Weekly Playlist #25: Windows Down – 11 summer driving songs
It’s getting hot out, which means it’s about time to start annoying people with your loud music as you drive by. Rather than shooting for the generic summer songs playlist, this week, we are providing you with some of the perfect songs to play very loudly with the warm summer breeze whipping across your face.
THE BRONX – “Shitty Future”
True story: My estranged wife used to admonish the hell out of me for playing this at top volume in the house, claiming it was "bad energy" and "unnecessarily negative." And with a couplet like, "Slit wrists are the latest fashion/Your sheets see the dirtiest action," who could blame her for thinking that, right? I got the last laugh when I learned her personal trainer played it during her spinning classes. The song is the perfect metaphor for life: You're dead broke, your destiny has been mortgaged by Wall Street vermin and politicians, so you might as well laugh, put your last $20 in the gas tank and hit the road looking for whatever cheap thrills you can buy with pocket lint. With "Shitty Future," the Bronx made the greatest soundtrack ever for a Sunday morning, high-speed deathtrip. If you can't leave a 19-car pile-up in your wake while blasting this in your car, stay the hell home, already. No use half-assing anything to a track this sublime. [JP]
CARTEL – “Luckie St.”
C'mon, how could this song not make the list? The freakin' chorus is "It's time to roll the windows down/Feel the cold air all around/We are heading out of town/Not a thing can stop us now." This track, originally on Cartel's first, self-released EP and re-recorded for their debut full-length, Chroma, is pretty much a perfect example of how good modern pop-rock can be. It's also a great excuse to blow your car speakers out. [SH]
DAYS AWAY - "God And Mars"
The bombastic opener to Days Away's only full-length rightfully sets the tone for good vibes and windows-down weather. They took the scene-affiliated pop-rock formula of the time (2005, which was already on point) and flipped the script, bringing an "everything will be okay" existentialism to it. Don't want negative energy polluting your life? There's a line for that. "I'm in a better place/Don't take this/And turn it around." Applied harmonies, airy guitars and spacious segues where the vocals lull your problems away are just a few things that still make this record special. [BK]
THE FRATELLIS – “Henrietta”
Everyone knows the Fratellis’ song “Flathead,” from the dancey, color-popping iPod commercial, but “Henrietta” is the real banger on Costello Music. With its cheeky lines (“Give us a kiss and maybe we can go out”) and its calls to “come live with us among the has-beens and the addicts,” “Henrietta” is a rallying vagabond anthem with a bouncy chorus that was made for loud sing-alongs. [BM]
HOT ROD CIRCUIT - "What We Believe In"
Some of the catchiest songs have an extremely short fuse and accommodate the attention-deficit world in which they exist. Take Hot Rod Circuit's "What We Believe In.” Six seconds in and the vocals find the pocket like a bro's lacrosse ball. It's the kind of song that makes time feel faster, barely letting up the sugar rush for a bendy, Midwestern-flaired bridge. Andy Jackson takes the "lyrics most likely to earn a restraining order" trophy, but his outbursts are so masked in pop-syrup, you won't even catch the creepy undertones."I am staring through the window like a stalker/Hoping we can meet/Yeah/I think you’re pretty sweet/I hope you have nothing on underneath." On second thought, you may want to leave those windows up. [BK]
HUM – “Stars”
My brother and I used to have a rule when we were in high school: If Hum's "Stars" ever came on our shared, junky ’91 Plymouth Sundance's tape deck, we would immediately roll the windows down, turn the volume up as loud as it would go and rock the fuck out. (This happened with reasonable frequency, as many, many mixtapes in said car contained the Illinois space-rock band's mega-jam.) It didn't matter if it was raining, snowing or 50 below zero—if "Stars" was on, the windows were down. Hopefully my hometown of Rockford, Illinois, has forgiven us for the noise pollution. [SH]
JAGUAR LOVE – “Highways Of Gold”
