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There are few seasonal forces more primal than the summer jam. Ever since Oog first told Thonk to rhythmically shake a small rodent skull while he charred some meat near the lake in 78,000 BCE the summer jam has been a vital part of the passing of the seasons. Today the tradition is so powerful that every single music/culture blog on Earth has to have an article about them or Jamasaphus, pagan God of the Summer Jam, will destroy them. Despite their importance the requirements for a summer jam are simple:
  1. They must embody the spirit that we wish for in our summers.
  2. They must be a jam.
Even though that's all it takes it sometimes seems to be surprisingly difficult for most blogs to identify a song that both actually sounds like the season in question and is a jam. Music blogs suggest all kinds of ambient chill-out tracks as the sound-track for your summer. This year seems to have an especially confusing crop of quasi-summery jams to wade through. So, as a public service that simultaneously appeases Jamasaphus, Other Ten Percent presents our awards for the Summer Jams of 2012 including jams for almost any type of summer along with the all around Summer Jam of the year.

Official 2012 Summer Jam for Ghosts

Beach House-Lazuli

There are a lot of things you can say about this year's Beach House album Bloom. You can say it's their best album ever. You can say it's perfect traveling music for almost any situation. You can even say it's an early contender for album of the year. So in some sense it's perfectly logical that Lazuli, the album's newest single, is showing up on quite a few lists of summer jams. It's a great album full of great songs. Shouldn't our 2012 summer jam be a great song? One thing you cannot say about Bloom however is "Oh Shit, THAT'S MY JAM."

To wit, Lazuli is the closest thing Bloom has to a banger and, as the song's music video astutely notices, it still firmly sounds like it's got one foot in another plane of existence. If you are looking for the perfect soundtrack to your Crossing Over with John Edward themed barbecue then Lazuli is the way to go. Unless you are really determined to pierce the eternal veil this summer though it is probably best to leave this one to your headphones and your car stereo.

Official 2012 Summer Jam of Declaring 2012 to be a Rap Renaissance

Killer Mike-Southern Fried

Guys, were you aware that 2012 is shaping up to be a total Rap Renaissance year? I mean we've barely halfway through and there are already two fantastic rap albums from El-P and Killer Mike and too many great mixtapes to mention here. I mean when a fucking 17 year old is making high-quality rap tracks you know that something is going on. Unfortunately the closest thing all of these great albums have produced to a Summer Jam is Southern Fried. Not to say it's a bad song. It's awesome actually and totally sounds like the kind of thing that Killer Mike recorded specifically so he could throw it on during a summer cookout where he is making some barbecue ribs (He is also wearing a chefs hat and an apron that says "Kiss tha Killer." It is an incredibly vivid image in my mind.) with some friends.

The problem with Southern Fried is that we are not all Killer Mike and the song's awesomely weird beat (it sounds like the audio randomly dropping out of a prog rock guitar solo though I have not done the research to confirm that is what's actually happening) is not going to work for everybody's barbeque. If you're looking to chill out and shoot the shit about great rap music with friends then this is the song for you but if you're looking for an all-purpose summer jam then you're still going to need to look elsewhere.

Official 2012 Mashup of a Novelty Summer Jam

Carly Rae Jepson/Annie Lennox-Call Me on Broken Glass

I think Call Me Maybe has helped me finally understand the psychological process that makes Katy Perry songs stay on the chart for 6 months at a time. Sure, as you listen to the song for the first time you are aware that it isn't good on basically any level. But, about 3/4ths of the way through the song, an odd memetic process takes over a part of your mind. The earwormy-ness of Call Me Maybe goes beyond simply getting stuck in your head and results in a weird sort of stockholm syndrome that makes you think you actually WANT to hear the song again until you actually do.

Thankfully the memetic properties of Carly Rae Jepson's internet joke turned novelty hit are limited to the lyrics so I've been saved from that terrible fate by this, actually pretty awesome, mashup of Call Me Maybe and Annie Lennox. As if it being pretty good wasn't weird enough it's a mashup created by one of the guys in Vampire Weekend. As Nikki said, after hearing the mashup for the first time, sometimes 3 wrongs DO make a right. If you have also been forced into involuntary musical servitude by Carly Rae Jepson then this can serve as a much more palatable alternative to the original.

Official 2022 Summer Jam

El-P-The Full Retard

The year's other great rap album also has the year's other summer jam I'm trying to make happen even though I should probably know better. The Full Retard is pretty firmly in the realm of jams since it's opening sample/chorus is "So you should pump this shit like they do in the future." It's even got a surprisingly summery vibe for the lead single off an album of dark, paranoid raps about modern society and surveillance.

The problem is that Full Retard doesn't sound like it comes from this summer it genuinely sounds like shit they are going to pump IN THE FUTURE. Like the soundtrack to some Favela Chic barbecue scene in an unwritten Bruce Sterling novel. It's a brilliant song that keeps ending up on my playlists but I can't shake the feeling that it doesn't belong on those playlists for another half a decade at least.

