UPDATE: When I published this in 2015, I found it therapeutic to look back on the albums that pulled me through each summer. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with new albums each year that felt perfect for the season, and I couldn’t help but update the list. Check them all out or fast forward to 2015 and see what’s held my attention for the past four summer seasons!
Summer is here, which means it’s time to roll the windows down, turn up the stereo and blast your favorite songs. I get nostalgic every year thinking about the albums I played on repeat in years past as I rode around, hung out with my friends and enjoyed the sunshine. It never seems to fail – when I think back on each summer of my life, there is always one album that seems to be playing in the background.
Therefore, I’ve decided to compile a list of the albums that served as my summer soundtrack for each of the past ten years. While this list is far from an overview of the best albums of each year, it does reflect a collection of fun records that seem to be perfect for warm summer days. Take a look below and share your favorite summer records in the replies!
2004: Underoath – They’re Only Chasing Safety
This is actually my all time favorite summertime album. I still remember the day I bought it and how I drove around for weeks without taking it out of my car’s CD player. There’s something about the combination of heavy and light here that gives you the best of both worlds as the guitars transition between poppy and blistering. Spencer Chamberlain and Aaron Gillespie’s trade-off vocals are perfect for sing-alongs, and the stellar production value makes this an instant classic.
2005: Anberlin – Never Take Friendship Personal
This breakout album from Anberlin is full of catchy hooks and fast-paced, emo-tinged rock. On Never Take Friendship Personal, Anberlin came into their own, displaying their songwriting prowess with killer tracks like “Paperthin Hymn” and “The Runaways”. If you can listen to Stephen Christian cry out, “I thought you said forever, over and over / This sleepless night becomes bitter oblivion” and not belt out the notes right along with him, you may need to get your pulse checked.
2006: Underoath – Define the Great Line
Two years after their breakout, Underoath returned with the crushing, genre-shifting Define the Great Line. While this isn’t your typical summer album, it’s impossible to deny the sheer magnitude of the record. The masterful time-signature changes, the eerie electronic sounds, and Spencer Chamberlain’s electrifying roar changed the game. Though there’s far less melody here than was present on They’re Only Chasing Safety, it’s full of powerful, moving tracks, perfect for summer nights.
2007: Paramore – Riot!
Paramore went from emo darlings full of potential to a powerhouse rock outfit seemingly overnight when they released Riot! in the summer of 2007. A wonderful mixture of pop punk and emo rock make this a huge release, with soaring choruses courtesy of Hayley Williams. Whether you’re singing along to the slick chorus of “crushcrushcrush” or head banging along to the fiery “Misery Business”, Riot! is a record made for summer hangouts and road trips.
2008: All Time Low – So Wrong, It’s Right
Although the album released in the fall of 2007, a deluxe reissue the following year helped propel So Wrong, It’s Right to new heights. To this day, it’s hard to find another pop punk release so full of energy and melody. After the opening guitars of “This is How We Do”, Alex Gaskarth pleads, “Show us off to all your friends” – and we did. By the end of 2008, it seemed like everyone in the world knew the lyrics to “Dear Maria, Count Me In”.
2009: A Day to Remember – Homesick
Another breakout album – noticing a trend here? A Day to Remember broke big with Homesick, an album that captured the band’s “easycore” sound better than any other. From crushing breakdowns capped off with cries to “disrespect your surroundings” to soaring, melodic choruses that even your mom would love, Homesick has a little something for everyone. Is it pop punk? Is it metalcore? Does it matter? Homesick is fun as hell.
2010: The Devil Wears Prada – Zombie EP
Since I just wrote a full length feature reflecting on this release, I’ll stay brief. The Zombie EP caught everyone off guard at the time of its release and inadvertently became career defining. The furious guitar work on these five songs is unbelievable and the piercing howls and shrieks of Mike Hranica are the sounds of your nightmares. Even still, it’s hard not to turn the volume up during this horror-filled romp.
