Looking to spice up your road trip playlist while you travel over the holidays? KTRM-FM has you covered. With students from over 35 majors, Truman State University’s award-winning radio station is home to members of all corners of campus, which reflects the reality that we’re more than just an indie and alternative station 一 and that this piece will consist of more than just weird, obscure music. We’re individuals from an assortment of backgrounds who have very eclectic tastes. As a result, this article consists of songs that span multiple genres and decades. Whether it be classic rock, today’s hyperpop or ‘90s country music, there’s bound to be at least one track amidst this playlist to keep you alive and entertained while racing home. So, buckle up and keep your eyes on the road while we provide the tunes.
“Highroad” by Sir Woman: We can’t lie, Kirksville has grown on us in a way many of us never expected a small town with strange sword-wielding locals, most pot-holes per mile of road and a token, traveling ghostbuster hearse would. Yet, when it’s time to leave this town, especially when it’s fallen into its gray and beige hues of the winter, we’re elated. As we pass the 70 mph sign on Highway 63, the sun seems to shine through our car windows brighter and the weight of seasonal depression that plagues some of us lifts from our chests 一 even if just for a moment. Thus comes the selection for our ultimate road trip playlist, “Highroad” by Sir Woman. This song is nothing short of groovable 一 foot shaking and shoulder bopping at the very least 一 buoyant and breezy. It’s the perfect nonchalant tune to play and replay in the car whether you just started your trip or are five hours in, needing a pick-me-up and a way to get the blood circulating to your feet. This casual tune has been on some of our personal playlists the last few years and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
“Bling (Confession Of A King)” by The Killers: An oft-forgotten track from the Killers’ sophomore album “Sam’s Town,” “Bling” deviates from the Springsteenian Americana meets mid-2000’s alt-rock that dominates the album. In its wake is a shimmering blast of U2 inspired post-punk that mirrors the lyrical confessions of the titular “king.” As the title would suggest, things aren’t so great, but despite the narrator’s struggle and hardships, they believe that hope is on the horizon 一 that they’re “gonna make it out of the fire.” It’s an empowering tale of survival, anthemic in every way imaginable. In short, this is a song we can relate to heading out of finals week.
“One of Us” by Dawes: A prime choice when it comes to great traveling music is the indie rock band Dawes. “One Of Us” is particularly great for blasting through car speakers since it has a great, thumping introductory guitar riff. The entire song is certainly loud enough to be heard over the din of the highway and perfect for staving off any fatigue. We find it to be a fun song to sing along to, which is a must when traveling with friends or family, especially if your car companions find singing irritating. After all, what better way to pass the time than by annoying everyone else while you enjoy yourself?
“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Miley Cyrus: Yes, the Cyndi Lauper original is iconic, but Cyrus’s high-energy, uptempo cover deserves some love. Keeping in mind the original’s framework, Cyrus ratchets up the tempo and substitutes synth beats for electric guitar features and bass drum hits. The rocking guitar riffs are really what sell this song, transforming the bubbly, sweet-flavored ‘80s original to the sassy, modern, girl-power ballad we all deserve on our way out of one semester and into the next chapter of our lives 一 starting, of course, with having some fun over break.
“The Great Adventure” by The Neal Morse Band: We’ll acknowledge upfront that progressive rock isn’t for everyone, but this song 一 with its pumping rhythms, tight vocal harmonies and lyrical call to embrace the unknown 一 is bound to captivate the listener. From the moment the band kicks things into gear, this track never loses momentum and the overall energy of the piece will make the six-minute run-time feel like nothing. Why? Because it’s a truly joyous track worth cranking up in your car, especially during the chorus and keyboard solos.
“Sanctuary” by Joji: Looking to get reflective on your trip? “Sanctuary” is a song to help you in that regard thanks to its excellent emotional weight. Unlike many other Joji songs, “Sanctuary” feels upbeat and positive rather than down and depressive. Joji’s choric falsetto and the track’s major key are the driving forces behind the feel of the song. Should you find yourself immersed in this one, be sure to also check out the music video which carries an equal emotional burden — once you’re home, of course.
“Vroom Vroom” by Charli XCX: We hope there are gay people in your car. Otherwise, this song might go left. Either way, the SOPHIE-produced track still hits the same after five years. It’s hyperpop perfection — driving bass, an off-kilter synth focused hook and a distinctly British inflection. There’s a reason this song has cemented itself in the hyperpop canon. It’s just insanely fun at its core, making it a good pick for any road trip playlist.
