With no young people in the house, a personal autopilot set to turning on the classical station WBJC-FM, 91.5, it’s great fun to have some new music landing in my lap.
The Atlantic Daily: An Hour of Music for Your Next Road Trip
Got wheels, America? The skyline calls—drive for an hour in any direction, with this playlist, and you’ll hit it.
JAMES PARKER APRIL 30, 2021
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What do you need for a driving playlist? The fizz of the white line, the pull of the horizon, the tires beneath you slurping up the miles … You need forward momentum and you need space—expansiveness. You need regular beats and loads of deep repetition. Spiraling guitars. Engine-rumble. Pockets of dream. And because this is America you also need ZZ Top.
Health note: If you get stuck in traffic while listening to this playlist, turn it off. Its urgency and motive force are too great for a static situation. Turn it off, or you’ll go insane. Turn it off and repeat quietly to yourself, 15 or 20 times, this line from Brother Jack Kerouac of blessed memory:
You can’t live in this world but there’s nowhere else to go.
All right … traffic’s moving again. Turn the music back on. Crank it up.
1. NEU!, “Hallogallo”
A wonderful German band from the 1970s, NEU! was the great purveyor of motorik—onto this clipped, propulsive beat could be layered all manner of gorgeous melodic drift. Industrial-pastoral, you might say.
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2. Queens of the Stone Age, “Regular John”
A very early cut from QOTSA, heavy and entranced, with Josh Homme’s voice floating in strange immateriality over a driving rhythmic undercarriage. Feel your chassis pulse.
3. The Chemical Brothers, “Surrender”
Rave-era Brits at their most transported. Watch your speed as you listen to this. Be sure the vehicle does not levitate.
4. ZZ Top, “Jesus Just Left Chicago”
Tempo shift. It’s all in the lazy, coast-to-coast grandeur of those opening chords. Also the lines “Workin’ from one end to the other/ And all points in between.” That’s Jesus. That’s our guy.
5. Kacey Musgraves, “Slow Burn”
Foot off the gas now. Delicious balladry. You can cruise; you can glide. A song all about not rushing it.
6. Boards of Canada, “Dayvan Cowboy”
Now we’re deeply and wordlessly into it. Plangent guitars, delayed rushes of cymbal, and beauty rising like a heat shimmer off the top of your head. Turn to your passenger with tears in your eyes.
7. Herbie Mann, “Memphis Underground”
A tucked-in horizontal groove and a playful flute create the conditions for one of the great American guitar solos—a progressively wilder, ever-more-blazing journey by the master Sonny Sharrock.
8. Endless Boogie, “New Pair of Shoes”
These groggy, scowling veterans have found the sweet spot between Status Quo, the Stooges, and the above-featured NEU!. Their collective age is 207 (maybe), and their boogie, like the road, is truly endless.
9. Tinariwen, “Arhegh ad Annàgh”
From the sands of the Sahara comes this sound, produced by a shifting collective of Tuareg musicians. “Desert blues,” the critics call it.
10. Taylor Swift, “Style”
“Long drive/ Could end in burnin’ flames or paradise.” The stakes are always high with Taylor. Keep your wild eyes on the road.
11. Torche, “Restarter”
This track, like so many things in life, should be four times as long. It loops; it roars; it turns and turns in a widening gyre. If you arrive at your destination while “Restarter” is playing, keep driving.
- Planning on staying close to home this weekend? Revisit our walking playlist for your next neighborhood stroll. Or this one for spring cleaning.
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