Top 10: Travel Music

I have traveled often, on lengthy flights, road trips, and even short day trips to the mountains. The music that I listen to one trips often has a way of defining the trip, more so than the specific destination, in that I remember visuals and music more often than I do the exact dialogue or deeds of the trip. I may vividly remember being in a car with someone in the early morning and the music that was playing, but not what we were actually talking about. In a sense, the music helps to define the essence of the trip.

So, in that vein, here is my top ten albums. songs, or bands for listening to while traveling:

10. The Lumineers by The Lumineers

I love this album. It goes quickly, and the music is so good that you don’t realize it until the album stops after the last tracks. While it does have some slower and more contemplative songs, this album is great at energizing me. It has a down-to-earth, folk music feel to it, as if you are jamming with friends. Their concerts have the same feeling. Seeing as I almost always take a road trip with friends, it is perfect for that. Plus, this album has a way of immortalizing early morning drives, as the sun is coming up, among friends, driving along highways with the common man.

9. Babel (Deluxe Edition) by Mumford & Sons

This album has come with me on all of my recent trips. I like it for many of the same reasons. Both albums together evoke hazy bars and nightclubs in small towns, playing to intimate gatherings. Y’know, the kinds of places that I like finding on trips, the local joints that aren’t found anywhere else, that are filled with people off of work, drawn together by music, in in dimly lit halls covered in flickering neon lights outside. Plus, it has a song called “Hopeless Wanderer.” I practically have to include it just for that. Ha!

8. The Black Keys

I have four of their albums (Attack & Release, The Big Come Up, Brothers (Deluxe Edition), and El Camino). I know what you’re thinking, that four albums for one choice is cheating, right? Well, I did say that I would choose bands. Anyways, all of their music (the list was just for the sake of clarity) has a gritty blues feel that resonates with me. Their albums, especially the last two, are great for those mid-afternoon sections of a road trip that always seem to be in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by small towns in the distance and fields. They have an insistent groove that you just fall into, at least I do, and it makes me want to nod my hand and tap my hand on the wheel as I drive.

7. Cloud Cult

I really like this band, ever since a friend introduced it to me a few years ago. I have three of their albums (Advice From the Happy Hippopotamus, Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes), and Light Chasers). It is music that makes me think, often times, but which is often catchy, eclectic, and addicting (I often have ti stuck in my head). They have a few songs about traveling scattered around their albums (“Transistor Radio,” “Journey of the Featherless,” “Unexplainable Stories”), most of which deal with what traveling can teach us about people and about life. It is music I think of when I think of the traditional travelogues, visiting the unseen corners of the country.

6. Touched By the Crimson King by Demons & Wizards

Demons & Wizards is a side project that includes members of some of my favorite European metal bands. Most of the album references Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series of novels, and there is an awesome cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” This music kind of marks the place in this list where the music goes from pure exploration and travel and becomes more imaginary. I don’t mean that the trip is made up and didn’t actually happen. What I mean is that, this music refers to novels that deal with magic and quests, and is some great metal. In that sense, this music is always on my travel playlists because it turns a normal road trip into a quest and adventure. This effect is increased the more people there are in the car.

5. Nightfall in Middle Earth by Blind Guardian

Hansi Kurch, the singer of Blind Guardian, is also the singer for Demons & Wizards, in the previous entry. This album also relates to a novel, but in this case it is J. R. R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion. The songs on this album refer to the history of Middle Earth and its stories, history, and tragedies. It is a great album of metal, as it is, but like¬†the previous entry, this album adds to the feeling of magic and adventure on a road trip. While listening to this and driving somewhere unfamiliar, I often imagine that the hills house dwarfs under them, or that in the forested hills elves are hiding. It opens up the sense of endless wonder and possibility while on a trip.

4. At The Edge of Time by Blind Guardian

Like the last couple of albums, this one refers to more literature. It refers to Norse Mythology and Valkyries, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, and George R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series. Additionally, some of these songs are more melodic and less edgy than the previous albums but is still definitely metal, which is a nice balance. What can I say? I love me some metal that refers to books I love and which turns all of my trips into magical quests and adventures, instead of mundane travels from Point A to Point B.

3. The Definitive Collection by The Blues Brothers

Similar to the previous albums, this one represents a quest, but this time it is “a mission from God.” While this isn’t the soundtrack from the movie, it always makes me think of the movie. What else is the movie, except one long road trip to make money to save an orphanage? It belongs on a list of travel music.

2. Sing Loud, Sing Proud! by Dropkick Murphys

I don’t know what it is exactly about this album that makes me enjoy listening to it so much on trips. I think, in part, it is because it is louder, faster, and edgier than the albums that began this list. I think part of it to is because it is an album that fits with driving slightly over the speed limit on a two-lane highway, eating up the miles as you drive. Also, as the title says, it is really fun to sing loud and proud along with. Although, if you are in a plane, try and refrain from that impulse for the sake of your neighbors.

1. Everything Remains (As It Never Was) by Eluveitie

This album, like the Blind Guardian album, is metal. However, it does incorporate strings and a hurdy-gurdy, along with references to history. While I know that heavy metal isn’t for everyone, the music and lyrics get my blood pumping, and the references to history make feel like I have this great crowd of invisible people watching the choices that I make and the places that I go, since what I am doing or think is not new to me. In some sense, it takes me as a traveler out of my individual circumstances and makes me for of a timeless Traveler, one among a great host of Travelers.

This is the music that I include whenever I travel. What music is always in your MP3 player when you travel? Please leave me a comment and let me know; I would love to hear from you.

Edit: After reading some articles on blog formats, realized this post was a bit excessively tagged. Removed for simplicity’s sake.

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2 thoughts on “Top 10: Travel Music

  1. Gonna check some of these tunes out. Putting together my own travel playlist for a zine, but a lot of the tracks I had in mind only vaguely refer to travel; they are mostly reminders of moments I experienced while traveling. Just thought about that as I read your post.

    • Thank you for sharing! I’m glad you liked it. To be honest, a lot of the songs and albums that I listed fit into both of our descriptions, they both refer to travel in some way and I also have specific memories tied to each of them. For example, I can still vividly remember going camping hours away with a good friend, who is an avid Tolkien reader as well, when he first introduced me to Nightfall in Middle-Earth.

      Once you have the list put together, I’d love to see what songs you listed and the memories they evoke.

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