OTM’s 2014 Summer Jams Round-Up

As the long weekend approaches and, with it, the end to summer shenanigans, perhaps you’re struggling with your Labour Day playlist a little.  Perhaps that mainstream top 40 song that seemed catchy on first listen has become tired through hourly radio play.  Perhaps you’re an antisocial sort who’s been commanded to host a BYOB BBQ and want to seem hip.

Or maybe, like me, you just love new music that may have slipped by you between concert festivals and Corona-soaked nights.

No matter what your needs, OTM’s got you covered with a round-up of summery sonic gems that have caught our ears and kept a firm grip.  New music, classic cuts and covers worth savouring — all of it awaits you below.

Craving Danceable Pop?  Try These!

“Shot Of Pure Gold” – MAX

California-based actor/singer MAX first wowed me with his contributions to the Kickstarted Veronica Mars movie, and continues to engage with his soul-infused pop compositions.  Released as a gift to his fans for his birthday, “Shot of Pure Gold” is classic pop construction: danceable, driving melody; head-over-heels love theme; and soulful vocals that evoke the somewhat-guilty pleasure that the best boy band tracks elicit from those of us who land just short of hipster snob status.  MAX has a voice I never tire of and the songcraft of a burgeoning genius.

“Flat Broke” – Fitness Club Fiasco

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Released in late 2013 in a collection of rarities and unreleased material, Toronto’s Fitness Club Fiasco deliver synth pop with alternately wry and heartbreaking observations of life.  This older gem, like their Searchlight finalist “Goldmine”, is a perfect blend of irresistible footloose candy and an anthem for the overworked and underpaid younger generation.  I particularly love to blast it on Monday mornings while working obscene case loads and counting down to pay day.   Guaranteed to restore joy in the face of the debt-smothered blues.

“Tie Me Up” – Animal Talk

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A forerunner for song of the year, the lead track off Boston band Animal Talk‘s Kid EP is infectious from moment one, ramping up quickly into a track made for beach volleyball, drunken bonfire hijinks and giggle-laced car dance parties.  So very easy to sing along with, “Tie Me Up” is evocative of the songwriting perfection of the 80s songs everyone loves:  catchy refrain; a clap-along ready call out and clever wordplay.

Craving Something With An Indie Rock Edge?  Savour These…

“Summer Dress” – July Talk

From the very first  “Ahh!” Toronto’s indie breakouts July Talk demand your attention and really, who are you to refuse?  There’s a damn good reason for the hype and it’s because they are a no bullshit, no hesitation, no cop-outs rock band.  Phenomenal stage chemistry meets gritty whiskey-drenched vocals in a winking, playful song that you’ll be singing for hours.  The bliss of a perfect ear worm… Enjoy.

“Buena Vista” – JEEN 

After a career featuring songwriting stints with the likes of Great Big Sea, Serena Ryder,  Hawksley Workman and Brendan Canning, Toronto’s JEEN recently released her solo outing Tourist.  Featured is track “Buena Vista”, a subtly sinister tune that almost jeeringly wonders if you’re having fun.  Like Rilo Kiley and Hole before her, one suspects O’Brien holds a darker picture of the famed California shores.

“Venture” – City and the Sea

Hamilton’s City and the Sea continue their mission to bring quality alt-rock life back to the forefront of the Canadian scene with their latest single, “Venture”.  Filled with the reflection of someone coming to terms with life as is versus a life desired, there’s a highway-cruising sense of urgency that makes this one a solid staple for a summer mix.

“Liar Liar” – Goodnight, Sunrise

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Goodnight, Sunrise, Toronto’s “birthday party in a band”, returns with their second in a series of split singles, a fun project where each vocalist takes the reins for a track in clever juxtaposition.  Bridgeburner is delicious no matter which side you choose, but my heart’s got a special place for “Liar Liar”, Vanessa Vakharia’s contribution this time.  Keys and synth meld in the sonic equivalent of a kaleidoscope as a lousy, lying bastard gets a razor-sharp kiss-off.  (Feeling a little more Doors-y this summer?  David Kochberg has you covered with companion track “Gold Star”).

“My BBQ Needs More Garage Rock Than This, OTM!”  The Answers Are Obvious, Readers…

“Cinnamon” – The Dirty Nil

I’ve been enamoured with Dundas, Ontario’s  The Dirty Nil since their summer mix-tape popped up in the inbox in 2012.  Two years of gritty, distorted, punk love.  Bless this trio. On that very first outing was the original recording of “Cinnamon”, and from the start, it was a fave in their raucous repertoire.  She’s got a new polish on this re-release and it’s a good thing, because it really allows the band’s gift for intentionally raw and chaotic music to shine.  Embrace it in all its sorry not sorry attitude.

“Don’t Mess With Me” – Brody Dalle

If Dalle’s latest Diploid Love isn’t already in your collection, I’m honestly baffled.  It’s okay; better late than never.  Blazing, brazen tune “Don’t Mess With Me” is the perfect soundtrack for your Thelma and Louise inspired road trip into the unknown, or perhaps a fantastic “the boss left early” workplace mosh pit song.  It’s you against the world (and the heat).  A little more pop-ish than most of Dalle’s frenetic punk compositions, but sinfully delicious.

Feeling Nostalgic?  How About A Few Covers?

“Love Is A Battlefield” – Wrongchilde

A Pat Benatar classic gets a synth-laden and powerful reinterpretation by Wrongchilde.  A joining of musical forces — Mat Devine (Kill Hannah) and Morgan Kibby (M83/White Sea) — this version preserves the soulful longing of the original and amplifies it with distortion and a deliberate, stalking melody.  Listen a few times and revel as new layers emerge.

“Everybody Wants To Rule The World” – Lucius

Brooklyn’s Lucius recently dropped a new 7″ release featuring this take on the Tears For Fears hit single, with an intriguing spin.  Lucius, known for their vocal duo who perform in unison, chooses to amplify the chorus and its conflicted conquer-and-conquered message.  Nestled in a bed of dreamy synth pop, it’s perfect poolside music to drift away to.

Need Some Laughter In Your iPod?  Got You Covered.

“Word Crimes” – “Weird Al” Yankovic

Few people likely expected “Weird Al” Yankovic’s career to have such longevity in the music industry, but fans old and new know that there’s nothing better than a clever parody.  Having released his strongest album in years, Mandatory Fun features this brilliant reworking of the date-rapey Robin Thicke single, “Blurred Lines”.  Taking grammar abusers to task, the track is hilarious for those of us who enjoy the likes of Your Grammar Sucks and Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

“What Would Tom Petty Do?” – Emma-Lee

Toronto singer-songwriter Emma-Lee already won me over long ago with her beautiful voice and folk-pop sensibilities, but this track — a tribute to her favourite artist, Tom Petty — is sheer brilliance.  It’s a great song even if you aren’t catching the sly references to Petty’s discography — complete with a shrug off of Jagger and Dylan — but it’s the clever and often rapid-fire plays on the man’s work that make it cheeky fun.

What are your favourite songs to spin this summer?  Feel free to shout them out here, on Twitter or on Facebook.

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