The song of the summer is, at its best, a great unifier, marking a point in time that all Americans all share—from anthems about waterfalls that we endeavored not to chase, to jams on old town roads where booties in Wranglers and horses were led.
There have already been some great songs with potential mass appeal released in 2021—my personal picks so far are “Be Good” by Carsi Blanton (probably too chill for collective groovin’) and the bombastic “Serotonin” by Norway’s Girl in Red (which hasn’t caught on in America yet)—but at this point in a year where we are just coming out of our COVID hibernation, maybe striving for a musical connection on a smaller scale makes more sense for this summer? Besides, Chico’s pandemic-produced output has been impressive—in some cases more so than anything else I’ve heard over the past year.
What follows are are 18 of my faves by locals from the past 12 months or so. We have peak millennial nostalgia, a hookup song set against the backdrop of a failing economy, a low-key anthem to love and more. There’s gotta be something to rally around!
“Covid, A Love Song” – Surrogate
Bossa nova pop song perfection, with guest singer Lorna Such (of Lo & Behold) harmonizing through the end times with frontman Chris Keane.
“Not My Job” – Scout
First of three electro-indie jams from Scout here. This one from Transformation, the first of three albums the prolific singer/songwriter released in the past year.
“Come Down” – Fera
The sound of a thousand minstrels strumming acoustic guitars as the foothills literally burn.
“My Oh My” – Michael Bone
An impossibly fun ditty with looping piano riff and multiple vocal harmonies.
“Harriet” – The Bidwells
Also impossibly fun, this boogie-woogie-ish pop original by singer/songwriter couple Ben Ruttenburg and Samantha Francis somehow sounds like both a famous show tune and a bar-rock standard.
“The Ocean” and “What is This (Ba Ba) Organ” – Esco Chris
On his latest release, Chris “The Reggae Imposter” Zinna gives us a perfect soundtrack to endless summer heat: one breezy instrumental original followed by a bouncy and appropriately lazy cover of a 1969 track by The Reggae Boys.
“Established Stache” – Cat Depot
It takes a master to make something complex sound effortlessly beautiful, and this looping soundscape features two such players: guitar wiz Mathew Houghton and drum god Casey Deitz.
“Girls with Pearls” – Seven Mills
Beautiful, mysterious piano-driven debut from 17-year-old on lockdown: “There is no relapse/I won’t sit in the laps/Of girls with pearls/Only rings on their fingers/Hoping it lingers.”
“Like I Love Me” – Scout
A catchy vocal melody perfect for catching the sentiment of a mini anthem to self worth: “Do you love me like I love me?”
“Guilty” – Michael Bone
A ton of drama packed into one 3 1/2-minute art-rock song.
“X-Files” – Furlough Fridays
The turn-up-the-stereo by the pool jam of the summer.
“Gravity” – Astronaut Ice Cream
Electro-disco pop is allowed into the backyard party on genre alone.
“Hank” – The Tightys
I’ve said it before: This gritty guitar riff smells of weed and cheap beer, and that’s just what everyone’s summer needs.
“Rumba de Changó” – Blu Egyptian
A hyper Latin-influenced jam that brings much-needed juice to Chico’s dance floor.
“Apocalyptico” – West by Swan
Is there such a thing as energetic stoner rock?
“Hurry” – Lagrima
A busted bottom-heavy slow jam for discordant times.
“Real Love” – Scout
The third pandemic release from the prolific local songwriter ends with the unadorned title cut and the simplest—and best—notion there is.