The 21 greatest rock and metal albums for summertime
Long days. Hot nights. Free time. Barbecues and beach parties every time the sun peeks out from behind the clouds. Even with the second festival season in a row severely curtailed, there’s a celebratory sparkle about summertime that simply cannot be extinguished. Whether you’re a skate kid, a beach bro, a backpack-wielding traveller hitting the road, or a tired worker just looking forward to chilling out in the nearest beer garden, it’s really got something for everyone. Hell, even goths get a chance to show off their laciest parasols.
What you might want from a summer album will depend on who you are and what you’re up to, of course. Crushing beers with friends in a field? Grab the Guns N’ Roses! Diving headlong into a new romance? Introduce them to the delights of Ash! Hitting the beach? Welcome to Weezer territory! Even if you’re just killing time with your closest buddies until school or work starts up again, there’s a whole pop-punk genre to sort you out. Here, we present 21 of our warmest, wildest, weirdest favourites below, but don’t be afraid to let us know which we’ve missed out.
And don’t forget the sunscreen!
Andrew W.K. – I Get Wet (2001)
Ask Michigan hard rock polymath Andrew W.K. and he’ll tell you that it’s always a great time to party. There’s something extra special about cutting loose around swimming pools and barbecues during the longest days of the year, though, and there’s simply no better soundtrack than Mr. Wilkes-Krier’s 2001 debut. Everyone knows the gleefully self-instructive likes of It’s Time To Party, Party Hard and, er, Party ’Til You Puke, but there are (slightly) subtler tones at play, too, in the ecstatic romance of She Is Beautiful and the oddball anthem to immoderation that is I Get Wet. Good luck trying not to mess your white jeans and T‑shirt…
Ash – 1977 (1996)
Naming their debut album after the year of two-thirds of their births (also that of Star Wars’ original release), Northern Irish trio Ash were still at the tail-end of their teens when 1977 dropped in May 1996. Consequently, its 12 tracks bubble over with all the uncertainty, wonder, unbound excitement and foolhardy freedom of young men approaching a summer holiday that might just last the rest of their lives. From the rough-house silliness of Kung Fu via Oh Yeah’s hazy daydream (‘Oh yeah, it was the start of the summer’) to the sweet romantic naïveté of Girl From Mars, it’s irresistibly light listening even a quarter-century on.
Audioslave – Audioslave (2002)
Mark Romanek’s iconic video for Audioslave’s Cochise – the expectation-exceeding introduction to a band that matched the singer of Soundgarden to the players from Rage Against The Machine – sees the detonation of enough fireworks to look like New York on the Fourth Of July. The accompanying self-titled album is a masterpiece of sun-beaten hard rock, taking in the open road attack of Show Me How To Live, the twilight wooziness of Shadow On The Sun and the funk-inflected high feelings of Light My Way – with its riff as sticky as melted tarmac. The ultimate summer road trip soundtrack.
Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)
After Beastie Boys’ seminal 1986 debut License To Ill, the music community thought they had the long and short of the Noo-Yawk trio: rap-rock one-hit-wonders who’d never again recapture the anarchic magic of (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) having become estranged from that album’s super-producer Rick Rubin and record label, Def Jam. Turning to Los Angeles’ sample-juggling, copyright-trampling extraordinaires The Dust Brothers, though, they would change the hip-hop landscape forever with an album as colourful and chaotic as a Brooklyn block party on the hottest day of August. Songs like the strutting 3‑Minute Rule and scratchy classic Car Thief are still the ultimate accompaniment to summer in the city.
blink-182 – Take Off Your Pants And Jacket (2001)
Capturing all the carefree bullshit and parent-antagonising recklessness of America’s suburban youth in the pre-9/11 era, we could pick any one of blink-182’s pre-2003 albums to be part of a good-time summer soundtrack. And 2001’s Take Off Your Pants And Jacket edges it, finely balancing feelings of unhinged possibility and bittersweet nostalgia on tracks like Anthem Part Two, Roller Coaster and Reckless Abandon, while others like First Date and The Rock Show perfectly describe those summertime experiences to which every fan can likely relate. Even Happy Holidays, You Bastard is the sort of 43-second rager best banged out at the skatepark under the sun.
Deafheaven – Sunbather (2013)
Common understanding has it that if there’s one genre that absolutely does not make for good summertime listening, it’s black metal. With their second album Sunbather, however, Californian blackgaze collective Deafheaven proved that that’s not necessarily the case. Mainman George Clarke explained to Invisible Oranges at the time that he chose the title because “that’s the feeling it gives me. It is the sadness and the frustration and the anger that comes with striving for perfection. Dreaming of warmth and love despite the pain of idealism.” Best experienced when spinning all seven tracks in a single sitting, it’s potent proof that even committed miserabilists don’t need to hide away until the return of winter’s dark days.
