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2020 and Counting: A Summer Indie Playlist

2020 certainly hasn’t been a typical summer, but at least the world has had one reliable constant: good indie music. Here's a playlist to prove it.

8 mins read

It certainly hasn’t been a typical summer, but at least the world has had one reliable constant: good indie music. Many artists are moving forward with their releases despite the strange timing which has offered much-needed escapism to listeners everywhere. After all, music is what brings us together, right?

These new releases act as the perfect soundtrack for whatever summer activity you’re participating in, whether that’s hanging around outside or driving with the windows down. These warm tracks make great listens while drinking wine and having a Zoom party with friends.

Whether it’s the melancholic-but-festival-ready rock of Phoebe Bridgers or the pumped-up electronic bliss of AlunaGeorge, we’ve got you covered with some of the best picks for summer 2020.

1. “one life, might live” by Little Simz

British rapper Little Simz (real name Simbi Ajikawo) released her new EP, Drop 6 in May. It’s a tight project with five solid songs, and “one life, might live” has the empowering energy we all need this year. She’s an innovative artist who creates her own lane, catching the attention of Kendrick Lamar, Gorillaz, and Lauryn Hill in the process. We’ll definitely be hearing more from Little Simz.

2. “Can’t Fight” by Lianne La Havas

This is the perfect song to listen to while sitting in the garden with the sun shining down on your face. Everything about it screams summer: Havas’ warm voice, soulful harmonies, and twangy guitar picking. If you like what you hear, you’re going to love this singer-songwriter’s follow up to 2015’s Blood, out now.

3. “Kyoto” by Phoebe Bridgers

We might not be attending any festivals this summer, but we can pretend we are with Phoebe Bridgers’ “Kyoto.” It’s one of the few upbeat songs on her excellent new record, Punisher, and is just enough to make us feel all our emotions while screaming at the top of our lungs.

4. “Riding Solo” by Hinds

These rockers, who hail from Madrid, Spain, recently released their new album, The Prettiest Curse, and it’s filled with anthemic choruses and arena-ready guitar riffs. This single, in particular, will make you feel ultra-cool, even if you’re riding solo.

5. “Why Don’t You” by Cleo Sol

This song is from the singer-songwriter’s debut LP, Rose in the Dark, released earlier this year. It offers a perfect summer vibe. Light, airy, and soulful, “Why Don’t You” has a groovy rhythm sure to get your body moving.

6. “Dead Horse” by Hayley Williams

This song is from Williams’ debut, the three-part album, Petals For Armor. “Dead Horse” is a particularly fun cut on the record featuring a jungle-esque groove and the Paramore frontwoman’s playful vocals.

7. “Summer” by Simpson

With a title like “Summer,” it’s easy to understand why it’s perfect for the warmer months. The title isn’t the only reason why it’s a great choice though—the bright guitar loop, bubbly synths and catchy chorus all make for a perfect indie-pop track.

8. “Dolerme” by ROSALÍA

Between the acoustic guitar and Rosalía’s autotuned vocal, what’s not to love about “Dolerme”? The passion in her voice beautifully contrasts the subtle instrumentation. It almost sounds like Rosalía is singing underwater, making it perfect for laying back and relaxing.

9. “Body Pump” by AlunaGeorge

AlunaGeorge is back with the most epic bass drops and the catchiest hooks. We can always count on this London duo to make listeners feel super liberated. The buoyant synths combined with the artist’s raspy voice equals pure ecstasy.

10. “Last” by Tourist and The Range

British producer/songwriter Tourist recently teamed up with DJ/producer The Range on one of the most epic songs of the summer. What begins as a synth-infused ballad turns into a rock-tinged dream once the explosive, clashing drums enter. You can dance and headbang to it.

11. “Black Dog” by Arlo Parks

British singer-songwriter Arlo Parks may be only 20, but she sounds wise beyond her years while consoling a friend on this dreamy cut. “Just take your medicine and eat some food / I would do anything to get you out your room,” she sings with love and reassurance.

12. “Face” by Jessy Lanza

The synths and drum machines all have minds of their own on this track. It’s wild and that’s exactly what makes “Face” great. Lanza manages to keep things interesting the whole way through with unpredictable changes, tiny details, and manipulated vocals.

13. “FOMO” by Toledo

This might just be the perfect tune for someone who isn’t going out much this summer. “But it’s always gonna be like that, acting like I know what I’m getting at / Something going good until it’s going bad,” the Brooklyn-based indie rockers sing before diving into an epic guitar groove reminiscent of Tame Impala. Everyone deals with the fear of missing out, making “FOMO” easily one of the most relatable tracks of the season.

14. “Footnotes” by Land of Talk

After making a great comeback in 2017, Land of Talk (fronted by Elizabeth Powell) is here with their fourth album, Indistinct Conversations. The guitar-heavy track is light, dreamy and of course, led by Powell’s pure and pretty voice.

Kirsten Spruch

Kirsten Spruch is a New York-based music journalist who has written for Billboard, The Wild Honey Pie, and more. Formerly, she was the managing editor at Baeble Music. When she's not writing about music, she is making her own under the alias Kirsten Izer.