On the third Saturday of September, millions of volunteers in over 90 countries participate in International Coastal Cleanup Day, a day dedicated to cleaning up beaches and preserving our coastlines for years to come.
As a proud partner of the Surfrider Foundation, the House of Marley is all about an entire day dedicated to making our beaches a better place for everyone. Of course, a day filled with cleaning up the many beautiful beaches and coastlines of the world requires a solid soundtrack––one that inspires you, keeps you motivated and lets you vibe all day long.
But you don’t have to wait until that third Saturday in September to tidy up your local beach. We’re big believers that every day can be ICCD. So get your cleanup gear ready and don’t forget your sunscreen, because here are 11 songs that are perfect for a productive day on the beach.
Ziggy Marley – “Beach in Hawaii”
International Coastal Cleanup Day applies to the whole world, as every coastline deserves to be preserved and protected. Few people understand that better than Ziggy Marley, who is a passionate advocate for environmental action and fighting back against climate change.
On “Beach in Hawaii,” Marley describes the state’s iconic golden sands to the vast ocean, and how that beauty is only improved when shared with others. That sentiment is a good one to remember this Coastal Cleanup Day, because keeping our beaches clean makes a world of difference for every person, animal and plant that calls these places “home.”
Billie Eilish – “ocean eyes”
Billie Eilish has come a long way since her breakout 2016 single, both career and age-wise (she sounds way younger than you might remember on this song). Still, “ocean eyes” holds up as a gut punch of a love ballad that already showed Eilish and her brother Finneas’ signatures at play, from her near-whisper vocal delivery to his atmospheric production.
Whether you’re picking up trash or looking for treasure, beachcombing can be a calming, almost meditative process. If that’s the case for you, then “ocean eyes” will help you get to that zen state.
Leon Bridges – “Smooth Sailin’”
While Leon Bridges’ debut Coming Home came out in 2015, it’s understandable if you thought it was from the 1960s. Standout track “Smooth Sailin’” hits the marks that define the best rhythm and blues of yesteryear: warm production, a feel-good groove and plenty of catchy hooks.
A short-and-sweet jam about taking a ride with someone you love to no place in particular, this track immediately puts anyone listening in the mood to dance and be happy. With Bridges’ smooth timbre as your soundtrack, cleaning up your local beach will be … well, you know.
Modest Mouse – “Float On” & “Ocean Breathes Salty”
Though you don’t necessarily think about beaches when thinking about the Pacific Northwest, the PNW has more than its fair share of beaches and coastlines, and they deserve some love, too.
Formed near Seattle and now residing in Portland, Oregon, indie rock legends Modest Mouse have a surprising amount of nautically themed songs, including this melancholic song from 2006’s Good News For People Who Love Bad News. “Ocean Breathes Salty” comes right after the band’s biggest hit “Float On” on the album’s tracklist, making it easy to overlook being the other sea-alluding song on the record.
But pairing these songs back-to-back doesn’t feel accidental––in fact, the songs work as companion pieces to one another. Where “Float On” is a buoyant ode to always looking on the bright side, “Ocean Breathes Salty” feels like an asterisk to that optimism. It’s as if the band is reminding listeners that keeping your head up also entails carrying that weight, whether that be grief, loss or stress caused by doomscrolling too much.
In a way, these songs as a duo present a good mindset for taking care of our coastlines: It’ll all be okay, as long as we play our part and do the work.
Sylvan Esso – “Sunburn”
Sylvan Esso excels at making music that somehow sounds at home in both crowded clubs and intimate campfire dance parties, and “Sunburn” is the latest example of that duality.
The lead single off their fourth album No Rules Sandy, “Sunburn” starts with a barebones, glitchy beat that contrasts from singer Amelia Meath’s folksy, lullaby-like delivery as she sings about going too far and loving it anyway. It’s a hypnotic reflection on the delicate balance between joy and pain––and also a good reminder to wear sunscreen while you’re out there.
Styx – “Come Sail Away”
The 1970s was an eclectic time period for rock music: the psychedelic experimentation from the previous decade gave way to bands throwing anything into a song to see if it stuck. “Come Sail Away” by Styx is a classic example of that approach, as the band takes the listener on a glorious six-minute journey through classical piano, thundering guitars and dazzling synth breaks.
Singer Dennis DeYoung wrote “Come Sail Away” as a way to lift his spirits when Styx was underperforming and potentially on the outs. In a twist of fate, the song became the band’s biggest hit and most well-known track, making its message about perseverance and following your dreams that much sweeter. It’s a perfect song to sing from the top of your lungs as you move onward towards a cleaner coastline.
Fastball – “You’re An Ocean”
They might be from Austin, Texas, but Fastball sounds like they were born and raised on the West Coast with “You’re An Ocean.” A highlight from 2000’s The Harsh Light of Day, “You’re An Ocean” shows the band gleefully slamming every drum, string and piano key (provided by the legendary so-called fifth Beatle, Billy Preston) with everything they have, only outdone by Miles Zuniga’s blistering slide guitar solo.
This track is ideal for blasting from your car as you drive down the coast, but it works just as well as a pick-me-up while you clean up the beach.
Lorde – “Oceanic Feeling”
Lorde recently made fans incredibly worried for her health at a show in Washington, D.C. when she unwittingly confessed to swimming in the infamous Potomac River, historically one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country. “I love getting to swim in the water where I’m playing,” she said onstage over audible gasps and ewwws from the audience. “It makes me feel like I know you a bit better somehow.”
While yes, the Nation’s River has a well-documented history of waste, chemicals and runoff––President Lincoln supposedly ditched the White House during the summer to get away from the river’s smell––it has thankfully come a very long way thanks to years of cleanup efforts and environmental reform.
It’s fitting, then, that Lorde’s most recent album Solar Power is all about embracing nature and living life like it’s on the beach. The record’s closer “Oceanic Feeling” particularly drives the feeling home with its laid-back instrumentation and Lorde’s stream-of-conscious musings about being happy with where you’re at right now.
Paul McCartney – “Junk”
“Motor cars, handlebars, bicycles for two…” To Paul McCartney, this “Junk” represents much more than the title of his 1970 track implies. Over gentle acoustic guitars, Macca wistfully reflects on how the people we meet and memories we create in life are like the material things we buy and collect: Some are kept and cherished, but the majority are inevitably lost in the back of a shelf, or discarded completely to make space.
While the moments of our lives spread out like trash on a beach is a powerful metaphor, we should only ever leave our emotional junk behind in the sand––not the actual junk with plastics and chemicals in them.
Otis Redding – “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay”
There’s truly no better song to close out a coastal-themed playlist than with one of the most famous songs about chilling bayside. Written while staying in a houseboat in Sausalito, California, Otis Redding perfectly captured the feeling of coastside living and the beauty of hearing the waves and watching the sun meet the ocean.
It goes without saying, but “Dock of the Bay” is an undisputed R&B classic and remains one of the best songs to help you unwind and decompress. Besides, after a long day of cleaning up and helping our coasts be a better place for everyone, you deserve to sit back and waste some time.