This week marks the summer solstice which brings the longest day of year. More important to us (and most folks), that means it’s the first official week of summer. Now I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that music and summer go hand in hand; that seems to be a universal truth. You know, like ice cream is delicious and the first sunburn of the season is always the worst. Music is inherently situational and summer presents us with the most situations where a well placed tune can be the perfect partner in crime. It could be lounging on the beach or kicking it on the deck, cruising with the windows open or seeing your favorite band at your local amphitheater — music and summer are the best power couple out there, especially since Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris broke up.
With music playing such an important role in a summer, the cusp of summer is an exciting time because the possibilities of what lies ahead for us are endless. There is so much to look forward to. New albums, potential summer jams, concerts, festivals and more are all on the horizon and the thought of them is nearly intoxicating. And that’s just the stuff we know about! Summer always throws us a curveball or two, making the next few months that much more intriguing.
So with the summer of 2016 officially under way, it seemed like a good time to look ahead and run through some of the things we are most excited about.
Festivals, Festivals, Festivals!
Summer music festivals have become big business over the last decade and we, the music-enjoying public, are reaping the benefits. Well, provided you can get to one. Either way, as festivals grow, so do the lineups and so does the chance that you’ll be able to catch a couple bands or artists you’ve never been able to see, but have always wanted to. With each passing year, lineups are becoming more and more diverse, essentially bringing in even more people to their massive tents.
Earlier this month, big fests like Bonnaroo and Gov Ball both proved you could kick it there for a month and wait for the first incarnation of Panorama, a new festival going down July 22-24, organized by the people behind Coachella and the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Yeah, it may seem kind of redundant to have another festival in the same spot a month later, but I’m betting Panorama will have at least a slightly different vibe to it and if anything, the lineup is different. Kendrick Lamar, LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire are headliners with Alabama Shakes, Run the Jewels, Major Lazer and A$AP Rocky also playing.
The other big music festival to look forward to is the granddaddy of them all, Lollapalooza. Perry Farrell’s brain child is celebrating its 25th anniversary and spans four jam-packed days in Chicago during the last weekend of July. The headliners are Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, LCD Soundsystem and J. Cole, with Lana Del Rey, Future, Major Lazer, Disclosure and the 1975 playing. Exact numbers are hard to come by until festivals happen, but Lollapalooza definitely seems to have the biggest lineup out there.
And for the past four years, summers have been sent on their way by Jay Z’s Made in America festival in Philadelphia. It’s happening once again over Labor Day Weekend with Rihanna, Chance The Rapper, and Coldplay headlining. It ought to be one last hot weekend to end the summer.
Let’s Welcome Back Some Old Favorites
Summer is frequently a prime season for reunion tours, and 2016 is no exception. Obviously the Guns N’ Roses reunion is the one most people will be talking about and for good reason — it’s Guns N’ Roses! No really, it’s the version of the band (for the most part) who took us all by storm in the late ’80s and early ’90s before disappearing into the abyss, only to return years later as a bastardized version of the band with an album (Chinese Democracy) that actually wasn’t that bad. Depending on who you listen to and what you read, it’s been roughly 20 years since original members Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan played together, and after the first decade apart, a reunion seemed to be wishful thinking. But it seems like every band gets back together eventually and man, I have no idea why. Really. What on earth could prompt a group of people with decades of resentment and disgust for one another to bury the hatchet and reunite? Let’s just say it’s for the love of the music and move on. The reunited version of Guns N’ Roses played at Coachella this spring and after Axl gets done with his new side hustle, fronting AC/DC, the Not in This Lifetime tour gets going at the end of June in Detroit. Lenny Kravitz and Alice in Chains will open various shows.
The summer of 2016 isn’t just about Guns N’ Roses though, it just might seem that way sometimes. Other groups reuniting this summer or regrouping after some time off are Blink 182, LCD Soundsystem and Radiohead, although their respective time offs pale in comparison to Guns N’ Roses’ time. Perhaps the biggest and most welcome surprise this side of G N’ R is the return of LCD Soundsystem, who called it quits back in 2011 and played a giant farewell show at Madison Square Garden that spring. But hey, now they’re back and that’s dope because LCD Soundsystem is dope. Their summer will mostly be spent playing festivals (they started with Coachella) both here in America and abroad. They haven’t announced any plans beyond this summer and that’s fine. No one wants to think about the fall now anyway.
Blink 182 are back on the road; their first time out with Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio, who replaced Tom DeLonge on vocals and guitar, and English gents Radiohead are also back in our lives after being largely absent since 2012. Touring in support of their new album, A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead are splitting time between the states and Europe this summer and have been causing a delightful stir — treating fans to some of their older songs at their shows, like “Creep”.
Then there’s Prophets of Rage, the new band comprising members of Rage Against the Machine, backing Chuck D of Public Enemy and B-Real of Cypress Hill. There’s enough familiarity here to consider them an old favorite, despite their insistence that the project is something new. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s essentially Rage Against the Machine with someone new on vocals. Regardless, the project seems like a much better match than the guys from Rage’s first post-RATM venture, Audioslave, who never quite lived up to the hype and billing. Prophets of Rage make more sense and as we head into a summer governed by an increasingly negative and toxic presidential campaign, Prophets of Rage could be the soundtrack we need to make sense of it all. It’s been reported that they’ll be in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, which is a good start to their goal of #MakeAmericaRageAgain. A summer tour has also been put together, bringing 2016’s most intriguing project out into the streets and into sheds and arenas across the country.
What Up, The Music We Know Is Coming Out!
