What Kind Of Music Do I Take On A Road Trip?

What kind of music do I take on a road trip? This question might be priority 85 for most people. This is something I spent more time on than planning the route (or really anything) from Philly to Lake Winnipesauke, New Hampshire. The ten-hour, six-state, 437-mile drive is a long time. Podcasts are not really an option. I listen to baseball and pop-culture podcasts. My wife prefers current event and true crime podcasts. Music it is.

Unlike my playlists for flying and relaxation, where I like more mellow stuff, driving for ten hours is a different animal. A mix of upbeat and anthemic stuff helps overcome the mental grind of driving through Connecticut’s I-84. Please keep in mind that The Onion article “Area Man Proud Of Liner Notes From Self-Burned Compilation CD” could have been written about me.

The variation of road trip music resulted in a 487-song playlist that runs 1.4 days long. Only three complete albums made the list: Tyler Ramsey’s For The Morning, The Black Keys’ Let’s Rock, and Bob Newhart’s Button Down Concert. The longest song was Arcade Fire’s “Supersymentary” (11:17). The shortest – Beck’s 47-second “Cycle.”

Comedy For Road Trips

I sprinkled in comedy to lighten the moon and take a break from music. Newhart’s Button Down Concert was dropped into the playlist in its entirety. Selections from Spinal Tap, Ellen DeGeneres, Steve Martin, Ron White, and Brian Regan were included. Regan’s riff on marriage is an all-time classic.

Songs For A Road Trip

I always prefer longer jams for road trips. It makes the drive go faster. Five songs with heft to them can take up 30-40 minutes vs. 10-15 songs in that same stretch. I spared my wife the 27-minute Neil Young song “Drifitin’ Back.” I did incorporate a strong dose of The War On Drugs, Arcade Fire, Beach House, Michael Kiwanuka, David Gilmour, and Steve Gunn to make the time fly.

To complement those artists were (among many, many others) – Bob Moses, Johnny Cash, Dhani Harrison, Garbage, Florence + the Machine, Foo Fighters, Hatchie, and Jade Bird.

Here are five-must listen songs from this year’s road trip playlist:

Michael Kiwanuka – Cold Little Heart

The Big Little Lies theme is a genius song from the U.K. artist’s Love & Hate album. Cold Little Heart’s gorgeous arrangement and emotional lyrics are incredible.


Unknown Legend – Neil Young

This selection from the 1992 record Harvest Moon is my favorite Neil Young song. I love the original version, but Sunflower Bean also included a killer cover of Young’s classic in their EP From The Basement that is also worth listening to.


The War On Drugs – Under The Pressure

One of my favorite songs (possibly the one that I have blogged about most often). The War On Drugs track is terrific on the open road. The Lost In The Dream track is even better live:


The Black Keys – Shine A Little Light

The first track from the new Black Keys album Let’s Rock is also one of my favorite songs of 2019. Despite a five-year layoff, it is obvious that Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have not lost their ability to create great garage rock:


Japanese Breakfast – Diving Woman

This song from Japanese Breakfast is another track that is built for a road trip playlist. The Philly group’s closest thing to an anthem, “Diving Woman” is not the average Michelle Zauner song, but it is an incredible listen:


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