Off-topic Monday: Tunes for on the road

on the roadA big hello to all you wonderful Posse folks! I have been on the road quite a bit this week and really missed chatting with you all, although I did read everyone’s great comments all week. I drove back from the beach by myself as my family stayed down there a while longer. And even though the time alone is lovely and much-needed, hours of nothing but highway noise can get tiresome. So I dug out some old music, and a bit of new, to help me pass the time on the road; however, I found that some of my favorite tunes work better than others in the car.

Here’s what I ended up listening to on this go-round:

A collection of Georg Philipp Telemann chamber music works for harpsichord, recorder, oboe and viola. Some lively baroque harpsichord pieces make me feel happy and energized as I head out.

Returning to the modern world, I pull out a hodgepodge of ‘70s and ‘80s mix CDs with a little funk, a little disco, plus some Boston, REM, Duran Duran, Blondie, the Eurythmics, Prince, among others. And then some old Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers from my college days round out the morning. But when I break out Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, I found myself just about to dance right out of my seat and going way too fast.

As the lunchtime traffic starts to back up and tension rises, I turn to Roxy Music’s Avalon. Although this is so lush and beautiful (and therefore soothing), it does tend to lean romantic — one of the best mood-setting albums ever IMHO– so it might be better saved for time alone with your significant other.

Next up, the self-titled album October Project from 1993. This is one gorgeous collection and Mary Fahl’s ethereal voice epitomizes yearning, pulling hard at your heartstrings (or mine at least). But this can skew a bit melancholy, and getting teary-eyed on the road is rarely a good idea.

So I move in a more uplifting direction with Hillsong United’s “Oceans,” which also has an amazing singer, Taya Smith, whose voice is touching and a little haunting (but not bittersweet). Then a batch of vintage anthemic U2 for good measure, and I’m most of the way home as I pull in to my wonderful mother-in-law’s nursing home for a visit.

From there on out, I can start catching my favorite hometown radio stations and cruise easily into the home stretch.

What about you — what’s your favorite music for on the road?

  • Gwen says:

    I used to play audio books until one long trip I got so engrossed I missed a major turnoff added 3 hours to the drive–it literally took Mt. Shasta looming in the distance to tear me away from the umteenth chapter of “Eragon.”

    Just got back from 26 hours of driving, California top-to-bottom, then two days later, back again. Other than an occasionally bursting out in 2-part harmony with my 14-year-old daughter to “Old Man River” or “Can’t Help Loving That Man” (we’d just seen Show Boat at the San Francisco Opera House), we traveled mostly sans-music. But then we’re a family of musicians, and the relative silence of the car was a vacation in itself. Two notable exceptions were Nancy Wilson cooling us down in the blistering heat and blinding sun of the Central Valley (think “Someone to Watch Over Me” or “What a Little Moonlight Can Do”), and Jimi Hendrix’s “Gypsy Eyes” the very second we could see the turquoise Pacific (my husband was driving and I knew he’d dig it–my kiddo just thought we were crazy old people, and she’s not wrong…).

    This trip was to pick up our 19-year-old from his freshman year in college. Everything felt different than the same trip last September, when after saying our last goodbyes, I headed home alone with my thoughts and eventually found myself listening to Simon and Garfunkel live at Carnegie Hall, 1967, when they were young and I was younger. The tears didn’t come until I heard “The Leaves That Are Green.”

    I was twenty-one years when i wrote this song
    I’m twenty-two now, but I won’t be for long
    Time hurries on,
    and the leaves that are green turn to brown…

  • Teri says:

    Of all the new technology out there, I think I really do love the in-car bluetooth technology the best. I have a huge library of music, collected over many years, and my tastes are very catholic….I listen to a little of everything.

    My current pump-up-your-enthusiasm-it’s-time-to-go-to-work tune is “Diamonds” by Johnny Swim. Anthemic and with a very positive message, it gets the mental juices flowing.

    On the way home, I like my blues women, both modern and traditional. Big Mama Thornton, Koko Taylor, Grace Potter, ZZ Ward, Shannon LaBrie always sing me home sweetly and with soul.

    On Saturdays it’s Motown day. Great music to do chores to – Smokey Robinson, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, The Temps, Four Tops, Percy Sledge, OJays, Spinners, even those blue-eyed soulsters, the Classics Four.

    When I want something with a harder edge, I enjoy the ’90s alt rock bands like Live, Tonic, Collective Soul, Staind, Fuel.

    Current favorite international stars – Passenger and Missy Higgins.

    Favorite classical – Mozart Clarinet Quintet and the Bach Brandenburg Concerti.

    I like to keep a mix between the old and the new which is why I just adore the shuffle function. It puts songs contiguous to one another that I would probably never have thought to play back-to-back. Opens the mind to the possibilities.

    • Ann says:

      Ah, Teri, so many wonderful possibilities there! And you’re so right — the unexpected mix of old and new would definitely keep you alert and on your toes (most helpful during a long drive). I want to have a Motown Saturday now, too! 🙂

  • Laurels says:

    I’d second the Steve Miller Band and Goldfrapp, and add Beck’s Odelay, which was perfect on a drive through the desert a few years back, and Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone, which is great anywhere, anytime. The radio and random play sometimes lead to unexpectedly perfect soundtracks, for instance Janis Joplin singing Summertime while driving through the Fort Rosecrans military cemetery.