“Voodoo Child” by Jimi Hendrix: This song is as otherworldly as any of Hendrix’s other sounds. You’re met with an inexplicably uncanny texture, and that’s the sound of the wah pedal that Hendrix employs throughout the song. Hendrix immediately draws your attention to this sound and you realize you can replicate it with your mouth. Then you are hit with a wave of feedback and noise, as he cranks up the distortion and blasts away at wild solos and licks. In between, he sings and you think about giants cutting down mountains and meeting people in the next life. Our favorite lyric is “I have a hummingbird, and it hums so loud.” So random, so esoteric, so very Hendrix.
“Wide Open Spaces” by The Chicks: Along with classic rock, country might be the genre most geared toward long car rides. It’s the type of music you could imagine being played by the likes of a young couple going on vacation, a mid-sized family moving to the suburbs or a trucker racing to make a delivery. There’s a reason for this 一 country is very down to earth. Like American folk music, these are songs for everyday people, and “Wide Open Spaces” is a prime example of this because of its focus on American individualism. It’s about a girl who chooses to hit the open road to find her calling in life, a tale we’ve likely encountered at some point in our lives, yet rarely is it delivered in such a serene fashion. We get an acoustic driven verse with emotive steel guitar working in the background, a subtle use of the banjo in the chorus to add color, tasteful incorporation of the fiddle during the bridge and brief piano flourishes throughout. Add in the lush, harmony laden chorus that is the textbook definition of sublime, and you have the perfect song to soundtrack the contemplative moments that will accompany any extended journey.
“Swimming Pools (Drank)” by Kendrick Lamar: Listening to this song while traveling on those long stretches of empty road will leave you floating. The wobbly bassline, slow tempo, powerful stabs, stereophonic panning and vocal effects all serve to establish an otherworldly atmosphere that morphs the passage of time. There’s no better way to speed up a drive than to get fully immersed in a great song 一 and this is definitely one that can do that for you.
“Platform Ballerinas” by Mika: Slinky, upbeat and danceable. These are just three words which describe the incredibly catchy and spirited style of pop music that Mika has made his bedmate. Any number of the man’s songs would be appropriate for a road trip playlist, but I went with this one because of its high octane, exuberance and the implication it provides for listeners to move and groove to the music. Though the latter qualities don’t exactly translate to the driver’s seat of a car burning down the highway at 70 mph, you’ll still benefit from the toe tapping energy of the song which will keep you attentive and awake while on the road, even if you’ve been driving for more than three hours. It’s the perfect stimulant for those people who don’t drink caffeine.
“Bombay Leanin’” by Brenk Sinatra: Hailing from the album “Midnite Ride II,” it’s no surprise that this song really fits that dark driving vibe. The track opens up with a dreamy vocal sample that immediately sets a pensive ambiance. Bright, airy pads serve to lift you up while the punchy kicks and bassline keep you grounded. The sharp plucks over the heavy vocals complete the soundscape, making for an excellent soundstage listening experience.
“There’s No Going Back” by Sick Puppies: The title of this track may be too on-the-nose, but as we leave Kirksville, an introspective and reflective song might be just what we need. Sick Puppies lend a harder-edged sound to this tune, and the result is a melody that refuses to be defined as either somber or upbeat, but that is a combination as exhilarating and confusing as these transitional moments in our lives. Don’t let the highly thoughtful nature of this track fool you though 一 the energy of this song is top-notch, and the lyrics are perfectly singable, making it a great addition to any road trip playlist.
“Chasing Thunder” by Kesha: For those doubtful of Kesha’s talents as an artist, we present this song. One would think that the composition’s country inflections would clash with the big, top 40 pop clichés — gang chorus, hand claps, EDM style bass and drum — yet it all comes together on this powerful tale of chasing dreams despite our mortality. Why? Because Kesha knows how to weave a tale of reflection and empowerment that will leave you misty-eyed. So in that regard, very “un-road trip” if you’re on your own, but if you’ve got other people in the car with you 一 specifically friends and loved ones 一 this is a song capable of bringing you all closer to one another. It will make you appreciative of the time you have.