Friday Pick Six: Six Songs for Cruising

Friday, April 10, 2015
It looks like summer's coming up on us again, and for once the price of gas is less than “whatever amount is most punishing to your wallet”, which means one thing: cruising! And road trips (two things)! No matter which way you slice it, this is the time of year where people take to the road to cruise, go on long-haul vacations, and disappear into the hills for camping (three – three things). Here's a couple songs that compliment this season of cruising, vacations, camping, and moving cross-country (four things!)

1) The 1975, “Chocolate” – You would be surprised how quickly The 1975 went from “oh, who is this” to “HOLY CRAP THIS BAND YOU GUYS I CAN'T EVEN” for me last summer, and it's entirely the fault of “Chocolate.” I mean, once you get past the fact that you can understand maybe one in five words that come out of unmistakably British lead singer Matt Healy's mouth, the lyrics you can catch are quite evocative: running from the cops, guns under petticoats, going where nobody knows...whatever “chocolate” is supposed to reference (hint, it's something that was recently legalized in Colorado. That's right: same-sex marriage! I'm kidding, of course it's marijuana). Beyond that, it's just a straight shot of effervescent fun – don't let the moody, black-and-white video fool you -- it's basically a perfect summer jam. 

2) Bleachers, “Rollercoaster” – This one's kinda cheating: this song is chock full of references to dirt roads, summer, and runaways. Ferchrissakes, the music video is just the band cruising down the California highway chasing after a pretty girl in a convertible (a noble venture, to be sure). It's sorta like picking “Sister Christian” for a list of '80s songs concerning the subject of “motorin'” – a perfectly valid choice, but an obvious one. Like “Chocolate”, this song has a kind of John-Hughes-y, late '80s feel that just works for me, and I can't think of another word to describe that bass line than “propulsive”, which is kinda exactly what you want from a driving song. 

3) Passion Pit, “Lifted Up (1985)” – I won't beat around the bush: this song sounds like it belongs on the How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack. In fact, if not for that explicit year reference in the title and chorus, it probably could be on the How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack. I'm not knocking that, because that's actually a huge plus in my book. The lyrics, par for the course for Passion Pit, are schmaltzy-but-endearing gobbledygook, but the production and arrangement are pretty darn spotless. I must have heard this song over two dozen times since it debuted less than a month ago, and that part after the chorus where everything drops out but the “ooohs” and that delicate guitar line still kinda gives me the chills. Now all I need is an awesome lightning-spitting dragon to be my pet/best friend... 

4) Matt & Kim, “Daylight” – What, did you think you'd get through an article by me without me dropping in a reference to that one Dan Harmon show I really like? You know the one...Rick and Morty! All kidding aside, yes, that one college show did introduce me to the wonderful duo of Matt & Kim, and specifically “Daylight”, but whatever! This song sounds like nostalgia feels. You know, that hazy, gold-dappled remembrance of summer days long past where the whole world felt like it fit in your backyard, and the word “no” hadn't yet saturated your vocabulary...well, that's it. That's this song.

5) Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, “Gold” – Despite him being an indie-raised, Seattle-born breakthrough success, saying you like Macklemore these days feels tragically un-hip; like admitting you enjoy the Transformers movies unironically, or getting caught buying Two and a Half Men on DVD. I guess people got tired of “Same Love” and “Thrift Shop” way faster than I thought they would (well, maybe not “Thrift Shop”). But you know what – who gives a crap? The Heist is a rock solid album, and “Gold” is one of the best cuts off it. Macklemore's clearly having a ball with the premise, and Ryan Lewis' synthy production makes an excellent soundtrack for a dusty sunset run. Today we're feeling like gold, indeed. 

6) The Black Keys, “Lonely Boy” –
So, I think it's fair to say that the songs I've chosen up to this point have fallen into a particular mold: bright, poppy stuff that works when placed behind a placid, relaxing drive up in the hills – the kind you see in car commercials, where everyone acts like their hands are dolphins. Cruising music. The Black Keys, I'd argue, also make cruising music, but theirs is less 'Volkswagen commercial' and more 'Ten-Four, Good Buddy'. “Lonely Boy”, like many of their songs, is the kind of cruising music you play when you're the blocker car. It's the song you blast while haulin' ass down the backroads at 7000+RPM being chased by a lawman lookin' to put an end to your doggone moon-shinin' ways. And really, what's more summery than that?


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