the sound of your morning: road trip songs

Image above via Veer

Saturday morning, I packed up the car and picked up Amy & Amy to drive from Brooklyn down to Pennsylvania to . . . celebrate Brooklyn. For some reason, the three of us never stopped laughing about how funny it was to leave Brooklyn to honor it in another state, but we’re so glad we did. Terrain set up an entire day celebrating all sorts of Brooklyn makers, writers and creatives, and it was a blast getting to see everyone in one space and soak up a little sunshine in Terrain’s giant greenhouse. As much as I loved seeing everyone and getting to meet new people, one of the things I (and I think Amy & Amy) looked forward to the most was making a music mix for the two-and-a-half-hour road trip.

My favorite way to listen to music used to be in the privacy of my own bedroom, so I could jump around in front of a mirror like a lunatic and pretend to sing (added bonus: totally great exercise without feeling like you’re working out). But lately, I’ve really been missing all those hot summer days spent driving around in my old car blasting music at a positively deafening volume. Car rides, whether it’s to the local Home Depot or somewhere hundreds of miles away, have again become my favorite way to listen to music. Something about being enveloped in loud music in a small space that feels like your own private world just makes the music seem that much better. So today I’m (along with AC) sharing my favorite road trip songs. A mix of songs that make me want to roll down the window and sing at the top of my lungs, and songs that make me want to stare off into the road’s vanishing point and imagine being the person or the singer behind the lyrics.

Road trip mixes seem to be something people really get into when it comes to picking the right songs, so I’d love to hear what YOUR perfect road trip music is. Is it one special song you have to hear when you’re driving for hours? Or is it a type of music that gets you through long trips? Whether it’s fast or slow, classic or obscure, I’d love to hear what you turn on when the doors close and the engine starts. Please share your favorite YouTube, Myspace, or iTunes links so we can all enjoy (and buy/listen) your picks. Here’s to long rides and good music. xo, grace

Neil Young and Crazy Horse, “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” — The way that some people feel about Bob Dylan is the way I feel about Neil Young. I love Dylan of course, but Neil has always been my go-to guy for every possible emotional need that can be filled with music (isn’t that all of them?). His voice (Shakey was such a fitting name for this book about him) is one I could probably listen to all day every day for a long time and not get tired. This song in particular is great for summer road trips with the windows down and your hand riding the air like a wave.

T. Rex, “20th Century Boy” — Classic rock is my favorite type of music to listen to in a car. It’s always good for singing, and I find that it usually hits a chord with everyone in the car, no matter how disparate their musical tastes. T. Rex is probably best known for “Get it On,” but I’ve always preferred this track. It has such a nice groove to it.

Kelly Clarkson, “Since U Been Gone” — I’m pulling a 180 here for a song that AC and I both wanted to use in our mix. We had a particularly memorable drive over the Golden Gate Bridge years ago with this song playing on max. The top of our rented convertible was down, and I think everyone driving by had a good laugh at us singing along. Best moment? That same day a bunch of kids in Hayes Valley yelled at us, “Going to Marin?” as we drove by. I’ve never felt more embarrassed, lame and yuppy in my life. That pretty much ended my desire to rent a convertible on a trip again.

CLICK HERE for 8 more songs (and AC’s road trip mixes) after the jump!

Led Zeppelin, “Immigrant Song” — The opening wails alone are impossible NOT to sing along. The second I hear this, no matter where I am, I feel the urge to sing along out loud. I was so excited to do this at karaoke the other night, but it didn’t go over so well with my fellow karaoke-ers. I’m still bummed. But I can feel a drive ahead of me soon with this blaring.

Phish, “You Enjoy Myself” — There are so many things I liked about picking this song. First, it reminded me of when I was obsessed with making my own belts out of hemp in college, only to find out I was allergic to hemp. My stomach kept breaking out in itchy hives until I put two and two together. I was a seriously bad hippy. Looking for this song on YouTube also made me laugh because it’s impossible to get most live Phish songs under the ten-minute YouTube limit. And while my Phish days are behind me now, this song will always remind me of road trips during college and singing along with friends while racing down the highways between DC and Williamsburg, Virginia.

AARON’S MIX (Written in his words)

Beastie Boys, “Super Disco Breakin'” — I think I got a copy of Licensed to Ill on cassette when I was in the fourth grade, and my mind was blown to the point where there was no going back. In high school, when I started driving, I was still listening to them and rapping along with my friends, looking like a complete goof and loving it. They have a new album coming out in a few weeks, and you’d better believe I’ll be getting that one, too.

