People often ask me what music I listen to on road trips. To be honest, no one’s asked. But that’s never stopped me before.
Actually, once I’ve settled into the rhythm of a road trip, I don’t listen to a lot of music or radio, other than a bit of right-wing ranting (for the hell of it) or NPR (RIP Car Talk). But nothing gets me through a long-stretch of interstate or late-night driving like a surge of juiced-up music.
Hence this list of mostly poppy music, the vast majority released in 2014. The list is dominated by women, which either says something about me or the state of indie music.
15. Best Coast: Fear of My Identity
When needed, this 2013 song gives me a straight shot of adrenaline. Instantly, I’m bouncing around the car… while, of course, keeping my hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
14. First Aid Kit: My Silver Lining
A more theme-oriented song was the Soderberg sisters’ cover of Willie Nelson’s classic
“On the Road Again”, but it was only around briefly as a Volvo commercial on Swedish TV. But the lyric in this piece, “I won’t take the easy road”, steers things back in the right direction.
13. EMA: Cthulu
Does anyone slowly build to emotional climaxes like EMA?
12. The War on Drugs: An Ocean in Between the Waves
Comparisons have been made to Springsteen and Mark Knofler. No matter. Just enjoy this unfashionably long, guitar-driven rocker.
11. Bettye LaVette: Hustlin’
The gritty, bluesy theme song for the U.S. version of the TV show Low Winter Sun, cancelled after one, 2013, season (watch it on Netflix). Bettye’s own career has been counted down and out (like this number about embattled Detroit), but she’s persevered over decades to add richness to that glorious, soulful voice.
10. Jenny Lewis: Just One of the Guys
A great song on all levels, examining the ticking clock women face.
9. alt-J: Breezeblocks
British indie band alt-J came out with a much-lauded This is All Yours album in 2014, highlighted by “Left Hand Free.” But on a long road trip, I prefer this change-of-pace song from a couple of years earlier.
8. Courtney Barnett: David
Australian signer-songwriter-guitarist Courtney Barnett’s terrific double CD was released in North America in 2014. “David” crashes the list just for this lyric: “I don’t really like any of your friends, But it’s not that hard for me to pretend.”
7. Tune-Yards: Water Fountain
Tune-Yards, aka Merrill Garbus, is one of the most frenetically creative people in the business, combining music, art and dance into a mesmerizing mix. Just watch the video.
6. Laura Marling: Master Hunter
Nearly every reviewer notes how talented and accomplished this British folk musician is, releasing her fifth album at age 24. I concur.
5. Dum Dum Girls: Rimbaud Eyes
Can one get overdosed on the revival of surfer guitars? I say not. If this song doesn’t revive me on a long drive, I must be in a food-induced coma.
4. Rosanne Cash: A Feather’s Not a Bird
This early 2014, beautifully crafted song never slipped from my top five all year.
3. Spoon: Let Me Be Mine
The consistently best rock band of the past two decades.
2. Shovels & Rope: The Devil is All Around
In an era of downloading single songs from iTunes, one could throw a dart at the list of songs on this South Carolina duo’s latest album, Swimmin Time, and hit a winner every time. Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst play all the instruments, but it’s their soaring harmonies that knock this recording out of the park.
1. St. Vincent: Psychopath
St. Vincent (aka Annie Clarke) is perhaps the best, most inventive musician going, and she certainly hits her stride on this self-titled album. I could easily pick any number of great songs, but this one’s flown a little under the radar.
What are your favourite driving songs of 2014? Just hit the reply button at the top of the post and contribute to the dance session.