Deftones – Around The Fur (1997)
The imagery of shadows in the sunshine is heavily at play again on Deftones’ outstanding second album. The understated threat of opening track My Own Summer (Shove It) is an obvious starting point, with Chino Moreno singing, ‘The shade is a tool, a device, a saviour / See, I try and look up to the sky / But my eyes burn.’ Beyond that, though, there is a twisted summer sensibility baked in by the constant Sacramento heat, from the jittery nu-metal desperation of the title-track to the laid-back balminess of Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away), which still beats with the atmosphere of cranking the car’s air conditioning and looking up at the stars on an aimless summer night.
The Dillinger Escape Plan – Calculating Infinity (1999)
For the paler-skinned among us, summer isn’t just a season for time off work and hanging with friends in the great outdoors, but also the time of year when there’s always that risk the cursed sun will cook us to a crisp. The Dillinger Escape Plan’s scourging 43% Burnt is the perfect sunburn soundtrack. Even beyond its spectacular dissonance, however, this debut album from the now-defunct American noise-mongers is boiling hot throughout, thanks to the fiery delivery of Dimitri Minakakis and the no-sweat-spared schizoid energy of his bandmates. Probably not one to blast at the family BBQ…
Gatecreeper – Deserted (2019)
Like a UV-scorched counterpart to the aforementioned black metal genre, Gatecreeper’s Sonoran death metal taps into the desolation that can come with a life lived perpetually in the sun. Written in their hometown of Tempe, Arizona, in America’s scorched south-west, tracks like Boiled Over and Sweltering Madness reflect not just the harsh austerity of the landscape but the lunacy one can find hiding in the shade. “It’s an extreme climate,” frontman Chase Mason explained to Kerrang! back in 2019. “During the summer it gets really hot – so much so that it forces you inside. As a kid that forces you to use your imagination, whether that’s making music or visual art, you need to find these things to entertain yourself.” Tracks like From The Ashes meanwhile pack enough groove to keep the beer flowing in more hospitable climes…
Green Day – Dookie (1994)
Released on February 1, 1994, and going on to sell close to 20 million copies in the years since, Green Day’s legendary breakthrough album works well all year round. Capturing the sunny feel of Berkeley, California, and helping kick off the pop-punk genre which would become synonymous with summer shenanigans, it has to make our list. Right from the opening salvo of Burnout, Having A Blast and Chump, there’s a warmth to Billie Joe Armstrong’s delivery that evokes the carefree feel of the long vacation. Rammed with hits like Basket Case, Longview, Welcome To Paradise and She, too, it’s a collection that’ll evoke golden memories of sets in gaping stadia and all-conquering showings on festival main stages from years gone by for hundreds of thousands of fans.
Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction (1987)
For those of a wilder disposition, the season of hot-bloodedness doesn’t just bring with it an appetite for burgers and beers, but also for the type of no-holds barred partying Guns N’ Roses sang about on their peerless 1987 debut. There’re songs for all occasions on there, too. Riding your motorcycle through the family BBQ? Welcome To The Jungle! Grinding against that ill-advised holiday romance? Sweet Child O’ Mine! Getting the hell out of dodge after realising the bad decisions you’ve made? Nightrain! Paradise City has to be the pick of choice, mind, for its lusty description of a grizzled rocker’s dream summer scene, ‘where the grass is green and the girls are pretty…’
Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced? (1967)
An iconic player almost single-handedly responsible for ingraining rock’n’roll into the Western summertime dream, Jimi Hendrix made music that, simply put, goes hand-in-hand with loose t‑shirts, fast cars and free love. Hell, his (much mythologised) performance at the first Woodstock Festival on August 18, 1969 ensured the need that any rock star looking to get into the history books needs to write their own legend on those festival stages. You can’t really go wrong with his 1967 debut, which – in its current edition – comes overloaded with all-time rock standards like Hey Joe, Purple Haze and Foxy Lady…
Kyuss – Blues For The Red Sun (1992)
A woozier, less heavyweight and far wider spread precursor to Gatecreeper’s Sonoran death metal, desert rock is another subgenre that captures the alien emptiness of life out in the dry heat. Originating from Southern California’s sprawling Palm Desert (hit Palm Springs then head east into the middle of nowhere), the scene’s leaders drew from the heavy-limbed swing of blues and stoner metal, while adding a little peyote-trippiness all of their own. Featuring the desert rock’s arguable four horsemen – John Garcia, Josh Homme, Nick Oliveri, Brant Bjork – long before each would go on to front different outfits, Kyuss’ 1992 landmark Blues For The Red Sun traces the sound back to its fascinatingly arid beginnings.
