Ten eleven albums for your summer road trip
With the passing of Memorial Day we can finally say summer is here. And with summer comes summer camp, vacations and tours -- and how do we get there? We drive. That's how. This is America, after all. In celebration of seemingly endless sunny days and left-arm tans, we've picked some of our favorite road sounds, selected specially to keep you awake, invoke revelations and stay away from any road trip related cliché. How about you, what's your favorite album to listen to on the road?
11. This American Life - Stories of Hope and Fear
Why: Sometimes music isn't engaging enough for the road -- but that doesn't mean you want to talk with your car mates. If you need to keep yourselves entertained then a few good stories about hope and fear are sure to do the trick.
The perfect moment comes when: David Sedaris tells a story about a chipmunk and a squirrel.
10. Townes Van Zandt - Roadsongs
Why: If the album title isn't enough to spark your interest, consider the fact Roadsongs features one of Americana's best songwriters covering songs by the rest of them. It's like every great road trip song compiled onto one disc.
The perfect moment comes when: Your car decides not to turn over while you're in the middle of nowhere and "My Starter Won't Start" comes pouring out the speakers.
09. Brian Wilson - Smile
Why: Smile is an ode to an America that doesn't exist anymore. A tour of a country that once was, with alternating rhythm and swing, Smile manages to keep you awake at the wheel and entertained all in one go.
The perfect moment comes when: You're driving along the East Coast, and "Roll Plymouth Rock" comes on, suddenly inspiring you to drive to Massachusetts.
08. Orson Welles - War of the Worlds
Why: A classic of radio and a classic of storytelling, Orson Welles adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel is the perfect fit for an all-nighter road trip -- not to mention brilliant theater and brilliant entertainment. Bonus: You can snag a copy for free before you hit the road.
The perfect moment comes when: It's three in the morning, you're in the middle of New Jersey and you can finally see how this book terrified the nation when it was originally broadcast.
07. Handsome Boy Modeling School - So How's Your Girl...
Why: Simply put: it's schizophrenic. Sometimes when you've been on the road for too long you just need some spazzy music to keep you going. So How's Your Girl... is perfect for this. A concept album, Girl... features an eclectic array of musicians, including Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Sean Lennon and Mike D.
The perfect moment comes when: You're slowly drifting off to sleep at the wheel when suddenly the DJ Shadow/DJ Quest collaboration "Holy Calamity (Bear Witness II)" comes on, jarring you back awake.
06. Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane over the Sea
Why: It's probably pretty clear that we're sticking with a lot of concept albums, and this one is no different. Of course, what the concept is about, however, is anyone's guess -- Jeff Mangum's lyrics are about as transparent as a black sheet. We'll venture a guess that it's not what everyone seems to think it is. Perhaps a few hundred more listens on the road will clear things up a bit.
The perfect moment comes when: You realize this is as good a road album as the Bob Dylan album you expected to be on here, and you crank it up and sing along with the lines, "We will take off our clothes/And they'll be placing fingers through the notches in your spine."
05. Black Sabbath - Master of Reality
Why: From start to finish, this is the perfect morning road trip album. From the opening cough of "Sweet Leaf" to the final guitar solo of "Into the Void," this album keeps your head bobbing and your foot to the floor.
The perfect moment comes when: You hit 90-mph on the highway just as "Children of the Grave" kicks into full gear.
04. Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here
Why: We've been hopping back and forth between music and words, but I'm New Here manages to tackle both in one album. It also happens to be engaging on a raw emotional and intellectual level, to boot -- you know, in case you happen to want to converse when it's through.
The perfect moment comes when: Your junkie travel companion is loading up in the backseat as "The Crutch" comes on.
03. Tom Waits - Glitter and Doom Live (Deluxe)
Why: Tom Waits is a masterful storyteller and songwriter. Regardless of how you feel about him, there is sure to be something entertaining here, either in the excellent live disc or in the second disc, which is filled with all the between-song banter and ridiculous stories.
The perfect moment comes when: You engage in conversation with any cohorts about the validity of Tom's stories about Pastika soup or the reasons why rats eat.
02. Marty Robbins - Gunfighter Ballads
Why: If you're driving through the Midwest at any point on your trip, Gunfighter Ballads is going to be a perfect fit. We can't exactly explain why -- it just works.
The perfect moment comes when: You find yourself so engrossed in the story of "Billy the Kid," you forget you're listening to the same record you grandma probably listened to on her last road trip.
01. Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime
Why: The album starts and ends with a car starting. What more could we ask for? Well, how about the album title and cover?
The perfect moment comes when: You realize you've just listened to 43 songs on one of the best albums of all time with the closing car-rumbling track, "Three Car Jam" (assuming you're listening to the CD version anyway).
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.