Today, we start a new series here at Essential Listening: looking at situational playlists. One of my favorite hobbies is to organize music prior to a big trip. Here is a look at a 10-song lineup that would be great for a quick 30-minute ride.
Car Music 1 (in order):
- “Pieces” by Dinosaur Jr. (from Farm)
- “This Boy” by Franz Ferdinand (You Could Have it So Much Better)
- “Two Weeks” by Grizzly Bear (Veckatimest)
- “Adventure” by Be Your Own Pet (Be Your Own Pet)
- “Wicked Gil” by Band of Horses (Everything All the Time)
- “Paper Thin Walls” by Modest Mouse (Moon & Antarctica)
- “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone” by Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (Hearts of Oak)
- “Getchoo” by Weezer (Pinkerton)
- “Time Bomb” by Rancid (And Out Come the Wolves)
- “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” by The White Stripes (Elephant)
Car Music is a strange animal – it needs to be bright, loud and engaging, but without becoming too mental or distracting. For me, this makes reflective jazz and classical pieces off-limits in a car. Yet this list features some stuff from crafted, difficult albums. What gives?
The key lies in the songs. While they often fit the dynamics needed for their source, they also manage to stand out (even if only slightly). Let’s take “Two Weeks.” It certainly has the lush beauty offered by the rest of Veckatimest, noted in the soaring harmonious voices. But the pulsing keyboards are the hook here, and they manage to carry throughout. Volkswagen was wise to use this song in their ads: it is fun and interesting.
Some of these songs are here just for the guitar parts. That’s typical of good car music (like Led Zeppelin). “Pieces,” “Adventure,” “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone,” and “Time Bomb” are all fairly quick songs that have captivating guitar lines. That’s useful on two levels. The guitars are captivating, but also don’t require the concentration that complicated instrumentation would demand. We’re so used to the guitar that these songs only need to seem slightly different to be fun.
Finally, it’s important to note that this list only features one song longer than five minutes. Fortunately, “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone” is not bogged down in self-serving musical slop. Instead, the song manages to feel slick and the five minutes just slide by.
Essential Listening hopes to get back to a more regular schedule in the next month or so. Summer is a better time for writing, and it’s always fun to discover new music on random road trips or while reading scientific papers.