It’s the time of year when a lot of people are hitting the road, taking a trip for leisure or visiting family for the holidays. It can get boring and tiring cruising down the highway, but here are five albums that will make a perfect soundtrack to your summer road trip. Drive safe!
Neu! – Neu! (1972)
A lot of German music of the 70s is heavily influenced by the feeling of cruising down the autobahn. Two years before Kraftwerk’s groundbreaking electronic album Autobahn, Düsseldorf’s Neu! were the band responsible for taking the groundwork of rock music and turning it into the distinctive, driving “motorik” sound. Just about everything on this album, not just the rhythm section, is played in service of keeping the rhythm going, with textural blurs of guitar passing in the periphery and ambient noises whistling by. The album turns every drive into an exciting adventure into the unknown.
The Replacements – Tim (1985)
For a brief time in the mid 80’s, Minneapolis band The Replacements were the best rock band in the world. Even today you can hear the way their loose and dirty style stood in stark opposition to the high gloss pop sheen of the decade’s other rock music. It’s that same spontaneous and exploratory style that makes Tim a great driving record. On the album’s best tracks, including the sweet “Kiss Me on the Bus,” the hard-rocking “Bastards of Young” and the timeless “Left of the Dial,” it is full of both heart and muscle.
Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville (1993)
More than two decades on from her groundbreaking debut album, Liz Phair is still an anomaly. She’s got a nasal, almost monotone singing voice, but her lyrics are pure rock poetry. There’s a restlessness and introspection to the record (which Phair claims was patterned after The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street) that matches perfectly with the warm rumble of the guitars and the simplicity of the record’s Spartan rock ‘n’ roll rhythms. The album is full of unusual (and yet familiar characters) that will make your road trip feel like a cinematic trip into someone else’s life.
The Kills – Midnight Boom (2008)
More urban and more nocturnal than the other albums on this list, The Kills’ 2008 masterpiece is a funky, lean, mean and nasty modern rock record. Re-appropriating junk yard percussion, telephone noises and a whole lot of attitude, The Kills created magic. Each song on Midnight Boom contains chanted choruses that will be indelibly etched into your brain from the first moment you hear them. Try not to shout the hook from the nicotine-stained “Cheap & Cheerful” as you cruise down the streets.
The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream (2014)
Taking a little bit of Bruce Springsteen, a little bit of motorik groove, and the bleary, dreamy sound of 21st Century indie rock, The War on Drugs created a modern masterpiece. From the clattering hi-hat opening the album on “Under the Pressure” that sounds like an engine sputtering into life, to the powerful slipstream of “An Ocean in Between the Waves,” to journey’s slow end on “In Reverse,” everything on the record recalls being on the road. There’s a sense of loss and the sweet call of home folded into this gorgeous and wistful album.