Official 2012 Summer Jam For a Low Key Summer of Quietly Admitting Your Mortality

The Walkmen-Heartbreaker

For a band I really think is perfectly alright I always feel like I'm cruelly bashing The Walkmen whenever I talk about them. They're a talented group that puts out good songs, but no matter what happens I always just think they're the band I'll like when I'm past the phase in my life when I can reasonably be one of the cool kids. The Summer Jam-est track off of their new album Heaven is not helping matters on the Dad-Jams Scale.

The thing is though, as dad jams go Heartbreaker is actually pretty catchy. If it's a song for people who have settled down, had kids, and decided that growing old is okay then it actually manages to make that whole process seem a lot cooler and more interesting than the alternatives. Sure the song, and really all of Heaven is like 80's Springsteen level meaninglessly sentimental at points, but sitting down for a beer with friends and listening to the album seems like a kinda rad summer for somebody with a much more stable career than me to have.

Official 2012 Summer Jam For a Self-Destructive Summer of Loudly Denying Your Mortality

Japandroids-Younger Us

If Heaven makes me feel like I'm slightly too young to get into it then Younger Us makes me feel so amazingly fucking old it is a wonder that I am still able to walk. This song is technically from over a year ago now but the recent release of Japandroids new album Celebration Rock means plenty of people are just hearing it for the first time. It's basically the purest distillation of Japandroids schtick (punk about growing old that looks to rock so hard it physically reverses the aging process) and while it actually makes me remember my days as a (pretty pathetic) highschool punk fondly I can't entirely go with its sentiment.

Younger Us is a song for a very specific summer I am not looking to have now or basically ever. It's the loudest, angriest raging against the dying of the light somebody in their mid to late twenties can possible have. It's the last gasp summer before you settle down and start listening to The Walkmen.

Official 2012 Summer Jam That Might Accidentally Make a Friend Kill Themselves

Passion Pit-I'll Be Alright

At first I'll Be Alright seems like a safe bet for a 2012 Summer Jam. It's a Passion Pit song, which means it's already going to be more high energy then you'd ever need a summer jam to be. What's more, there's a skittery electronic madness to it that sounds totally of the moment. While that isn't a summer jam requirement it's helpful since summer jams become so thoroughly attached to their specific summer anyway. (It's physically impossible to hear Paper Planes without remembering 2007 for instance.)

The problem with I'll Be Alright is that when you listen to the lyrics you suddenly realize that he TOTALLY WON'T BE ALRIGHT AT ALL. I mean the song still totally sounds like an upbeat high-energy Passion Pit song until the first line is "Can you remember ever having any fun" and you're suddenly in the middle of the narrative of a terrible self-destructive episode and coming to grips with having pushed away everything good in your life. While I applaud Passion Pit for adding some depth to their music by ONLY changing the lyrics and seeing how long it takes people to notice, I worry about the subtle psychological effects of having this be the omnipresent jam of 2012.

Official 2012 Low Key Summer Jam

The Shins-Simple song

The Shins new album is so low key, even for them, that I'd kinda forgotten it happened until Jane reminded me. Which is a shame because despite not jumping out at you the album is really good. Like Bloom the album isn't exactly awash with high energy tracks, but when it does decide to kick up the energy level it manages to make a respectable jam or two.

Certainly the best Jam on the album is Simple Song, the first single they released a few months back that manages to live up to its name without being boring. In another year it'd probably be my winner for best all around summer jam since it's hard to find a song that's this great to chill out to that's even more of a jam.

Official 2012 Summer Jam

Azelia Banks - Jumanji

But Azelia Banks somehow managed it. If you'd have told me six months ago that Azelia Banks was going to have the official jam of the summer this year I'd have said "Who? Oh you mean the half-assed Nicki Minaj for people who think Nicki isn't indie enough anymore?" Then I'd have flipped over the table and moonwalked out of Indie Cred HQ. Despite my low opinion of her breakout track 212 my amazing new ability to admit I can be wrong compelled me to keep taking a look when she'd release something new.

Then a funny thing started to happen.

She started going in really weird directions on every song as if she was trying to establish the absolute boundaries for her entire rap career in under a year. One week she'd be trying out old school party rap and the next she'd be riding the wave of prog influenced rap. As Jane said earlier this month her new EP has a distinct element of House music which I would not have predicted from her earlier stuff. She burned through entire sub-genres at a blistering pace and even when it wasn't enjoyable it was engaging as hell.

Then one day I woke up and, amazingly enough, this song was circling the blogo-blags. It's even more amazing that I haven't woken up every day since then to find everybody listening to it considering that it is the perfect summer jam. It's fun, high-energy, and it makes you feel empowered to go and do shit outside. It would be equally at home as the soundtrack for sitting in your backyard chatting or making drinks as it would be convincing everybody you know to start dancing at the end of a party. Best of all, it has an awesome jungle-sounding summer beat that actually justifies naming a song Jumanji and making the cover image you getting ready to mack on Babar.

Official 2012 Not Summer Jam You'll Hear on Everybody's Playlist Anyway

Gotye-Someone That I used to Know