Summer is a season of freshness so the music must be fresh as a daisy to properly work. Additionally, it’s a great time to drop an album because there seems to be so much more free time, so many more situations out there to listen to music than other seasons. No offense to winter, but I can’t really get into a new album if I’m buried under the covers or wrapped up like a mummy out shoveling my driveway. The albums slated to be released this summer fall into two categories — the ones with definite release dates and the ones with “TBD” penciled in next to the title. Let’s tackle the ones we know for sure are coming out first. They get points for having their ish together.
Coming up in June we have new music by Band of Horses, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Avett Brothers. Band of Horses are releasing Why Are You Ok?, which is their first release since 2012’s Mirage Rock and fifth studio album. The Chili Peppers are looking to get back on track with The Getaway after their last album, 2011’s I’m With You, pretty much popped and fizzled. The band worked with Danger Mouse on the album, making it the first time since their 1989 album Mother’s Milk that they worked with someone besides Rick Rubin. Rubin was busy elsewhere though, manning the board for True Sadness, the new album by the Avett Brothers.
On the hip-hop front, June promises a new release by YG, Still Brazy, featuring Drake on “Why You Always Hatin,” which might be the most Drake title of a song ever. YG made some noise earlier this year with his anti-Trump song, “F*ck Donald Trump,” a sentiment I think a lot of folks agree with.
Blink 182 are dropping their first album, California, minus original member Tom DeLonge on July 1 and it’ll be interesting to see how DeLonge’s departure may affected the band’s sound; a sound that according to the band’s drummer Travis Barker, DeLonge wanted to direct toward a Coldplay vibe. Based on the first single off California, seems like this crisis was averted.
Also in July, Snapchat’s favorite DJ, DJ Khaled releases Major Key, his ninth album, on July 8. Consider yourself warned — Major Key might take over the summer. DJ Khaled already dropped the Drake-collaboration “For Free” on Apple Music’s Beats 1 with Zane Lowe and if that doesn’t immediately become a contender for this summer’s official summer jam, perhaps one of the tracks featuring Kanye West, Big Sean or Rick Ross will. Then there’s the Avalanches, the Australian DJ collective, last heard from in 2001, who emerged from the outback with a new track. Their new album, Wildflower, should be released on July 8. Although it has been 16 years since their last album, so maybe we should notch an “ish” after that date. In addition to that, the impossible to resist brothers in Rae Sremmurd will drop another tape of trap classic in Sremmlife 2 this August.
What Up, The Music We Think Is Coming Out!
Since release dates just don’t mean what they used to, as fans we need to be on our toes. Albums can be released at any moment now. The unpredictability of the whole thing is simultaneously exciting and maddening. At least some people give some loose specifics as to when their album is going to come out. That’s a start I guess.
For instance, Major Lazer, the Diplo-fronted hit makers who came in second in UPROXX’s Song of the Summer tournament last summer with their song “Lean On,” are rumored to have a new album coming out some time this summer. It even has a title, Music is the Weapon, and earlier this week, Diplo shared a snippet of a new track, “Cold Water,” featuring Justin Bieber and MO. But alas, nothing definite. Thanks for nothing guys.
Oh and then we have Mr. Kanye West. Only a few days after the week-long release of The Life of Pablo, West promised that a new album, Turbo GrafX 16, would be out some time this summer. Some time this summer. That’s cool, Kanye. Some time this summer I’m going to go swimming in the ocean and some time this summer I’m going to eat two more hot dogs than I should at a barbecue. But it doesn’t stop there with ‘Ye. Earlier in June, West called into the Big Boy in the Morning radio show out in L.A., giving the world an exclusive spin of a new track called “Champions,” featuring numerous members of the G.O.O.D. Music collective — Travi$ Scott, Big Sean, Yo Gotti, 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane, as well as Desiinger. There were already rumors swirling that a follow-up to 2012’s Cruel Summer was being worked on in the lab and this new track either solidified that or mystified it. On top of that, with his Governors Ball set being cancelled, West and the G.O.O.D. crew drove over to HOT 97’s Summer Jam and crashed the stage. What does that mean? What does any of it mean? Oh, Kanye. Always keeping us on our toes, always keeping us waiting.
We’ll also be waiting for Matahdatah, reportedly the last album from M.I.A., who has been hassled by pesky immigration issues for the past few months, seemingly holding up the release of the album. A song from the album has been released here and there, but so far nothing has come out regarding an actual release of the album. And you know, maybe the recently reunited LCD Soundsystem will release an album. Or maybe the Strokes will drop a full-length release at some point and who knows, Frank Ocean could always release his long-awaited follow-up to Channel Orange.
I probably wouldn’t hold my breath for that last one.
Let’s Talk About Summer Jams
History has shown that there will be one song that separates itself, one song that becomes the song of the summer. Despite not winning the UPROXX Song of the Summer tournament, I still feel that Major Lazer’s “Lean On” owned the summer of 2015. As for this summer, it’s obviously way too early to name a song but I do think we already have some contenders. Rihanna plays a role in two of them (“This is What You Came For” her song with Calvin Harris and “Work” featuring Drake,) while Drake also has two horses in the race (Rihanna’s “Work” and his track “One Dance.”) I feel very strongly about the staying power of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and while I don’t think it’ll be the song of the summer, the “All the Way Up” remix will be at the very least one song of the summer.
Who else will be in the mix? Kanye is always a threat, especially if he’s toying around with both a solo album and a G.O.O.D. music album, and no one can sleep on anything from that DJ Khaled album. And if Major Lazer does drop an album, of course they’d be a contender. There will be some others in the mix, which is always exciting. However, I do think the smart money might be on “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”
Well, things have finally heated up. Enjoy the summer and remember to pack some sunscreen.