Wolfmother, “White Feather” — One situation that used to come up for me a lot with car playlists was that people only wanted to hear songs they knew, and I was always trying to play them songs that I thought they SHOULD know. So it was a constant battle. This would be one of those songs. Wolfmother sounds like Led Zeppelin meets Black Sabbath; they have lots of hit songs in movies and commercials, and yet most people I meet have never heard of them (even though they actually know some of their songs). It’s a shame. Their second album was just as good as their first, and this was my favorite track from it.

Superchunk, “Precision Auto” — I take it as a personal point of pride that I’ve finally brought Grace on to team Superchunk. And if you accept the premise that it’s a shame that more people haven’t heard of Wolfmother, it’s an outright injustice that Superchunk is not a household name. In any case, here’s a great driving song with a sentiment I think we can all relate to: “Do not pass me . . . just to slow down!”

The Decemberists (feat. Gillian Welch), “Down by the Water” — Here’s a great indie band that it’s nice to see finally getting their due. This album takes a country music turn, but it’s a sound that I think fits them well. Plus they have Gillian Welch on the song, which helps tremendously. A fun, poppy track for the car.

Fall Out Boy, “She’s My Winona” — Here’s the opposite of an indie band, and one I’m pretty sure most of my friends think I should be completely ashamed to love as much as I do. But I totally love them, and I’m really sad that they broke up. Pete Wentz may be a complete douche, but he’s an amazing songwriter, and whoever that guy is who sings for them has an amazing voice, and I really hope they get back together. I also think people need to lighten up and admit that a song is good when they hear it. This one is sort of a great “Pepsi Challenge” song, because I always play this album in the car, people love it and then they ask, “Who’s this?” When I tell them who it is, they moan and groan and don’t want to admit that they were liking it before. FESS UP PEOPLE!!!


Blossom Dearie — Sunday Afternoon

Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way

Ford Mustang- Serge Gainsbourg

Feist- Inside and Out

The Beatles – Come Together


Van halen – Jump


Love road trip mixes! Some of my favs are:
The Get Up Kids -Mass Pike
Geggy Tah – Whoever You Are
Citizen Cope – Sun’s Gonna Rise
Lemonheads – Turnpike Down
Modest Mouse – Black Cadillacs


Good picks…I’ve had some fun with these, too, esp. Led Zepp!

but what about Talking Heads’ “Road To Nowhere”?

and all of Weezers’ Blue Album?

oh! and Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity

let’s keep going with all these added suggestions so that us workaholics are “driven” to take more road trips. haha. (heh.)


listen to “Down by the Water” and then listen to REM’s “The One I Love” off of Eponymous. The bass tracks are scary reminiscent.


In my mind, there’s no greater road trip song than Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger.” Apropos lyrics, great refrain to sing along to, and the backbeat being just a little faster than the lyrics makes you want to drive and drive and drive:

Donna O

love listening to Guy Clark or Townes Van Zandt when driving from the west coast through the desert states…

Erin Abbott

Here’s some of the mix I made for my drive to St. Louis just this past weekend….It’s so hard to edit when it comes to road trip mixes….

Modest Mouse- So Much Beauty In Dirt

Passion Pit- Sleepyhead

Colour Revolt- Moses of The South

Feist- I Feel It All

Old Crow Medicine Show- Wagon Wheel

Doug Martsch- Stay

Figurine- Let’s Make Ours A Love Song

Zero Zero- A.M. Gold

Pinback – Loro

The Microphones- I Lost My Wind

Q And Not U- Soft Pyramids

American Analog Set- Punk as F#%k

Blow- Hey Boy

Sun Kil Moon- Gentle Moon

Gillian Welsh- I Dream A Highway

Julie Doiron- Ce Charmant Coeur

The Sea And Cake- Choice Blanket

Yo La Tengo- Season of The Shark

Broken Social Scene- Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl

Granddaddy- A.M. 180-


Precision Auto is probably one of the best driving songs ever, but my all time favorite driving music is the Smiths. I just love cruising and singing along. I also love New Order, Beastie Boys, Belle and Sebastian and The Shins for driving music.


