Albums for Driving Long Distances

WINNEMUCCA, NV — I’m currently near the end of my 2600-mile, cross-country journey from Pittsburgh to San Francisco. By the time I’m done, it will have taken me roughly 40 hours of driving time and I will have passed through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. It’s a lot of driving, and, since I’ve only got my dog Pepper for company, that means a lot of listening to music.

Out of the 300+ albums in my iPod, a few of them have distinguished themselves as being excellent background music for driving. These albums all share a few things in common: few slow songs, many songs that are easy to sing along to, enough variety so as to not make you zone out, no more than one so-so song on the album that you would have to skip through or endure, not overly complex (no “Kid A” for example), and a driving beat. So, without further ado, some albums that have saved me from serious Route 80 insanity.

  • Green Day, “American Idiot.” The best album of 2004 is also a great album to drive to. Relentlessly melodic. Dare I say it, but this might be the best album of the decade thus far. And I’m no Green Day fan. Several listens this trip.
  • Guided By Voices, “Do The Collapse.” I tried listening to any number of GBV albums, but this is the one that stuck. Maybe because it was produced by The Cars’ Ric Ocasek.
  • Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, “Hearts of Oak.” Best drum solo EVER on “Ballad of the Sin Eater.”
  • Arcade Fire, “Funeral.” I’m not sure how this album works, but it does.
  • The Killers, “Hot Fuss.” Jam-packed with great songs.
  • The Pixies, “Doolittle.” Needs no explanation.
  • The Weaker Thans, “Reconstruction Site.” Great lyrics, punchy melodies.

Honorable Mentions: U2, “War,” Wilco, “Summerteeth,” The Wonder Stuff, “Never Loved Elvis,” Weezer, [Blue Album], Radiohead, “The Bends,” R.E.M., “Monster,” PJ Harvey, “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea,” Oasis, “Don’t Believe The Truth,” Garbage, “Bleed Like Me,” Elastica, “The Radio One Sessions,” ccc, “Revolved,” Brendan Benson, “Lapalco,” and Ben Folds, “Rockin’ the Suburbs.”

I suppose depending on what mood you are in, and when and where you are, any album could be a good driving album. Your mileage may vary.

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