It’s a beautiful day out, it’s a holiday and it’s a great opportunity to kick back in the summer-y sun and listen to music. Memorial Day weekend is generally seen not only as an opportunity to honor those who served our country but also as the symbolic start to summer, meaning an influx in summertime jams bumping from car stereos and backyards all around the region.
What constitutes a summertime jam? Well, the word “summer” in the title or lyrics certainly helps. But also a sense of energy, a catchy melody, a good groove and a beat that brings the party. There is no shortage of any of those things in the music produced by the Philadelphia community over the years, so for your Memorial Day listening, we collected 50 summer songs from native Philadelphians. Check them out below, and listen to the whole set as a YouTube playlist. (Special thanks to co-curator Maureen Walsh.)
Waxahatchee “Summer of Love”
A beautiful number from the new Ivy Tripp; hear Katie Crutchfield talk to David Dye about recording it in her recent World Cafe interview.
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince “Summertime”
Essential listening, with shoutouts to Belmont Plateau and Lorenzo’s. It holds up 24 years later.
Dr. Dog “The Breeze”
Breezy pop that holds memories of outdoor performances at Rittenhouse Square, XPoNential Music Festival, The Mann and wherever else you caught Dr. Dog over the years.
The War on Drugs “Buenos Aires Beach”
Stunning and highly singalongable song from Wagonwheel Blues; with the current WoD lineup, it sounds bigger than ever.
The Dead Milkmen “Beach Song”
I’m more of a mountain person than a beach person, so for me, this Milkmen jam from Big Lizard in my Backyard hits the nail on the head with stories of smelling Solarcaine and dead fish. No fun.
Hop Along “Kids on the Boardwalk”
Young love is in the air. And even though, as with most Hop Along songs, this song is about much deeper things than that, the poppy infectiousness on this Get Disowned track is undeniable.
The Swimmers “Gimmie The Sun”
God I miss The Swimmers. Philly’s best band of the mid-00s indie rock boom released this askew single on their sophomore album People are Soft, and it sounds equally riot grrrl, David Bowie and sunshine pop.
Hall and Oates “Pleasure Beach”
This deep cut from 1978’s Along The Red Ledge sounds like everything about the 70s, all at once. Woulda worked on the opening credits of a comedy.
The Roots “Lazy Afternoon”
The summer of course has many, many of these, and this song from Do You Want More?!!!??! captures it well.
Hoots and Hellmouth “Roll Brandywine Roll”
Idling the days away along the banks of the river sounds great to me right now.
Amos Lee “Windows Are Rolled Down”
One of Amos’ best also makes an ideal road trip selection – it just feels like the open road.
Boyz II Men “Motownphilly”
Another classic from 1991 that’s aged incredibly.
The Bul Bey “Where I’m From”
One of my favorite Philly rappers of the moment and a super catchy single (and video) that practically screams summer.
The Hooters “And We Danced”
A mid-80s anthem, plus you gotta love the drive-in themed music video. This is how we lived once.
Cheerleader “The Sunshine of Your Youth”
This buzzing Philly five-piece is perfect for days like today. Cannot wait to see them bring their bright and danceable sound to XPNFest this summer.
Joan Jett “Summertime Blues”
Ain’t no cure for this cover of a Eddie Cochran classic.
Birdie Busch “Summertimeless”
Beautiful and whimsical number from a leading light of the Philly folk scene.
Melody Gardot “Summertime”
A George Gershwin classic reinterpreted hauntingly.
Khari Mateen “Summertime”
A George Gershwin classic reinterpreted with a groove.
More people need to know this legend of Philly hip-hop. This exquisite smooth jam comes from her 1996 debut Kollage.
DRGN King “Hazy Memories”
DRGN King’s amazing sophomore album Baltimore Crush basically tells the story of a bunch of teenagers having a bummer summer, and this anthem looks on the bright side that things, in time, get better.
The Snow Fairies “The Stone Pony”
A gem from Philly’s indiepop scene of the early 00s puts a different spin on Asbury Park and beach life
Bleeding Rainbow “Wasting Time”
The haze of long hot days, captured in a raging indie rock song.
