10 Dark, Weird Candidates for “Song of the Summer”

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We’ll admit that this year, we’re just a little overly-invested in the battle for “song of the summer.” It’s partially because we hate how damn catchy Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” one major contender for the #1 spot, is, partially because the song it’s going toe-to-toe with, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” is legitimately amazing, and partially because we’re unable to get the incredibleness of jj’s new High Summer EP out of our heads. Now, we know what you’re thinking: there’s no way the dreamy electronic pop of Swedish duo jj’s going to end up in a knock-out fight for the top Billboard spot, but it should. In fact, this summer there’s a plethora of tunes that are just begging to come blasting out of every boombox in the park on sweltering Saturday afternoon, but for whatever reason — too dark, too weird, too obscure, etc — it’s just not going to happen. So here, then, are our candidates for alternate “song of the summer.” And tell us, please, in the comments, what songs are in the heaviest rotation on your iPod this season.

jj, “High Summer”

Like a little gift, evasive Swedish duo jj released High Summer last Friday, and it’s just, for lack of a better word, dreamy. They’ve cemented themselves as basically a New Age rap group (we could digress here on how The Tough Alliance, jj’s labelmates at Sincerely Yours, essentially invented #seapunk, the ultimate summer genre, but we’ll save that for another time), making opiated soundscapes and spitting fire on top of them. “I’m a nice girl/with some nice dreams,” go the The Weeknd-referencing lyrics to the EP’s title track, drifting on an ocean of bliss. Seriously, if you don’t put on High Summer at least once to accompany some mid-afternoon Summer Friday day drinking, we can’t be friends.

Light Asylum, “Angel Tongue”

A rare moment of tenderness on an otherwise fierce, barbed, and vital record, “Angel Tongue” pairs Shannon Funchess’ deep, instantly recognizable vocals with a pretty backing track akin to New Order covering Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere.” It’s ridiculously catchy for a band that seems to want to portray itself as abrasive, and we just dare you to not belt out that chorus at the top of your lungs.

AlunaGeorge, “You Know You Like It”

There’s nothing about “You Know You Like It,” from AlunaGeorge’s recently released free EP on Tri Angle Records, that doesn’t scream “summer jam.” The vocals are sweet as sunshine, the chorus is a hook that so good it proves the existence of some sort of higher power, and there’s a freaking jungle breakdown midway through. “You Know You Like It” should be the litmus test against which all other modern upbeat electronic pop is judged.

Zebra Katz, “Ima Read”

At SXSW this past year, your author tried desperately to find anyone to accompany him in tracking down a live performance by Zebra Katz, to no avail. We’re confident that won’t happen again. “Ima Read,” as an opening shot from Ojay Morgan’s rap/bass/vogue project, is massive. At this point you’ve already heard it, if you’ve been to any good bars, clubs, or parties, and that’s for good reason: it’s wry, coy, terrifying in all the best ways and the bass… oh, oh, the bass. This song is what car stereos were made for.

Tanlines, “All of Me”

OK, come on, we know most of the songs in this list are a little “dark” or “weird” for mass summer sunshine consumption, but there’s absolutely no reason for you not to have this Tanlines song on repeat. Shimmering and upbeat with just a tiny little touch of melancholy (like all the very best songs), “All of Me” is a great entryway to Mixed Emotions, Tanlines’ fantastic new full-length. Put on the album and you instantly have your sweaty summer soundtrack.

Purity Ring, “Belispeak”

Much buzzed-about duo Purity Ring’s “Belispeak” busts out like a gothic take on Jock Jams. Cascading vocal samples drowning in a syrupy sea play down how absolutely terrifying the song’s lyrics are (go ahead and look them up, we’ll be here waiting), but it’s still incredibly catchy and sounds best when played at maximum volume. While the rest of what Purity Ring has given us sounds unfortunately similar to this formula, we’re still eagerly anticipating their debut album.

IO Echo, “When The Lillies Die”

A whistle-along summer melody… and mounds, literal piles upon piles, of guitar fuzz. The recipe for a perfect summer jam? Yes. IO Echo’s Ministry of Love album serves that up in spades, but nothing hits the sweet spot quite like “When The Lillies Die.” The ornate instrumentation and bluster nod to the fact that band member Leopold Ross pulls double duty as bassist for The Big Pink.

Featureless Ghost, “A3R1A 6LOR15”

Having spent time personally with Matt Weiner and Elise Tippins of Atlanta’s Featureless Ghost, we’re still not totally sure what’s going on inside their heads. They’re wonderfully affable in person, and have released a truly great night-pop record this year, and now they’ve done this: a future-damaged, smeary, frightening homage to footwurk and juke. It’s ridiculous that they’ve been able to do a stylistic spin on a dime and pull it off so well. Their entire Other Than Conscious tape is essential.

Her Vanished Grace, “Across The Universe”

These New York shoegazers, who’ve always tended to look up more than some of their bleaker compatriots, have fashioned a song for 2012 that everyone can agree on: a thundering, righteous re-imagining of a Beatles classic. It’s both a prelude to their soon-to-be-released album Star-Crossed, and a summer sweet spot.

Fiona Apple, “Anything We Want”

If you tend towards the antisocial side (we do), you’ve probably had Fiona Apple’s great new album on repeat for you for a minute now. While the record definitely sees its dramatic moments, “Anything We Want,” with its theme of a childhood crush, is a rare cute entry in Apple’s catalog. Charley Drayton’s hypnotic percussion on the song is just a bonus.