What To Listen To On the Beach: The 15 Best Full Albums

In today’s world of hit singles, curated playlists, and remixes, it feels like nobody ever listens to an entire album from start to finish anymore.  But there’s something particularly impressive when an artist can craft 10 or 12 songs that are individually great, but when listened to in a certain order feel like an *experience*.

And a few days at the beach (or pool) provide the perfect opportunity for uninterrupted listening.  This isn’t necessarily my ultimate beach music playlist (memo to self: make that), but rather a selection of albums that—when listened to in their entirety—will enhance your beach or pool time.  A perfect auditory mood complement to sun on your skin, sand in your toes, and the distant crash of waves.

15 Best Albums for the Beach or Pool...albums you should listen to from start to finish | Pool and beach music for your vacation, what to listen to at the beach, best beach music, best pool music #beach #vacation #music

Planning a beach or pool vacation??  I’ve got you covered with Everything You Need to Pack for a Chill Beach Vacay and My Favorite Summer Beach & Pool Reads

Fair warning:  this isn’t a beach music “theme” list.  No Beach Boys, no songs with “ocean” in the title.  And if you’re looking for rap and hip hop or tons of country, this probably isn’t the list for you.  It’s pretty eclectic and spans several different genres, but definitely leans a little more into the folk, alt-pop, alt-rock, indie rock, and similar areas.

You should be able to find these pretty much anywhere, wherever you normally get your music.  I’ve included links to Amazon since it’s the easiest, and a lot of these are included with Prime Music if you have that.  I’ve also created a Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post that includes every album, in this specific order—which I’ve listed roughly from super chill to most energetic.  I also tried to pick a song from each album that I dare you not to fall in love with, which was basically like trying to choose a favorite child.

So without further ado…

The 15 best beach albums to listen to from start to finish

#1:  My Favourite Faded Fantasy – Damien Rice

Lush and dreamy, this album is sheer perfection when listened to in its entirety.  With headphones in you hear even more of the individual details and layers, and if I had to pick just one album to listen to on repeat at the pool or beach, this is hands-down my choice.  It was worth the eight years it took to make, and this (along with the last album on this list) is one of my favorite albums just in general.

I dare you not to fall in love with:  It’s almost impossible to choose.  I can tell you it’s not “Camellias”, but beyond that it’s so hard.  I guess I’ll go with “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man”…a 9-minute opus that gets particularly good 4-5 minutes in and then fades into the next song, “The Greatest Bastard”, in an absolutely lovely way.  Honorable mention goes to “Trusty and True”, which builds up layers in its last half that break over you just like the waves you’re listening to in the background.

Find it on Amazon

#2:  Covers, Vol. 2 – Sleeping At Last

This is such a weird addition that I almost didn’t include it, and technically it’s chiller than the Damien Rice album…I just didn’t feel like this could launch the list.  It defies logic.  But if you’re looking for something quiet and beautiful to let just wash over and maybe lull you into a nap, Sleeping At Last is your band.  Full and sparse, almost instrumental while still having vocals, the band (which I think is now maybe just a solo project) is perfect background music.

I dare you not to fall in love with:  “Chasing Cars”

Get it on Amazon

 

#3:  Spirit – Amos Lee

I’ve been in love with Amos’s work since his very bluesy, spare self-titled debut album became my stress-baking go-to while I was in college.  Every album since has managed to very cannily walk the line between constant reinvention and knowing exactly who he is as an artist.

That’s not an easy feat (just ask Coldplay), and it means that each album is such a complete work of art all on its own, with its own genre and instrumental DNA.  But the jazzy, gospel-y, R&B-tinged “Spirit” has completely grabbed hold of me and doesn’t show signs of letting go.  Each song is great on its own, but when listened to from beginning to end it transcends to something that is much more than the sum of its parts.

I’ll add that his album “Mission Bell” gets honorable mention, with the pure effervescent lift of “Windows Rolled Down” making me feel the breeze and wish I was watching a sunset on the beach.

I dare you not to fall in love with:  “Spirit”, followed by the peppy (and yet melancholy) “Lightly”

Get it on Amazon

 

#4:  Let’s Be Still – Head & the Heart

I couldn’t tell you exactly what sunk its hooks into me about this album…I’ve never listened to the band outside of this particular album.  I remember listening to it on a loop while vacationing in Rincon, Puerto Rico…what had previously been background music I put on during a dinner party came to life in my earbuds with odd little syncopated hooks and musical quirks in the middle of more straightforward songs.  Now that I think about it, I especially love the second half of each song, where they switch it up and do something more fun and interesting.

