catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 11 :: 2005.06.03 — 2005.06.16


One for the road

I was almost 17 when I got my driver?s license. It was the summer between my junior and senior years in high school, and I needed to drive to and from my new job at a local restaurant. I slam-dunked the driver?s test; as a result, my folks graciously let me use their 1987 Subaru station wagon (manual transmission, by the way). I could drive, thus making me a Grown Up. Getting to work and home again was cool, but I could also stop riding the school bus come August. Me?a senior ?taking the bus to school? I don?t think so.

It took me all of four minutes to realize the important role the radio/tape deck in the Subaru would play. My first five-minute commute to work was filled with silence. The return trip was accompanied by Martha & the Vandellas as they ushered me with ?Heat Wave? via the radio. Before I went to work the next day I had managed to dig up all of my Smashing Pumpkins cassette tapes.

Over the next few months, the four-minute drive would be one of the highlights of my day, and it would sometimes expand to five or six minutes if I wanted to cram in a particularly long song during the drive. A co-worker made me a batch of mix tapes, introducing the wonders of Pavement, Dinosaur Jr. and the Pixies to my musical caravan. I?d offer to run errands for my parents. Yes, to be helpful?but also to rock out in my car. Oh, we need two loaves of wheat bread? ?Summer Babe (Winter Version)? was screaming along with me as I hugged the curves that led to the bakery. I?ll gladly pick up that prescription, mom, but I gotta cue the tape to the first side of Bossanova

before I leave.

It?s been seven years and three cars since that summer, and picking out tunes for trips in my car is still one of the main events of my day. Window down, elbow and hair licked by the wind, tinny car speakers dueling with traffic noise and engine mummers?these are a few of my favorite things. I?ve accumulated a mental binder filled with song and albums names, all of them weaving into appropriate driving situations. Music choices can vary based on everything from the weather to mood, vehicle driven to roads traveled. Perfect driving music varies in situations as much as it does the people who listen to it.

Catapult senior editor Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reistma?in her description of the importance of driving music?did a good job of touching upon the great joys of playing music in an automobile.

I like driving albums that have a certain kind of energy and singability. We don’t have a great stereo system at home, but the one in our car is pretty good. When we crank it up, it’s as though we’re inside the song. Some songs just need to be heard this way?playing them in the background doesn’t suffice. Also, playing loud, energetic music in the car makes the anticipation of an adventure (no matter how big or small) tangible. The music literally becomes the soundtrack of the journey and I think I feel the most unbridled joy about the whole journey of life when I’m listening to the right kind of music on the road. Which is not to say every journey is all joy. Nick Cave rides with me when I’m feeling darkly hopeful and reflective. Weezer rides with me most often when I just need to stay awake.

So what do people listen to when they drive? I asked some friends to give me some of their picks for ?favorite driving songs or albums.? This is what I got:

  • ?Fired,? by Ben Folds. ?It?s fun and catchy. It?s good for on the way to work, and I?d fantasize about getting fired from my job.? (Rachel Smith)

  • ?18,? by Moby. ?It?s so mellow, very calm. Like leaves in the fall. You can cruise around at any speed the music makes it seem like all that exists is the passing scenery and your thoughts.? (Buddy Chamberlain)

  • Anything by Magnolia Electric Co./Songs: Ohia. ?I guess songs about places and being on the road make me want to travel. A lot of [frontman Jason] Molina?s songs sound like they were written by a rambling man: ?half my life?s been on a highway,? etc. I think they pretty much have to be inspired by being on the road for a band that embarks on such ridiculously long tours.? (Adam Wing)

  • OK Computer, by Radiohead. ?It’s almost always in motion, and it just keeps building. It is euphoria in music form.? (Rachel Zylstra)

  • ?And Your Bird Can Sing,? by the Beatles. ?It?s so sweet and it always makes me want to hear it again and again as I drive.? (Dan Sack)

What are my choices? It is hard to narrow it down to even a few, and that fact that I got a similar response from all of the above makes me happy to have friends that dig music as much as I do. But here?s what I came up with:

  • ?Car Radio,? by Spoon. An ode to listening to music while driving. Less than two minutes of pure energy in music form. Better than caffeine when you?re nodding off behind the wheel.

  • Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, by Pavement. ?Silence Kid? plays as you watch the sun rise in your rearview mirror. ?Range Life? spins as your tires roll over Kansas blacktop. ?Gold Soundz? keeps a smile on your face as you?re stuck in Boston traffic. Pavement wrote this one for the road.

Now, here?s the real question: what are your favorite driving songs?

Discussion: Road music

What are your favorite driving songs and albums? Why?

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