2011: The Wonder Years – Suburbia, I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing
The Wonder Years seem to get better with every release, but Suburbia made us all take notice. So far, it’s the definitive pop punk release of this new decade. A walk through a year in the life of lead singer Dan Campbell finds the band lamenting, celebrating and looking for answers – it’s a coming of age story that almost anyone can relate to. To top it off, Suburbia is so full of life through its twists and turns, it’s the perfect soundtrack for self-reflection on lonely summer nights.
2012: Pierce the Veil – Collide with the Sky
While Collide with the Sky wasn’t Pierce the Veil’s breakout record, it certainly propelled them to a whole new level. Vic Fuentes’ duet with Kellin Quinn on “King for a Day” became Warped Tour’s song of the summer, as the two sing and scream their way through this furious track. The band is more technical than ever on this release, creating fast-paced post-hardcore numbers like “Hell Above” and calmer, brokenhearted tracks like “I’m Low on Gas and You Need a Jacket”. From front to back, Collide with the Sky is a summer smash.
2013: letlive. – The Blackest Beautiful
Another unexpected album on the list, The Blackest Beautiful just narrowly edged out The Greatest Generation thanks to Jason Butler’s impassioned vocal performance. This isn’t a lighthearted release, but it does keep you on your toes. We generally don’t want our summer albums to make us think too hard, but The Blackest Beautiful commands your attention, even as its sonic background tickles your ears. The band’s wild stint on the 2013 Vans Warped Tour only added to the excitement surrounding the release.
2014: Issues – Issues
How can you not love Tyler Carter? The man can sing and write one heck of a hook. Issues is a melting pot of sounds, full of breakdowns, poppy choruses, wild electronics, record scratches and sincere moments. When Carter and Michael Bohn trade off during “Mad at Myself”, it’s mildly reminiscent of the Underoath’s breakthrough a decade prior. It’s easy to imagine the members blasting They’re Only Chasing Safety during the summer of ’04, only to write their own summer anthem 10 years later.
2015: Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion
An album that caught me completely off guard, won me over, and became my favorite album of the decade (so far). Emotion sonically captures the nostalgic sounds that soundtracked the summers of my youth, but it’s also an album about feeling – something that just seems easier to do in the summertime. It’s clear that Jepsen has a knack for crafting the perfect pop song, and Emotion is front-to-back pop bliss. Tracks like “Run Away with Me” and “Boy Problems” are the perfect tunes to dance away those hot summer nights.
2016: Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
Part of the reason The Life of Pablo owned my summer in 2016, aside from my obvious affinity for his music, was that there was just so much to digest. An album that just kept growing in size (eventually capping off at 20 tracks), Pablo held my interest for months, capping off with an enrapturing live performance at the end of the summer. Nevertheless, for all of the conversation that surrounded this album, beats like those found on “Famous” and “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” made this the kind of summer hip hop record that was inescapable.
2017: Halsey – hopeless fountain kingdom
While fans are still somewhat divided on Halsey’s sophomore effort, there’s no denying that it got played more than anything else during my summer of 2017. Halsey leans into some deep 80s influences on tracks that feel custom built for the season. “Eyes Closed” and “Strangers” are two underrated tracks that sound splendid with the windows down, even as “Bad at Love” become the kind of summer smash that ensured Halsey would be sticking around for a while.
2018: Pusha T – Daytona
I love this album. I love the way it reminds me of the hip hop albums that I would play throughout my summers in high school. I love how it feels fresh and new, even though it’s creator has been around for nearly two decades. I love how it captures the type of sample-based production that makes hip hop endlessly compelling. I love how Pusha T just owns his persona, his voice, his place in the genre. Daytona is the kind of perfect summer rap record that I didn’t even know was still possible to pull off.
Summer 2019 is rapidly heading toward the finish line. It’s probably still too early to claim a victor, but early front runners include Carly Rae Jepsen (Dedicated) and Lil Nas X (7). But I can’t out the new Chance the Rapper record or even a sneak attack from the likes of Halsey or Dua Lipa. Whatever the case, there’s been plenty to enjoy.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.