Songs for the Road: A Book Tour Playlist
Justin Taylor's Soundtrack for Travel
Justin Taylor was kind enough to write about the weirdness of a writer going on a book tour and suddenly becoming a public artist. This is the soundtrack that helps him get through it all…
All Luna songs feel like they’re about dislocation of some kind, and their whole sound is one of vague (or sometimes pointed) disembodiment, so this could have been any number of other Luna songs. Usually if I put them on it’s to listen to a whole album.
Backlash, Freddie Hubbard
A badass song that’ll put a little strut in your step, should you require one.
Queen of the Borrowed Light, Wolves in the Throne Room
I am decidedly not a drone-metal guy, but if you leave me alone with myself for long enough I will try (again) to see if I might become one, and WitTR’s Diadem of 12 Stars is usually where I start, the only other choices being a couple of Earth and Sunn 0))) records I also happen to own.
Saturday’s Song, Hiss Golden Messenger
HGM are one of the best things going when it comes to what my wife has referred to (lovingly, I assume) as “sad bastard music,” but their new record and touring band has proven that they might rather get you stomping your feet or jumping up and down than coming to terms with God’s silence—not to suggest it’s an either/or proposition. Anyway it’s hard to begrudge someone the happiness they’re trying to share with you, and Lateness of Dancers is a fantastic record, though I still have a deep love of the soul-excoriating solo stuff. If snapping your fingers sounds less fun than sitting stock still while hot tears stream silently down your face, perhaps consult Bad Debt or London Exodus.
Blessed be the Name, Charlie Parr
An insanely underrated singer, songwriter, guitar picker, and living breathing repository of folk scholarship. This is off the gospel album Keep Your Hands on the Plow, with his sister (?) Emily Parr and Low’s Alan Sparhawk singing harmony. I could—and often do—listen to Parr for hours at a time.
Head Underwater, Jenny Lewis
Just saw her live for the first time and was amazed by what a great performer and bandleader she is. This album’s called The Voyager and I guess there’s a title song which I could have put here instead, but I thought of this one, and anyway the whole thing’s swell. Her old band Rilo Kiley has a small but crucial cameo in the title story of Flings.
That Wilco song that goes “[something something] get me out of FLA”
It’s on Being There, right? I think so. They’re one of those bands where you always have the option of paying a lot of attention to every little weird sound in the composition, or zooming out to the broadest riff/melody, and basically treating it like wallpaper. In the span of a trip, you may put the same music to both uses.
Box Elder, Pavement
A great leaving song and a great fuck you song. I (predictably) like the live version on the Slanted & Enchanted reissue, but no complaints about the album version.
Promised Land, The Grateful Dead
Any version of the Dead’s signature take on the 1965 Chuck Berry classic, in which a hectic trip from Norfolk, VA to Los Angeles winds up involving a bus, a train, maybe hitchhiking from New Orleans to Houston, and finally a plane. I suspect Berry wrote it as a straight got-an-itch-to-travel song (the tune is borrowed from the folk standard “Wabash Cannonball,” itself about a train) but in the Dead’s hands it becomes—implicitly, at least—about a band on tour, and the landing in California is by extension reimagined as a homecoming. Bob Weir sings the lead on this one, but Jerry always joins in on the last verse, when “the poor boy” calls home to Virginia to let everyone know he’s arrived safely. I have a couple dozen versions of this song to choose from (I know, I know) but if I was going to recommend just one, I guess I’d pick 11/9/73. It’s the first song in the first set of a three-night stand at the Winterland Ballroom that’s arguably one of the best runs of their whole career.
I Stole the Right to Live, Michael Hurley
He re-records himself a lot but the one I know is on Ida Con Snock. Anyone who is currently finding or aspires to eventually find their livelihood in their art should have this song as an anthem.