Summer’s here, and with it comes plenty of reasons to be hitting the road. Music festivals, weddings, cabin getaways, trips back to your hometown — through any combination of the above, you’ll be spending plenty of time on the road, sweat-soaked skin likely pressed grossly against the back of a car seat.
With that in mind, I’d like to make a declaration: the greatest musical offence a road-tripper can commit — not including the sin of just choosing straight-up bad tunes — is to have an itchy musical trigger finger. Playlists were literally made for road-tripping, but if you’re putting on an album, listening to a handful of tracks and then already scrolling for the next album, you need to rethink your game plan. Or you can forgo giving it any more independent thought of your own, and just check out some recommendations from a certified, seasoned road-tripper like myself.
Start of the road trip: The beginning of the road trip is all about momentum, so start with something loud and high-energy. Keep in mind that the start of a road trip is usually plagued by false starts — last-minute stops at the grocery store, filling up on gas, circling back to someone’s house to retrieve a forgotten, crucial item — so maybe wait until you’re officially on a highway to pull out the big guns.
Guitar Romantic by the Exploding Hearts: A fun punk-pop album with a grisly backstory: while on tour for Guitar Romantic, the band was in a car accident and only one member survived.
Leave Me Alone by Hinds: Pleasant fuzz-rock, buoyed by a pair of standout female vocalists.
The Courtneys by The Courtneys: While the Courtneys’ self-titled release is in my regular music rotation year-round, there’s a noticeable spike during the summer months.
Middle of the road trip: That initial embarking buzz has worn off, and conversation may be dying off a bit. This is where you call on the albums with a good, steady beat, or even albums with noteworthy lyrics that might otherwise get lost in the commotion at the start of the road trip.
Elephant Eyelash by Why?: The band’s signature blend of hip-hop and indie-rock make for a sprawling, lyrically nostalgic album that benefits from close-listening.
Reconstruction Site by the Weakerthans: A dream of mine is to one day drive across Canada listening to nothing but the Weakerthans. I’ll let John K. Samson’s voice take the metaphorical wheel.
Thr!!!er by !!!: !!! albums can get a bit silly, but they’re at their best on this catchy, beat-driven release from 2013 — and just in case the question arises during your road trip, their name is pronounced “chk chk chk.”
Night-time driving: Often, time constraints mean you’ll be driving through at least part of the night, which can be tricky. You want something mellow enough so that people trying to catch some shut-eye can do so in peace, but you don’t want an album so ambient that the driver falls asleep and kills y’all. Throw on one of these albums to find a happy medium.
The Colour in Anything by James Blake: The album’s a surprisingly effective combination of sexy and haunting, which matches the tone of night-driving perfectly.
The Fall by Rhye: Silky smooth music that slips seamlessly between genres and into your trailblazing ears.
The First Days of Spring by Noah and the Whale: Break-ups produce some of the best music, and this album — inspired by the disintegration of frontman Charlie Fink and Laura Marling’s relationship — is the perfect combination of heartbreak and cautious optimism.