As we inch toward the end of another sweaty summer — complete with record heat waves, a Hollywood picket line growing weary, and never-ending, pink-themed collaborations — we’re counting our blessings that at least we’ve had music to help us through. After all, it only takes one great song to turn any hour of the day around, whether you’re clocking in a double shift or heading home from the beach.
With fall around the corner, and back-to-school items stocking the shelves again, we’re taking time to reflect on what tracks have best captured this strange, and slightly apocalyptic summer. Perhaps it was a pop-punk banger from an early aughts band, or an ensemble acoustic ballad that’s gone viral on TikTok…
Read more: 25 best albums of 2023 so far
We asked our readers what the best alternative songs are this summer. From alt-rock ballads to emo anthems, find the top fan picks ranked below.
5. “Not Strong Enough” — boygenius
As the first No. 1 hit off the alt-rock trio’s 2023 album, the recordthis boygenius song will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the songs of the summer. Nodding to Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough” in a haunting rendition of its heartbroken chorus, “Not Strong Enough” is a stunning showcase of the group’s stripped-back harmonies. Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker kick off the track with stunning vocals that balance frustration with acceptance, and Lucy Dacus takes the song home with a baritone harmony that is absolutely chilling.
4. “Sunshine” — Teenage Wrist
Drawing inspiration from bands like The Cure and The Smashing Pumpkins, Teenage Wrist hit everything from grunge to shoegaze to early pop-punk on their 2023 album Still Love. With distorted guitars and melodic riffs that open up for Galagher’s soaring vocals, “Sunshine” feels like your classic high school summer banger, with a nostalgic music video that transports you right back to your suburban hometown. From paper-bagged beers to backyard parties, I think this music video is what we all wish our summer looked like.
3. “2 BEST FRIENDS” — Waterparks
Waterparks‘ “2 BEST FRIENDS” showcases the band’s trademark blend of hyperpop and pop-punk in a bouncy track off their critically acclaimed album Intellectual Property. The song is vintage Waterparks: a combustion of grungy, pop dance music and heavy guitars, that is paired with the Houston band’s distinctively cheeky songwriting. This track is particularly upbeat and cheerful — the exact song you’d want ripping when you’re at the pool (or pretending to be).
2. “Hold Me Like a Grudge” — Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy’s “Hold Me Like a Grudge” feels like the unexpected bridge between the 22-year-old band’s past and present. Playful, danceable, and impossibly catchy — the track reflects on growing older and the inevitable passage of time. Their ambitious music video even acts as a tongue-in-cheek extension of 2007’s “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race” in a campy, alternate universe. The emo rockers really shine in this track: Pete Wentz drops in with a funky bass line, a groovy iteration of “Another One Bites The Dust,” and Patrick Stump’s searing vocals give the disco pulse a dangerous edge. This has been one of Fall Out Boy’s favorite tracks to perform on the road if you’re lucky enough to catch them live.
1. “Emergency Contact” — Pierce The Veil
While the single came ahead of the album in November 2022, we’ll give this a pass since the song is now only available for streaming on the 2023 album, The Jaws Of Life, and has been blasted across radio stations all summer. A powerful pop-punk anthem about romance and chaos, “Emergency Contact” is a slight redirection from Pierce The Veil‘s post-hardcore roots. The second single the San Diego-based rock band released since their 2016 album, Misadventures“Emergency Contact” marks the group’s next chapter as they continue to explore new sounds as a three-piece.