NME Recommends: the best summer albums

A dose of musical sunshine

Sometimes an album is made for summer listening. Whether it’s perfect for blasting poolside, meant to be heard being performed live on a festival stage or just the ideal soundtrack for an afternoon lazing in the sunshine with your mates, there really are a handful of records that are only improved by listening to them in the sweltering sun.

Whether you want to soundtrack a hot, hazy night on the tiles with Rihanna‘s ‘Loud’ or pretend that festival season 2020 is still happening by camping in your garden and rocking out to Queens Of The Stone Age‘s ‘Rated R’, there’s an album for every iteration of summer.

So crack open a cold one, slap on some SPF and join us as a host of NME writers recommend their favourite summer albums.


‘Loud’ (2010)

Though I doubt she did it on purpose, I’ve always felt rather touched that Rihanna’s most hit-filled record ‘Loud’ coincided directly with getting my precious ID, and thus the keys to ‘town’. When I look warily back on the countless summer nights I spent necking shots of apple Sourz in long-closed-down Bristolian establishments like Flamingoes and Syndicate (RIP), at least I know that the soundtrack was first-class. The mere opening notes of ‘Only Girl (In The World)’, ‘S&M’ or ‘What’s My Name’ were enough to send me staggering towards the dancefloor like an unsteady gazelle, and it’s really no surprise that my CD copy of ‘Loud’ is so scratched that it doesn’t play properly anymore — who else, except Rihanna, would have the nerve to put a murderous dancefloor bop like ‘Man Down’ immediately next to ‘California King Bed’? A true icon.
El Hunt
Listen: Spotify | Apple Music

Queens Of The Stone Age

‘Rated R’ (2000)

Josh Homme and co. laid out their M.O. for their now legendary second album ‘Rated R’ on opening track ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’, and the 11 tracks that follow are precisely that: sun-scorched slabs of desert rock and free-wheelin’ hedonism. Wondering between psychedelic stoner-rock, razor-wire riffs and pounding danceability, it’s the ideal soundtrack for cracking open a cold one, cutting loose and topping up your festival tan. There’s a monster in your parasol, release the beast.
Andrew Trendell
Listen: Spotify | Apple Music


‘Ti Amo’ (2017)

Cheese, prosecco and the European Dream: these are a few things that Phoenix adore on their luxurious sixth album, ‘Ti amo’. Penned before and during Britain’s decision to leave the European Union in 2016, a little over a year later these four Parisians — whose pan-European sound lent towards Italo-disco this time around — weren’t issuing a plea for Britain to rejoin, but instead spoke to those who remained to re-imagine what the continent could look like. There’s lust, innocence and desire loaded into these ten songs, matching the summer’s endless nights and heady emotions perfectly.
Thomas Smith
Listen: Spotify | Apple Music

Bright Eyes

‘I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning’ (2005)

There are probably more upbeat ‘summer’ albums — and definitely ones that are less sad — but nothing signals the beginning of those hazy, endless days to me quite like when Bright Eyes‘ ‘At The Bottom Of Everything’, the first song from 2005’s ‘I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning’, kicks in. Lean in closer and you’ll hear frontman Conor Oberst’s worries and cries over alcoholism, the ongoing Iraq War and beyond. But as well as being a lyrically conscious album, musically it’s pure folk-pop perfection, helping you glide through those gorgeous summer days. Wakey wakey.
Will Richards
Listen: Spotify | Apple Music

Carly Rae Jepsen

‘Emotion’ (2015)

With her third album, Carly Rae Jepsen proved she was more than a one-hit wonder. Sacking off the bubblegum tones and sugary lyrics of second album ‘Kiss’ (which included breakout hit ‘Call Me Maybe’) CRJ instead embraced the ’80s, creating a glittering record of pure pop escapism. From the strutting disco of ‘Boy Problems’ to the euphoria of ‘Run Away With Me’, ‘Emotion’ is a joyous rollercoaster ride perfect for soundtracking hazy (socially distanced) summer afternoons with pals.
Hannah Mylrea
Listen: Spotify | Apple Music

Tame Impala

‘Innerspeaker’ (2010)

Kevin Parker’s mind-altering debut album as Tame Impala recently celebrated its tenth anniversary — where did the time go? That’s precisely the kind of question you’ll be asking yourself if you decide to put ‘Innerspeaker’ on while taking an early evening walk on a beautiful summer’s day. Your mind will succumb to Parker’s woozy guitars, floating vocals and psychedelic jams as you turn on, tune in and drop out over the course of 53 entrancing minutes. “I know where you went, but I don’t know how you get there,” an almost-winking Parker sings on ‘Lucidity’. Yeah, us neither — cheers Kev, we’ve only gone and got ourselves lost on our summer walk.
Sam Moore
Listen: Spotify | Apple Music