Out of the wreckage of post-everything maniacs the Blood Brothers came Jaguar Love, the sweetly insane trio of Johnny Whitney, Cody Votolato and Jay Clark (ex-Pretty Girls Make Graves). Their debut album, 2008's Take Me To The Sea, admittedly owed more to pop-leaning sensibilities than post-hardcore hell-raising. Nothin' wrong with that, because the opening track from the album is bold, breezy and far-flung in its approach, with Whitney's hyper-alto vocals charging the proceedings as Votolato and Clark shore him up with a groove that's caffeinated and worthy of whistling. I can't hang with anyone who can't see the joy in driving an ’86 Monte Carlo with smashed windows down a turnpike at 80 mph, smiling wide and catching bugs in his teeth while this is playing. [JP]
MINUS THE BEAR – “Drilling”
Back in 2004, one of my all-time favorite bands, Braid, reunited for a North American tour. Being the superfan that I was (and still am), I planned on attending the first five shows with two friends, roadtripping all across the Midwest and even into Canada. What I didn't expect was I would come away with a new favorite band in Minus The Bear, whose star was just starting to rise that fateful summer. Even though their second album, Menos El Oso, wouldn't come out for another year, they were already working a few songs off it into their set each night, including what became "Drilling," with its not one but two false endings. The song was tightened up a smidge for Menos, but on that tour, there were some serious pauses for those false endings. I fell for both the first night; the second night, I fell for the latter one; the third through fifth nights, I enjoyed watching the rest of the crowd buy into the false endings while I smartly held my applause till after the magnificent final crescendo. I fucking love this song, and it brings back memories of the short transition between college grad and full-time employee of AP, driving around with (what else?) the windows down. [SH]
MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE – “House Of Wolves”
It is fall, 2006. I am a 16-year-old with a new drivers’ license and and a copy of The Black Parade. The swing-dance-in-hell intro of its seventh track booms from my open windows as I navigate a deceptively empty highway at night. When the guitars come in, the feeling that strikes me is so mischief-laden that it manifests aurally, whispering, “Go.” My reckless teenage foot smashes the gas pedal and pushes my car to 80 mph in the blink of an eye. Almost as quickly, the rushing white, yellow and black around me turn blue and red as sirens wail across the median. I then rip into the highway, leaving a cloud of illegal maneuvers on an exit ramp and a couple subsequent red lights in my wake, all while Gerard Way commands, “You better run like the devil,” and the sirens grow satisfyingly distant. In short, it didn’t end in a ticket—just a grand escape to a pitch-black country road covered in my maniacal laughter, racing heart and “S-I-N.” [CW]
REGINA SPEKTOR - “DANCE ANTHEM OF THE ’80S”
The phrase “songs to play with the windows down” doesn’t usually make people think of Russian-born, piano-playing songstress Regina Spektor, but hear me out. No, this isn’t some Duran Duran/Cyndi Lauper mashup. Rather, it’s Spektor doing what she does best: Her unique voice is center stage, stretching one-syllable words into lilting phrases (Just listen to her sing “sleep,” or rather, “sleeleleeleleeleleeleleeep”), while the staccato piano part complements her main instrument. It’s a quirky pop song that will freshen up your roadtrip playlist. (After all, you can only play “My Friends Over You” for so many miles.) [BM]
WEEZER - "Troublemaker”
Dumb, dumb, dumb. Everything about this song is positively dumb, from Rivers Cuomo's badass-nerd worldview (rhyming "arts and crafts" with "arts and crafts"), awkward delivery (pronouncing "kids" as "kee-ahhhds") and the chunky riff Keith Richards forgot to write. Heisel and I might fight to the death about whether "Troublemaker" is the best or worst track on the Red album (I think he loves the "Shaker Hymn" one). But he's never heard it while Kat Dennings is riding in the Monte Carlo from my Jaguar Love entry, wearing a pair of Daisy Dukes with her back to the glove compartment as her knees are bent over the rear of the seat as she files her nails. Of course, I haven’t heard it in that setting either. But you can tell I've thought about it a little too much... [JP]