The Growler’s Tourism Guide 2020: Road Trip Playlists

Illustration by Kelsey King

Illustration by Kelsey King

Find more great travel ideas in The Growler’s Tourism Guide 2020

The difference between dreading the endless hours on long, lonely stretches of highway and cherishing the open road as an essential part of your vacation can all come down to the soundtrack. If you tailor your playlists for an array of variables—mood, landscape, time of day, amount of caffeine consumed—the drive can be just as fun as the destination.

Here are recommendations from a couple of local musicians who’ve logged more than their fair share of road time, plus a few of our own essential road trip songs and artists.

Mark MallmanMusician

Mornings are for Nico, Van Morrison, anything acoustic and chill. Afternoons are uptempo [with] the likes of The Sounds, Metric, and Modest Mouse. The darker it gets, the more we move towards synth and goth. Evening brings The Human League, Radiohead, Kraftwerk, and Joy Division. Late-night drives are all about staying awake—think Nine Inch Nails and Beastie Boys.

The caveat albums that go any time are singalong albums. These records are known cover-to-cover by all members in the van, the music is cranked full volume and we all sing along. Singalong albums might include Violent Femmes S/T [self-titled], B-52s S/T, Weezer “Pinkerton”, and any Pink Floyd.

LazerbeakHip-Hop Producer

Best album: The War On Drugs, “A Deeper Understanding”

It literally works at any time of day or night. One of the only albums that I have probably listened to 500 times without ever getting sick of it. A true anomaly.

I was never really a fan of the band previously but something about this album immediately grabbed ahold of me and hasn’t let go since. I still listen to it every couple of weeks and it has sort of reached the same status as the Luther Vandross or Babyface catalogs for me. I put it on whenever I’m stressed or sad or happy or chill or amped. It’s kind of like church or meditation I guess. Highly recommended.

Lauren SauerAssociate Editor

Best album: Lord Huron, “Lonesome Dreams”

Best song: “Dreams” by The Cranberries

I always split my road trip playlists into two moods: one for a chill vibe stacked with the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon, Sigur Rós, and Bob Marley, and another with more uptempo beats filled with hip-hop, pop, heavy rock, reggaeton, and singalongs. This second list is crucial for periods of creeping exhaustion when you need to literally sing aloud to stay alert—essential singalongs with DJ Lauren can range from Céline Dion to Bee Gees to UGK’s “Int’l Players Anthem.”

But, as anyone who’s ever played DJ knows, with the aux cord comes great responsibility. For a playlist to really land, it’s crucial to keep the tastes of your fellow passengers in mind—you’re not just setting your own mood, but the mood of everyone in the car, so stop and think before you go and throw in Fugazi’s entire discography.