    • Ann says:

      Oh, how cool is that, Laurels — would love a musical drive through the desert! I need to get busy and give that Neko Case a listen, too. Thanks!

  • This thread brings me to a question. I’m curious to know if anyone else does this: Does anyone else listen to a song and try to figure out what that song “smells like”? It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes a song will inspire me that way.

    • Ann says:

      Actually, Jennifer, when I listen to Roxy Music’s “Avalon,” I have pictured a twilight or moonlight garden stroll scented by some tuberose or gardenia, or something equally lush, ripe and romantic. What’s inspired you?

  • It kind of depends on what I’m in the mood for at the moment. I have Spotify and Pandora on my phone, and I like to plug my phone into the stereo and stream music that way. If I were going somewhere that wireless access wasn’t reliable, I could download playlists from Spotify directly to my phone.

    Some of the stuff I’ve been listening to lately:

    Sigur Ros “Kveikur” (really I’m mostly obsessed with the first 2 tracks, which are amazing. The rest of the album is really good, though), Young Magic, Purity Ring, Alela Diane, Gojira, Beck “Morning Phase”, Beth Orton, Mastodon, Baroness, IAMDYNAMITE, Death from Above 1979, Goldfrapp, Ladytron, Little Dragon

    • Ann says:

      Hey, Jennifer! I’m not familiar with some of the music you mentioned (save for Beth Orton, Beck, etc.). I do remember seeking out some Sigur Ros as they had some songs on movie soundtracks that intrigued me. Need to give “Kveikur” a listen as it sounds like it’s something a bit different from them. Thanks!

  • foxbins says:

    How apt! I just had a long drive yesterday and I sang along to Dire Straits (Money for Nothing, I Want My MTV, On Every Street, can you tell I love them?) Billy Joel’s The Stranger album, The Cars, Fine Young Cannibals, Eurythmics, B.B.King, Springsteen, and Adele. Singing in the car is one of my favorite things to do.

    • Ann says:

      Oh, wow, so glad you mentioned Dire Straits! I really enjoyed their “Making Movies” album, particularly “Romeo and Juliet” and “Skateaway.” At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, now where did that CD get to? 🙂 I love singing in the car by myself, too — very freeing!

  • Portia says:

    What a great question.
    I always have some new popular stuff on my IPhone and I make playlists and sing along as I’m going to & from work each night. It’s usually a one hour drive to wherever I’m working so I get to sit back and sing my heart out with my faves.
    Currently I have some amazing Aussie stuff on repeat: Guy Sebastian, Taylor Henderson, Tina Arena, Jessica Mauboy, Kylie Minbogue, Jimmy Barnes or a bunch of others. Of the internationals I currently have Olly Murs, Paloma Faith,. Adele, Sara Barielles, James Blunt, Christina Aquilera and Hayley Rhineheart.
    All PERFECT sing along and drive stuff.
    Portia x

    • Ann says:

      Howdy, Portia! One hour sounds just about right, not too short or too long. Love many of your choices, but need to explore some of the Aussie acts you mentioned. There’s just so much great stuff out there.

  • rosarita says:

    Hi Ann sounds like fun! My best friend lives 3 1/2 hours away and I look forward to that drive. Some drive music I like: Allman Brothers greatest hits, Steve Miller Anthology, Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers, Beck Guero and The Information, 80’s hits. And NPR, which is what I listen to while driving around home and search for when I’m out of town.

    • Ann says:

      Hey, lady! So nice to “see” you. And you’ve got some good stuff there for drive time, esp. the Stones. I do need to listen to NPR more often however, but my drive time to work during the week is pretty quick and I’m afraid I’d get too involved in listening to something and then have to turn it off partway through.

  • einsof says:

    ooooo! october project !! that brings me back…. with their self titled debut album, they opened for sarah mclachlan on her Fumbling Toward Ecstasy tour. U N B E L I E V A B L E.

    there is a rumor Anne Rice wanted this album to be the soundtrack for Interview with a Vampire, especially the song Bury My Lovely.

    ok, nothing about cars, but if i am driving -i- am in control of the stereo. other than that, i have no input. it’s going to be some sort of gyno rock, and if you’re nice, i won’t make you listen to me sing along with Ofra Haza. 😉

    • Ann says:

      So glad you liked them, too. I didn’t know about the Anne Rice connection though; very interesting. Aw, go ahead and sing along — we won’t mind a bit 🙂

  • Caroline says:

    Hi Ann,
    Do you know the movie High Fidelity, in which John Cusack plays a record store owner? Can’t remember if his debut record label is called Top 10 Records, or if he’s just obsessed with top 10 songs. Your post made me think of songs that all mention driving or cars. In no particular order (and I can’t say these ARE the top 10):
    1) Vulgar Boatmen–Drive Somewhere
    2) Victoria Williams–Crazy Mary
    3) World Party–Put the Message in the Box
    4) Rolling Stones–Dead Flowers
    5) Old 97s–504 or If My Heart Was a Car (get the Hitchhike to Rhome CD–it’s fab)
    6) Little Feat–Willin
    7) Folk Implosion–Free to Go
    8) Canned Heat–Going Up the Country or On the Road Again
    9) Allman Bros–Whipping Post
    10) Grateful Dead–Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion
    Yeah, I’m obsessed with music too!

    • Ann says:

      Hey, Caroline! I’d forgotten about that movie — got to see it again, so thanks for the reminder. And thanks for some fabulous suggestions; I’m familiar with some but need to give others a listen.