The Magnetic Fields’ The Charm of the Highway Strip! It makes me think of driving cross country, from Boston to Seattle, when I was 19. So good!


Supergrass – All Right

New Radicals – Something about you

Hall & Oates – You Make My Dreams

LOVE THIS CATEGORY… keep it comin’!


If you’re looking for a very lovely song celebrating Brooklyn, Natalia Zukerman’s new album Gas Station Roses has “Brooklyn” as the first song on the album. Here’s her, Garrison Starr and Mona Tavakoli performing it in Cambridge:


Kelly Clarkson and Phish? REALLY? Phish? I’m cringing with some of these music posts. I’m sorry, but these music posts are just not up to par with the rest of Design Sponge amazingness.



Cars are a place where no one judges, cringes or “really?”s your musical choices- that’s why this list was especially fun for me. But of course you don’t have to listen to them or ride with me anywhere if you don’t like them ;)



I think one of the best things about design*sponge is the fact that I can totally relate to Grace because she has a great sense of style, but is not afraid to show her quirky, guilty pleasure that we all have. I love design*sponge especially for post like these!

Anna @ D16

I’m more of a full-album girl than a mixtape girl, and I will always maintain that the BEST album of all time for listening to in the car is Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys. I can (and do!) sing every single word of every single part all by myself, but it’s much more fun if you’re in the car with two friends who also know the entire album word-for-word, so you can split up and be your own MCA, Mike D, and Ad-Rock. It just never gets old!

You can listen to the whole thing right here:

J & E

OUT WEST – Go tool around New Mexico, Colorado and Utah!

Entirety of Beck’s SEA CHANGE album

Beirut “Scenic World”

Tom Waits “Goin’ Out West”
and “Crossroads” and well, pretty much all Waits

Emmylou Harris “Boulder to Birmingham”

Neil Young “Albuquerque”

Ennio Morricone “The Good The Bad and THe Ugly”

Los Panchos and B52s

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis “The Rider Song” and Nick Cave “To Be By Your Side”

Ry Cooder “Paris, Texas”

Gillian Welch “Wayside / Back in time”

William Orbit / Beth Orton “Water from a Vine Leaf”

Beth Orton “Central Reservation” and “Stolen Car”

…off the top of my head!


I love that you included Zeppelin and Immigrant song…I love the to sing along with the opening, when no one is around of course….

This mix I made for music monday is one of my favorites to listen to in the car, but lately I’ve craving a new mix…not sure what I’ll come up with

Oh T-rex…I love the album The Slider and some of his psychedelic songs before the glam rock

Ideal situation…something that relaxes me like radiohead’s latest cd when traffic gets a bit more difficult and something to move and sing along to when traffic is easy…

Love, Jules


Grace, props to you for admitting your love for Phish! I have a soft spot for them as well, much like you, it reminds me of college and my obsession with making hemp jewelry. That one summer I sold hemp necklaces to head shops and at festivals is part of why I ended up starting my own creative business! While neither Phish (nor hemp) are so much my style anymore, I’ll never be ashamed to admit I still can enjoy them.


The Marin comment made me laugh! I’m so, so sorry but Marin really does have that yuppy reputation.

Love the variety of music you’ve been posting – it reminds me I need to expand my current collection.


I think Phish is great road trip music :). I also love ABBA for some good singing along, particularly the Mamma Mia soundtrack.

Podcasts are also fantastic for roadtrips….they can really make the time fly by!


Growing up, my dad kept a cache of Jimmy Buffet and musical tapes in his car, and we always listened to them on the way to the cabin. To this day, Jimmy Buffet’s “Stars on the Water” or “Cowboy in the Jungle” spell road trip for me. Them, and the cast recordings from “Man of La Mancha” and “Fame.” There’s really nothing like cranking the windows down and belting out the chorus of “Fame!”

Alternate choice:
“Bat Out of Hell” – Meatloaf


Boston. Vintage 70s, always! Ever since my drove a 1973 Chevrolet Camaro around central Europe in the late 70s.

Anything singalong (60s-90s) that I loved way back.

