If you’re looking for the best songs about waves, well, you’re in luck. In this article, I’m going to share with you my absolute favorite songs that tackle subjects like ocean waves, airwaves (radio transmission) and even heat waves!
The Best Songs About Waves
15. “Cherry Waves” by Deftones
From Deftones’ 2006 album Saturday Night Wrist, “Cherry Waves” is a sonic blast of ocean-covered anxiety. Deceptively violent, layered with foggy intention. Each instrument paints a part of the atmosphere, mainly the guitar, which alternates between clean and distorted, both sounds dripping with reverb.
“A sea of waves, we hug the same plank.
Just as I’d rehearsed over in my brain.
The waves suck you in and you drown.”
- You Might Also Like: Songs About Water
14. “On the Airwaves” by The Shazam
The Shazam is a psychedelic rock band from Nashville, Tennessee, and “On the Airwaves” is the first song on The Coolest Songs in the World, Vol. 1, presented by Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Little Steven van Zandt (founding member of the E Street Band with Bruce Springsteen) often opened his Sirius XM show with the track. The Shazam mixes a classic rock sound with modern indie rock, resulting in a sound somewhere in between The Rolling Stones and Blur.
“On the Airwaves” has a simple premise: turn on the radio, and you’ll be happier. You might have bad reception, which might take some patience, but if you listen long enough, you’ll find something to celebrate. Given how portable music has become, we don’t listen to the radio the same way these days. As a result, we miss out on the oceans of sound radio shares with the world.
- You Might Also Like: Songs About Air
13. “Life’s An Ocean” by The Verve
Released in the summer of 1995, the Verve’s A Northern Soul captured mid-90s English indie rock at its peak and helped the Verve share the spotlight with slightly more successful contemporaries like Blur and Oasis. “Life’s An Ocean” is one of twelve brilliant psychedelic dream pop tracks on A Northern Soul.
The song outlines the overwhelming nature of life and how emotions crash into your days and nights like violent waves from an angry God. “Life’s An Ocean” paints a picture of a world where one can switch off negative thoughts, separate sorrow from self, and buy feelings from vending machines.
“Imagine the future
Woke up with a scream
I was buying some feelings
From a vending machine.”
- You Might Also Like: Songs About Burning
12. “Wave of Mutilation” by Pixies
“Wave of Mutilation” is one of the Pixies’ most well-known tracks, originally appearing on the band’s third album, Doolittle. That album was a non-stop hit machine containing several setlist staples–including “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Debaser,” and “Gouge Away,” and continues to be a go-to recommendation from fans to first-time listeners.
Frank Black is one of the most gifted lyricists of the 1980s and ‘90s. I don’t think he gets enough credit for this, as the typical Pixies discussion focuses on the band’s indie aesthetic and chests full of catchy choruses. If you’re ready to fall in love with the Pixies, “Wave of Mutilation” should do the trick.
“I’ve kissed mermaids, rode the El Nino
Walked the sand with the crustaceions
Could find my way to Mariana
On a wave of mutilation.”
- You Might Also Like: Songs About Drowning
11. “On the Sea” by Beach House
The waltz-like piano opening of “On the Sea” makes me think of skipping stones and ripples in the water. Her voice is a slight breeze, followed by aethereal guitars and organs, the song becomes the force behind a pleasant sailing adventure.
Majestic, heartfelt, and powerful, “On the Sea” is a deep cut from Beach House’s breakthrough 2012 record, Bloom. The lyrics describe floating on the sea; a lonely wave in the middle of the ocean wishing it knew which way to float and how long it would take to reach the shore.
“Out on the sea we’d be forgiven
Our bodies stopped the spirit leaving
Wouldn’t you like to know how far you’ve got left to go.”
10. “Waving, Smiling” by Angel Olsen
This song finds Angel Olsen lamenting a series of failed relationships, peacefully waving and smiling to them as she moves on to better things. She’s content sitting with her own company, accepting her often sad life as it is… with the sun shining through the living room window.
“Laid out and smilin’
Look out my window
The sun is shining
The sun is shining
I’m waving, smiling
At love forever, alive and dying.”
9. “Call of the Waves” by Alestorm
Alestorm is a pirate-themed folk metal band from Scotland. In the last fifteen years, they have released seven albums full of heavy metal sea shanties. It’s safe to say, on a list of songs about waves, Alestorm has no trouble navigating the waters.
“Call of the Waves” speaks to anyone who’s ever felt they were meant for more; called to adventure no matter the perils ahead, to live their lives to the fullest. This song is for anyone itching to set sail, daring mother nature to throw them off course.
“How many times have you wanted to cast off the chains of your life
How many times have you wanted to throw it all in to be free for one moment of time
With a gun in your hand and a sword by your side
The wind at your back and a reason to die
A chance to set sail and to write your own tale in the sky.”
8. “Waves” by Slowdive
English shoegaze originators, Slowdive, have inspired introverted bedroom-based guitarists for over thirty years. Their music populates an area of psychedelic music that begs to be interpreted on film and has from time to time–most notably for independent director Gregg Araki (The Doom Generation, 1995; Mysterious Skin, 2004).
