MID-JULY MIX by Monkeybicycle
Songs for the Road
It’s summer. Time to say goodbye to the office and that awful business casual attire, and get away to your favorite relaxation spot, wherever that may be. The day-to-day responsibilities of your regular life fade into the rear view mirror and what lies in front of you is nothing but a good time (Note: Poison’s Nothing But a Good Time will not be included on this mix tape — sorry).
But before you can get to all that fun in the sun there is the travel, the time in between. That’s the space this mix tape is meant for. It’s not for listening to at home or at the beach; it’s for the world on that line that connects A and B on Google Maps. These songs, chosen carefully by Monkeybicycle’s editors, are the map. Let them guide you as you go, mighty traveler.
1. Unobstructed Views, Death Cab for Cutie:
Every time I hear this song I think of a scene from a movie. In that. Scene someone is driving through an empty tunnel, or across a bridge in the dead of night. This song feels lonely and vast. I imagine who is driving the car in the scene in my head is running away from something, and not headed toward anything, it is best listened to at night, preferably near a tunnel or bridge.
2. Life During Wartime, Talking Heads:
This song is obvious in its roadliness. It’s about being on the run and its beat is impatient, waiting to get out the door. If you’re a few minutes behind on your travel schedule, put on this song and you will make up the lost time for sure.
3. Chinese Apple, Loose Fur:
I remember hearing this song on a road trip once. It was nearly sundown and I was passing, alone, through an especially Americana part of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Something about those last rays of light in the sky, mixed with Mennonite décor, Shoo-fly pies, and the soft, poetic sounds of Jeff Tweedy made that the perfect moment. Chinese Apple is an ideal prescription for winding down after a long day on the road.
4. We Are Young, Fun.:
Yes, this is overplayed as shit on the radio, but the album is literally loads of fun, and this song in particular is infectious in the best possible way.
5. Somebody, Jukebox the Ghost:
This band has been glorious for years, and “Somebody,” the first track on their third album, is a rad and lifting song that drives for you. Maybe this will finally solidify the monstrous audience they deserve.
6. My Father’s Gun, Elton John:
When thinking about roadtrip songs, I can’t help it, my mind goes to “Elizabethtown,” the dorky 2.5 hour long rom-com starring Kirsten Dunst as the founding Manic-Pixie-Dreamgirl archetype. I love this movie, and I simply don’t care who knows it. And as it is a Cameron Crow movie, I also adore the music in it. “My Father’s Gun” plays TWICE in the movie because it’s just that good.
7. Graceland, Paul Simon:
I moved to Memphis last July and I recently fell in love with it on a deep, almost blasphemous level (by that I mean that I’ve caught myself saying things like “I don’t even miss Chicago because Memphis has everything I like about Chicago plus HEART, MAN!”). After falling in love with Memphis, I stole my fiance’s copy of Graceland and listened to the second track on repeat whenever driving through the city. And I have reason to believe that we will all be received in Graceland.
8. Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae Jepsen:
As could any reader of this blog, I could go on about how intensely redundant and backwards this song is — from the shy, noncommittal chorus to the absurd “garage band” stand-ins and OMG-the-hunk-is-gay reveal that concludes the insipid video — but while all other seasons represent some element of toil (fall, incipient loss; winter, dogged denial; spring, simply becoming), summer is a season of blissful, effortless surrender. As I unto Jepsen’s insistent, dimensionless commercial-ready pop. It’s the song I want to blast while driving through the small, un-recovering towns on my way to a series of self-consciously “upstate” picnics and swims.
9. Drive, Incubus:
This is the literal answer, but I’d be remiss if I did not acknowledge this as a road trip song as I have vivid memories of gripping the steering wheel of my little Honda tightly when I was 23 years old and thinking, That’s right, I should “be the one behind the wheel.” I was usually on my way out to some ridiculous bar in my hometown and would not likely “choose water over wine” that night, as the song abstractly advises. There, I brought the literal back to abstract again. Thank goodness.
10. A Day in the Life, the Beatles: [Editor’s Note: There is no Beatles song on this playlist, because the Beatles are nazis about their copyright laws. Instead, please put the player on pause, and then listen to this song that you have (hopefully) already previously illegally downloaded on to your hard drive, or, you know, just go here.]
During a difficult period, I took an amazing road trip from Seattle to New York with my then (and current) boyfriend, but at the time the relationship was fresh. While driving through the Rockies, I insisted that we listen to this song when it was my turn to drive the huge SUV we’d rented. I’ve been informed by said current boyfriend that the twisty, veering curves I navigated while listening to Sir Paul sing about grabbing his coat and hat were not the Rockies at all but rather some hilly area near Mt. Rushmore. Regardless, hearing “somebody spoke and I went into a dream… aah.. aah.. aah…,” etc., and then, you know, the amazing crescendo at the end… well, it was just intense. I’m pretty sure All You Need Is Love came on immediately after.
11. Don’t Stop Me Now, Queen:
A few years after that, I was living on my own again and attending lots of dance parties at my brother’s house where people regularly belted out “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “Somebody to Love.” And it was always sweaty. I preferred this one, mostly while driving alone. I like to think that’s an improvement from the Incubus “hit” six years earlier. I took a three-year hiatus from driving and once I was able to do it again (which only required seven trips to the worst place on the planet, the Baltimore DMV), all I wanted to do was sing, “I’m gonna go, go, go, there’s no stopping me.” Oh, and, “That’s why they call me Mr. Fahrenheit” — definitely the best line in this song. (It’s because he had reached 200 degrees, he was going so fast. That never happened to me, though.)
— Monkeybicycle is a literary journal that lives both in print and online. It’s currently celebrating its tenth year on earth with a new web format and print issue, which you should pick up.