Good rock to keep me awake – AC/DC, Van Halen, Whitesnake etc. etc. Oh right, they’re singalong, too…


i looove road trips and i believe the mix CD is one of the reasons (maybe the main reason for my musician husband) why i love them so much! my husband and i will usually make mixes on our own computers to surprise the other on our drive. :)
some of our go-to music includes:

Queen – “You’re My Best Friend” & “Bohemian Rhapsody” (usually ended by a Wayne & Garth impression, love Wayne’s World!)
The Beatles – usually something from Abbey Road
Bon Jovi – “Livin’ on a Prayer”
Journey – “Don’t Stop Believin'”
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
…Chris Thile (from Nickel Creek), Bon Iver, Feist, Ray LaMontagne, Neil Young, Radiohead…

all this mix music talk is getting me excited for our next roadtrip…can’t wait! thanks for the fun post :)


Aw, happy you included YEM. I was so tickled when I realized (I think when I read yalls NYT wedding announcement) that you’re a (former) phishhead : ]


modest mouse’s building nothing out of something. interstate 8 is especially essential for me.

when it’s sunny, i put on my best surf and go. the babies – self titled, happy birthday – self titled, and best coast – crazy for you, of course!

Karena (Magic Jelly)

Bowie – Rebel Rebel
Supergrass – Moving
Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Rattlesnakes
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel – Make Me Smile (Come Up & See Me)
Kate Bush – Running Up that Hill
The Smiths – Oscillate Wildly
Badly Drawn Boy – Disillusion (Blue States Mix)
The Hives – Hate to Say I Told You So
Blondie – Union City Blue
Doves – Pounding

And some jazz…

Oscar Peterson – Wave
Dave Brubeck – Take Five
Vince Guaraldi – Linus & Lucy
Astrid Gilberto – Look to the Rainbow
Django Reinhardt – Minor Swing
Charlie Parker – Summertime


Grace – I love the visual of your yuppie drive across the Golden Gate. :) My husband tends to do that whilst driving across Scotland rapping along with Jay-Z or similar – keeping in mind that rap doesn’t really translate to the Scottish accent. Poseur, indeed.

I love this feature, by the way. Keep it up!


I also love the different mixes of music that you listen to. Great posts. Road trip I love listening to Wyclef Jean – Carnival. Just seems to have the right beat and a perfect lets get going rhythm!


Thanks for sharing this list – it’s made me get all wanderlusty. Now, thinking of making my own playlist for the next road trip :)

Heidi (AlpineGypsy)

OOOHHH! I love this post, you’ve hit a nerve~

I must say I completely enjoy seeing other folks’ choices, particularly Karena (of Magic Jelly), wild! And Grace, you have picked some of my all-time favourites as well (Neil Young, T-‘Rex 20th Century Boy’). I just traded CDs with my wonderful penpal Tina, and here’s some of what I put in hers:

-‘Always in my Heart’, Bent

-‘Papa don’t take no Mess’, James Brown

-‘Jumbo’, Underworld

-‘So Easy’, Royksopp

-‘Summer Breeze’, Jordan Carrier

-‘Hang Loose’, People Under the Stairs

And a few more I would add…

-‘Tangerine’, Led Zeppelin

-‘This Flight Tonight’, Nazareth

-‘Mother’, Danzig

Man…..I could go on….maybe you’ve ignited the genesis of another Road Album here, hehe….



Holiday Road by Lindsey Buckingham- from the Nation Lampoon movies…wish I was in a car every time I hear it…


Anything by the great Paul Kelly, but especially ‘Love never runs on time’, what with it starting with a road trip…


Ventura Highway – America. Best.Road trip song. Ever.

Scar Tissue – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Sweet Disposition – Temper Trap

Bernard Fanning’s Tea & Sympathy – the whole album

Anything by Powderfinger

Anything by Jack Johnson


Wilco….Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Black Keys… Attack and Release, The Heavy… Great Vengeance and Furious Fire.


So I read this last week, and I’m still annoyed about anyone in Hayes Valley trying to call you out for being yuppie – not ok! I love Hayes Valley, but come on…it’s yuppie! You are not lame and those kids are dumb. So there.

holly - livingston & porter

Holiday Road is a funny one….Nothing better than a vision of a CHEVY CHASE vacation. Still remember a time when we were all {virtually} characters in a VACATION movie- brother Rusty {and all} singin’ silly songs……Love a little Fleetwood Mac, love some Beatles, maybe some old school eighties music we used to dance on the tables to :-) I always have Mr Jones on every mix tape i’ve ever made so I think it’s interesting that pick showed up here!

Happy Summer travels~ may all your roadtrips be safe and filled with good tunes!