“Waves” comes from Slowdive’s debut album, Just For A Day. The lyrics hint at ocean swells and farewell gestures to the soreness of the past; soaring along with the pulse of synthesizers, delayed electric guitars, and layered vocal harmonies.
“Don’t you know, I’ve left and gone away
You’re knocking on the door I closed today
And everything looks brighter
Waves at play, just soothe my pain away.”
7. “Cool Waves” by Spiritualized
A soul-tinged track from Spiritualized’s ‘97 classic Ladies and Gentlemen We’re Floating in Space, “Cool Waves” epitomizes chilled-out serenity. The relatively straightforward song structure is accompanied by the building chaos of church choirs, flute solos, and floating bass lines. There are trumpets, saxophones, and organs; timpani percussion, blues harmonica, and a full-on string quartet.
It’s not hard to imagine listening to this tune on a sunny day, floating on a raft with your eyes closed and a cold beer in your hand; unattached from memories of long-lost love and inspired by new-found peace. Let the cool waves wash over you.
“Baby, if you lose your love
Don’t take me by surprise
Don’t think you’re crying, but there’s teardrops in your eyes
If you gotta leave, you gotta leave
Cool waves wash over me
Cool water running free
Lay your sweet hand on me
‘Cause I love you
6. “Heat Wave” by Snail Mail
Snail Mail is the solo project of Maryland singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan. Her debut album, Lush, was praised by fans and critics alike. “Heat Wave” was the second single released from the album.
“Passing phases,” she sings, “wear you thin,” which is a sentiment we’re all familiar with; the fatigue of failed relationships, compounded by muggy groundswells of sadness and rage. Instead of any satisfactory retribution, we abuse ourselves with negative self-talk until the storm passes.
“I’m so tired of moving on
Spending every weekend so far gone
Heat wave, nothing to do
Woke up in my clothes, having dreamt of you…
And I hope the love that you find swallows you wholly,
Like you said it might.”
5. “Black Wave” by The Shins
“Black Wave” is from The Shins’ third album, Wincing the Night Away. It has a sun-soaked desert vibe not unlike the music of Ennio Morricone, conjuring impressions of longing and mirage. But if you’re able to withstand the pressures of loneliness, seeing what’s under the surface, and looking on the bright side of dark places will get easier.
“In the meadow where
The black breeze blows,
Where underneath the waves
You were most alone,
Can you hear a subtle aching tone?”
4. “Catch A Wave” by The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys are responsible for many wave-related tunes. “Surfin’ USA,” “Rocking Surfer,” and “South Bay Surfer,” to name a few, but you can’t surf without waves!
Naturally, “Catch A Wave” is about catching waves… the idea of surfing as both a serious sport and a fun activity. “Everybody tries it once,” they say, and “those who don’t just have to put it down.”
“Catch A Wave” is from The Beach Boys’ 1963 album Surfer Girl, which also contains the hits “Little Deuce Coup,” and “In My Room.”
3. “Come Sail Away” by Styx
Most folks have a solid relationship with “Come Sail Away.” Mixing the musical duality of tenderness and intensity with the lyrical elements of love, nostalgia, Biblical exclamation, and alien encounter, “Come Sail Away” meets every requirement a song about waves could have.
Styx keyboardist/vocalist Dennis DeYoung said the song is “about yearning to be in a better place. How do you get there? You go on a boat, on a ship, angels waving their wings as you ascend to heaven with them. Is there something going on? A starship to the stars? Are they aliens? Is it Captain Kirk? You tell me.”
“I look to the sea
Reflections in the waves spark my memory
Some happy, some sad
I think of childhood friends and the dreams we had.”
2. “The Spirit of Radio” by Rush
In an interview with Classic Rock Magazine, Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson said “The Spirit of Radio” was written to express an aversion to where radio was headed at the beginning of the 1980s.
“Growing up in the early 70s,” he said, “FM radio was such a free forum for music” where DJs would play the music that excited them. “[It was] a platform for expanding music at the time. And then it was moving more towards a format, and away from that freedom, becoming more regulated, more about selling airtime.”
“The Spirit of Radio” is the opening track on Rush’s Permanent Waves album (1980), which was their first of the decade. It calls out the studio heads for their lack of integrity and promises there’s still room for freedom of expression on the airwaves.
“Invisible airwaves crackle with life
Bright antennas bristle with the energy
Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free.”
1. “Weird Goodbyes” by the National & Bon Iver
The National vocalist Tom Berninger told Rolling Stone that “Weird Goodbyes” is about “letting go of the past and moving on, then later being overwhelmed by second thoughts.”
Life’s an ocean. First, you surf then you sail away. You catch black waves and cherry; your spirit is dismembered by frequent changes in temperature. You’ll be able to say farewell eventually, perhaps while soaking in the tub, with the gifts of hindsight and good music.
Move forward now, there’s nothin’ to do
Can’t turn around, I can’t follow you
Your coat’s in my car, I guess you forgot
It’s crazy the things we let go of
It finally hits me, a mile’s drive
The sky is leaking, the windshield’s crying
I’m feelin’ sacred, my soul is stripped
Radio’s painful, the words are clipped