I dare you not to fall in love with:  “Gone” (particularly the last half)

Find it on Amazon

 

#5:  Let the Truth Be Told – Laura Izibor

I’m obsessed with Laura Izibor’s voice, which manages to be soothing and funky at the same time.  I first found her through the gorgeously soulful “Mmm…” but then fell for her unique smoky pop/gospel/funk/R&B blend.  She’s sassy on “Don’t Stay”, nakedly vulnerable on “What Would You Do”, and sure in being adored on “If Tonight Is My Last”.  It’s insane to me that she’s not better known, but this album is a complete gem.

I dare you not to fall in love with:  Some days it’s the uplifting optimism of “Shine”, and other days it’s the total ownage (yes, that’s a real word) on “Yes [I’ll Be Your Baby]”

Find it on Amazon

 

#6:  Traveller – Chris Stapleton

While he’s been known in the songwriting world for quite some time, my eyes were opened to Chris when I saw him perform before Jason Isbell (also amazing) at a little show in Piedmont Park a few years ago, and I was stunned by the power and simplicity of this album.  It throws back to an older, purer country music, where the punchy, gravelly vocals and guitar are front-and-center.  From a sultry cover of “Tennessee Whiskey” to the happy “Traveller” to the driving “Parachute”, it’s hard to classify this album on the chill-to-upbeat scale because it manages the entire spectrum itself.

I dare you not to fall in love with:  “Fire Away”

Get it on Amazon

 

#7:  Sound & Color – Alabama Shakes

Oooh, where to even start with this one.  My friend Shalya recommended this album to me a couple years ago and it’s become one of my go-to plays for anything moody and atmospheric—a dinner party, a rainy night on the porch, cooking dinner on a cold evening.  And basking in the sun while the waves crash nearby.

I can’t tell you what genre this is (southern blues soul rock??), couldn’t name individual songs, and don’t know the background to the album.  I don’t know how frontwoman Brittany Howard shapes her voice from a soulful whisper to a primal howl in the span of a few seconds.  All I know is that you have to listen to it right now, in order from start to finish, with your headphones on and a particularly boozy mojito in your hand while the sun bakes into your skin.

I dare you not to fall in love with:  “Don’t Wanna Fight”

Find it on Amazon

 

#8:  Modern Love – Matt Nathanson

One of the “whisper rock” pioneers, Matt Nathanson is rocky, poppy, soft, and often kind of  dirty as well.  Seriously, see him in concert sometime—hysterical and filthy.  I’m a fan of quite a bit of his back catalog, but this album is I think the best example of what he can be.  It has a summer feel, a knowing wink and yet honesty about the realities of love (or lust) in the modern age.

I dare you not to fall in love with:  So hard to choose, but I’d go with the effervescent “Faster”

Find it on Amazon

 

#9:  Sweeter – Gavin DeGraw

While it’s one of the most purely pop entries here, Gavin always brings his own, fairly-recognizable slightly blues-y vibe and gravel voice that elevates his work to something much more interesting.  On “Sweeter” he shows a little more vulnerability than previous albums, transitioning from sweet (“Soldier”) to sassy (“Radiation”) to honest (“Run Every Time”).

I dare you not to fall in love with:  “Soldier”

Find it on Amazon

 

#10:  Forget the Storm – Tyler Hilton

After bouncing around the major record label world for a while, this is Tyler’s first album on his own label, and you can hear both the heartbreak and the defiance borne of his previous experiences.  His gravel voice and pop-tinged singer-songwriter vibe transition here into a purer rock sound.  The first four or five tracks are especially strong (and have some serious hooks), but the entire album hangs together perfectly for an afternoon laying on the beach or even barreling down the highway.

Also, not technically part of any album, but I am head-over-heels in love with Tyler’s cover of “Missing You” (from the One Tree Hill soundtrack).  Mournful, quiet, driving, and hopeful…look this up on Spotify because it’s always worth a listen.

