I spent quite a bit of time in cars this summer, driving from Austin to Dallas, Dallas to LA, to beaches and theme parks and a weekend trip to Santa Barbara, and finally from LA back to Dallas, plus driving around LA every day between all that. I’m sure a lot of you are heading back to college (or to college for the first time) with your cars packed and ears ready to enjoy some great music to help you pretend that summer isn’t really over. After a long summer of road trips, I’ve developed a pretty foolproof blueprint for the perfect driving soundtrack, no matter how long the trip is. If these songs aren’t on your road trip playlist, they should be.
1. Best Day Of My Life – American Authors
The first song of a road trip soundtrack is incredibly important and can make or break the entire trip. For a first song, you want something fun and upbeat, something easy to sing along to even if you don’t know all the words. I recommend “Best Day Of My Life” by American Authors – it’s fun but not too wild and crazy (save those for later) and has a perfectly catchy chorus that anyone can sing along to. Plus, starting a road trip on a positive note with lyrics like “this is gonna be the best day of my life” never hurts, especially when you’re sure to encounter not so positive things like traffic and move-in madness.
2. Everytime – Family of the Year
Once you’ve successfully started your road trip with your fun and upbeat selections, it’s nice to tone it down just a notch. “Everytime” by Family of the Year is still fun, but just a bit more mellow. This is also a great reflection song with lyrics about leaving and memories, so think back on the awesome summer you’ve had while enjoying the artistic stylings of Family of the Year.
3. Breezeblocks – alt-J
Continuing with the chill yet fun trend you’re music is currently in, “Breezeblocks” fits right in. My sister played this for me when she got to LA while we were driving out of Venice and despite the insane traffic of the freeway, I couldn’t be pissed off listening to it. It’s the perfect transition song as the tone shifts from smooth and easy at the beginning to more loud and rushed at the end.
4. Get Lucky – Daft Punk
Ok, this one might be a little controversial, but hear me out. All summer I’ve heard this song literally everywhere. I don’t think I went a day without hearing it in the car, oftentimes multiple times a day on multiple stations. And I’m still not tired of it. It’s a great song to bring the energy of a road trip back up a bit and get everyone (or just you) singing, and maybe busting a move.
5. Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root
The funky, old-school vibes of “Get Lucky” have a way of inspiring something a little older and funky in a completely different way. Cue ’90s gem “Send Me On My Way” (1996), a perfect road trip song both in sound and lyric content (and PS happy ’90s Music Monday?). While it’s not the greatest song to sing along to because there’s quite a bit of mumbling going on, the happy melody is sure to keep your spirits high.
6. Pour Some Sugar On Me – Def Leppard
Now in the second half of your road trip, it’s a good time to jump back yet another decade and blast the crap out of some ’80s rock. At this point in the drive a ridiculous, upbeat rock song for you to jam to is pretty necessary to shake things up and keep you from falling asleep at the wheel. It’s like taking a five hour energy without the gross aftertaste. My personal favorite at the moment is “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, but there are plenty to chose from (“You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Wanted Dead or Alive”, “Don’t Stop Believin'”, etc.).
7. Wake Me Up – Avicii
After some quality time with the rock gods, it’s time to start bringing the mix back down a bit. You don’t want to jump right into super slow, calm music after Def Leppard though, so a good transition song for this point in the soundtrack is Avicii’s “Wake Me Up”. Now I usually wouldn’t call Avicii “tone down” music, but this song really does the trick. Unfortunately I don’t know who the man singing is, but his voice and the lyrics are beautiful, and the beat brought in by Avicii is energetic without being too heavy. By the end of the song, you’re at the right place to move into something a little softer.
8. Dead Hearts – Stars
While the subject matter of this song is a little…well…creepy, it’s an absolutely beautiful song and you can really get lost in the melody. The back end of your road trip is the time for songs like this one that are fast enough that you aren’t falling asleep but not songs that you can go crazy to. Because you’re nearing the end of the drive, you should take some time to store energy so that you’re ready for whatever you have to do when reaching your final destination.
9. White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes
Another great choice for the end of a road trip is Fleet Foxes. This song has an upbeat sound, but is melodic and peaceful enough to serve its purpose. Side note: Fleet Foxes are perfect for driving through really gorgeous scenery, like the canyons and mountains in Sedona, Arizona. So if you’re drive is more scenic than I35 South, these guys should accompany that entire drive. (Another option for either situation would be the Avett Brothers – same idea but a little more string and a hint more twang).
10. Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend (Yes, all of it)
This CD was without a doubt the soundtrack of my summer. Any time my friends and I were making a long drive, we put it on without hesitation. The radio stations in LA are really hit-or-miss, so Modern Vampires was my/our trusty, go-to friend whenever we needed something to listen to. While it fits best driving around California with the windows down, it can be enjoyed any time, anywhere. I put it at the end mostly because it’s what I end up putting on when I’m out of ideas for anything else. But seriously, if you haven’t listened to it, who are you?
Until next time,