Neck Deep – Life’s Not Out To Get You (2015)
Most of pop-punk’s definitive records originated on the United States’ glamorous west coast, bringing a much-needed taste of life where it’s sunny year-round to kids in places where it perpetually rains. Hailing from one such place – Wrexham in North Wales – Neck Deep soaked up that influence right through their youth and now they’re spitting it back out with a particular sense of sun-deprived defiance. 2015’s Jeremy McKinnon-produced second album Life’s Not Out To Get You channels that spiritual rebelliousness, reminding people to make the best of things when the sun’s shining and not to get too down when those grey clouds reappear.
Parkway Drive – Ire (2015)
It’s always summer in Australia, right? Perhaps not, but the best bands from that part of the world – AC/DC, we’re looking at you – unashamedly play up to the beach-bound sex and dusty adventure that most fans see in their imaginations. As a group of Byron Bay surfers, it’s hardly surprising that Parkway Drive’s music has a particularly sun-ripened feel, but it was only with the daring widescreen scope of 2015’s Ire that they fully distilled their thrill-seeking attitude into sound. If in doubt, check out the skydive-oriented music video for Vice Grip, which even dares invoke legendary action movie Point Break without looking in the least bit try-hard. Bonza!
Queens Of The Stone Age – Rated R (2000)
Queens Of The Stone Age’s seminal Feel Good Hit Of The Summer might’ve been about soaking up a little more than serotonin, but the band’s desert rock lineage ensures Rated R is still perfect listening for drinking in the rays. Kerrang!’s Album Of The Year in 2000, it’s loaded front-to-back with stone-cold bangers, from the louche uber-cool of The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret to the pulsating Monsters In The Parasol and gleefully psychedelic, near-nine-minute closer I Think I Lost My Headache. Enjoy your trip…
Saves The Day – Saves The Day (2013)
Having spent the six years previous consumed by his massively ambitious, often troublingly dark autobiographical trilogy – Sound The Alarm, Under The Boards, Daybreak – Saves The Day frontman Chris Conley felt a weight off his shoulders. It shows spectacularly on the New Jersey emo icons’ self-titled eighth LP, where everything from the grapefruit on its cover to the deepest cuts within ties tart intelligence to an underlying sweetness. From sharply insistent opener Remember to achingly tumbledown final track Stand In The Stars, it’s a breezy masterclass that more people need to seek out.
Sum 41 – All Killer No Filler (2001)
If you’re of a certain age, and summers as a teenager were about bouncily bullshitting and foolhardily fucking around, then there probably wasn’t a better album to do it to than the filler-free debut from Sum 41. They’re a pop-punk band, obviously, but here they pull in elements of old-school heavy metal and Beastie Boys-alike hip-hop, with the exuberant audacity of kids trying to find out who they really are. There are moments of fleeting uncertainty and melancholy amongst the madness, on songs like Rhythms and Handle This, breaking up the avalanche of high-energy hits like Fat Lip and In Too Deep, but shit never gets all that serious. Oh, and there’s a song on there literally called Summer, too.
Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)
On one level, the debut album from American hard-rock icons Van Halen is well-suited to darkened arenas late in the year, with all four members depicted in shadow on its cover, and opening track Runnin’ With The Devil packing little sunshine. As Eddie Van Halen’s guitar takes charge, and bare-chested frontman extraordinaire David Lee Roth really cuts loose, though, an effervescent lightness begins to flow through on Eruption, Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love and Atomic Punk that’s just refreshing. And that’s before we get to DLR’s inspired semi-acoustic cover of 1922 blues classic Ice Cream Man. Lick it in!
Weezer – Blue Album (1994)
‘The sea is foamin’ like a bottle of beer / The wave is comin’ but I ain’t gonna fear / I’m waxin’ down so that I’ll go real fast / I’m waxin’ down because it’s really a blast…’ Surf Wax America, the sixth track on Weezer’s Blue debut might just be the most summery song of all time. It’s just one tenth of an album that fizzes like a dropped bottle of soda, crashes like waves against the shore and loads even its angstiest moments with a sense of clear-sky freedom. Even after almost 30 years, it still slips on like a loose T‑shirt on the hottest of days.
Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue (2003)
Jacksonville pop-punk collective Yellowcard really don’t get the credit they’re due these days. By injecting Sean Mackin’s violin into an otherwise simple formula concocted in the Florida heat, it was as if they unlocked an extra shade of sunlight to thread through their already beaming sound, finding the sweet spot where 2000s pop-punk met third-wave emo. 2003’s fourth album Ocean Avenue is their undisputed masterpiece, building on a foundation of adolescent heartache with the restless elasticity of songs like Life Of A Salesman and Miles Apart, while the heart-pounding title-track remains one of the genre’s most memorable compositions. An underrated classic.
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