I dare you not to fall in love with:  “Prince of Nothing Charming”

Find it on Amazon

 

#11:  Out of My Hands – Green River Ordinance

I honestly wish I could remember how I found this band…I think they maybe opened for either David Cook or The Script waaaaay back in the day?  I totally fell in love with the Fort Worth band’s debut album, which has a little bit of a Augustana or The Fray feel—earnest, catchy anthems designed to bring a smile to your face.  From the explosive, driving start of “Outside” to the sweet (if a bit generic) “Endlessly”, there are no missteps or throwaways on this album.

If you’re in the mood for something more chill, they have a beautiful acoustic folk-y EP called “The Morning Passengers” that I’d highly recommend as well.

I dare you not to fall in love with:  “Learning”.  Starts a little slow, but man, that chorus…

Find it on Amazon

 

#12:  Middle of Nowhere – Hanson

I can hear your eye-roll from here.  But I’ve long-maintained that Hanson’s debut album (which came out when I was the tender age of 13) is the perfect roadtrip CD, and that holds true for laying out at the beach as well.  From the opening driving guitars and beat of “Thinking of You” to the eminently weird “Man From Milwaukee”, the three (soooo young at the time) brothers from Tulsa just clearly have fun, and provide pop-rock earworms that I dare you not to sing along with.  Come for “Mmmbop” and stay for everything else.

I dare you not to fall in love with:  “A Minute Without You”

Find it on Amazon

 

#13:  Wonders of the Younger – Plain White T’s

While their radio singles have been largely sentimental schlock, their albums are generally fun hook-filled punk-pop gems.  This one leans into a theme a little more than the others, with a dark burlesque circus sort of vibe, a weirdness that brings a fun dramatic flair.  It was on repeat for probably six months in my life a while back (and “Boomerang” was my ringtone for someone who…warranted it).  It is KILLER in concert, but also benefits from having your headphones in to hear all the layers of instrumentation and harmonies.  And the pop-y, swaying “Rhythm of Love” is impossible to resist at the beach.

I dare you not to fall in love with:  Tough, but I’m going to go with “Welcome to Mystery”

Find it on Amazon

 

#14:  Some Nights – fun.

This is such a strange pick for me, and I have no idea why I decided I needed to buy this album.  Fueled by lead singer Nate Reuss’ voice and full of disenfranchised youth anthems and irresistible harmonies, the first few songs have a Queen-like feel, before taking a turn to an almost video game vibe in “It Gets Better” and “All Alone”.  It’s odd and syncopated and I dare your shoulders not to wiggle along while you’re camped out by the pool.

I dare you not to fall in love with:  “Some Nights”

Find it on Amazon

 

#15:  The Black Parade – My Chemical Romance

I’ve been completely in love with this album since it came out, and am so thankful that I got to see them live before they broke up (with an little up-and-coming band called Muse as their opener…).  Lazy people will dismiss it as simple punk rock, but if you give it even 20 seconds you’ll realize that it’s so, so much more.  It’s a meticulously-crafted rock opera.

I’ve had people get mad when I liken them to this generation’s Queen (who is a known influence of the band), but there are so many similarities in the building, layered orchestral arrangements, even in the instrumentation and vocal tonality.

I love a lot of their older stuff but this album is, from start to finish, nearly perfect.  It is so carefully crafted and tells an intriguing story that you can’t help but get sucked into (you can read more about it here).  Each song can stand alone and is awesome in its own right, but when listened to as one holistic piece of music, it’s so powerful.  And with headphones in you hear all the tiny details that are easy to miss when cranked up in the car or in your house.

I dare you not to fall in love with:  you have to go with “Welcome to the Black Parade”, but I have to give an honorable mention to “Famous Last Words” and “Dead”.  And maybe “The End.” (What?! I told you it was one of my favorite albums…)

Find it on Amazon

 

So there you have it—almost 12 hours of auditory bliss for your beach or pool vacay enjoyment.  As promised, here’s a Spotify playlist of the entire thing, in order.  You can listen search “Best Albums for the Beach” on Spotify and follow too.

 

Now that you’ve heard from me, I’d love to hear *your* recommendations for best full albums for the beach…always looking for new inspiration.  Hit me up in the comments!

Beach inspiration to pair with your playlist:

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15 Best Albums for the Beach or Pool...albums you should listen to from start to finish | Pool and beach music for your vacation, what to listen to at the beach, best beach music, best pool music #beach #vacation #music

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