of the horns and synths. The catchy melodies don’t distract from the deeper meaning of the song, as it explores sadness. Full of symbolism, the poetic lyrics hold so much meaning that touches the listener—while making them want to get up and dance. Of Monsters and Men make a strong comeback full of life without losing their original magic.
Jackson Stein, Contributor: Charli XCX & Christine and the Queens – “Gone”
“Gone” is everything I want from a pop song. It’s immediate, hard-hitting and forward-thinking enough to provide a futuristic edge and flair to its enormous performances. Ever since its release in July, the pop epic instantly became a summer essential. The glossy production, tight rhythms and flawless chemistry between Charli XCX and Christine and the Queens make the track feel so much larger than life.
Charli’s evolution as a figure of mainstream pop is nothing short of incredible. Despite nearly a decade of releasing music, her recent outputs have been her most artistically impressive and unique. Unafraid to embrace futuristic sonics, she has forged her own path in the field of pop and become the envy of her less-adventurous contemporaries. Her latest project, Charli, is no exception. With its consistently fantastic tracklist, songs like “1999”, “Click”, “Silver Cross” or “Shake It” could’ve easily been my pick. However, the flawless grooves and righteous sound of “Gone” are what make it my favorite bop of the 2019 summer.