Atom and His Package “Upside Down From Here”
Delightful number from this Philly synthpop satarist that its pretty much impossible not to bob your head to.
Work Drugs “The Art of Progress”
My favorite single from our friends Thomas Crystal and Ben Louisiana, who’s raison d’etre is summertime pop.
Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes “The Block Party”
Little known fact: the late great Left Eye was a Philly native and graduated from Girls’ High before joining one of the best R&B groups of all time. Oh, and this song about a summertime staple is a party and a half.
The Wonder Years “Dismantling Summer”
To paraphrase Blink-182, couldn’t wait for the summer and the Warped Tour, where Lansdale’s The Wonder Years reign as kings.
Modern Baseball “Your Graduation”
If the song didn’t already capture the confusion and conflicted emotions of graduation season, this video hammers it home. Incredible.
The Soul Survivors “Expressway to Your Heart”
A TSOP classic for long drives on lazy days.
Cheers Elephant and Chubby Checker “The Twist”
Two-in-one! Philly expats Cheers Elephant, who did summery psychedelic expertly, joined forces with a local legend to do his signature song and dance on a local morning show,
Pieces of a Dream “Mt. Airy Groove”
Old school rap from Philly that would sound incredible bumping out of block party speakers. I almost want to DJ a block party now so I can slip it in.
Todd Rundgren “I Saw The Light”
Summer nights, encapsulated.
Sylk 130 “When The Funk Hits The Fan”
More block party funk from the legendary King Britt.
Cruisr “Go For It”
Another Philly success that specializes in summer jams; this is their latest single, and it sounds solid.
Free Energy “Girls Want Rock”
Another dearly missed Philly band of recent years gone by; the poolside vibes of this music video mix well with the band’s soaring power pop.
Hurry “Oozing Positivity”
More soaring power pop, and Dire Straits-ish animations of the band playing frisbee. I’d like to play frisbee golf with these dudes, actually.
Marah “Point Breeze”
Frankie Avalon “Beach Party”
The locally-born Hollywood star known for making beach movies a mainstream genre. He also shares his name with a Jersey shore community.
Chill Moody “Concrete Jungle”
This was the jam at Chill’s #nicethings BBQ weekend last year.
Jill Scott “Light of the Sun”
A jazzy bonus track from Ms. Jill Scott’s last album. Hazy day bliss.
Teddy Pendergrass “Joy”
A block party banger from the soul crooner with a voice like no other.
A dance song for bright days from this Philly-bred rapper.
Filled with shots of West Philly rowhomes on an impossibly sunny day, bumping to the beat, this video is the essence of summer in the city.
The Dovells “You Can’t Sit Down”
Gotta get some doo-wop in this summertime mix, and this one from Overbrook High School’s own 50s sensations couldn’t fit any better.
The Spinto Band “Summer Grof”
Makes me want to have a water baloon fight, like, right now.
B.C. Camplight “Blood and Peanut Butter”
B.C.’s got an excellent new album called How To Die in the North while Cynthia G. Mason, the guest vocalist on his biggest hit, has an excellent new EP called Cinematic Turn. Listen to them together on this song and then go skateboarding.
Jim Croce “Bad Bad Leroy Brown”
Fun fact: Jim Croce once DJ’d at Villanova student station WXVU. This jangling saloon pop jam is a delight, especially this time of year.
Grover Washington Jr. “Summer Song”
A West Mt. Airy jazz icon creating a groove that would make for great listening while hiking the Wissahickon trails.
Matt Pond PA “The Summer Is Coming”
These staples of the Philly scene circa early-aughts have a great new album too; it’s called The State of Gold and it’s sophisticated and poppy. This song from their 2003 album is poppy, but more elegant and orchestral. It captures that urging we have to break out of the doldrums and see the season of the sun arrive.
Al Alberts “On The Way to Cape May”
A fun novelty song to close the set out where the late local crooner shouts out every shore town heading south.
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