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Tuesday Ten: Late Night Driving Music

It’s no question that late night drives are best accompanied by great music, but sometimes choosing the playlist to fit the mood you’re in when you’re alone with your thoughts can be difficult. Happy music or sad? Upbeat or slow? Music unquestionably takes us to a special place when we listen, and maybe that’s why listening to music on the road can make an album sound so different from any other setting. This week we’ve compiled some of our favorite albums to play on those long, nighttime drives when you’re feeling especially introspective. Whether you’re planning to take a late night road trip or just need some music to clear your head, we’ve got you covered.

Anberlin – New Surrender


Whenever there’s too much on your mind, there’s nothing better than music. For me, I turn to Anberlin’s New Surrender. This is one of my favorite albums to slip away from reality with because there’s so much vivid imagination in the stories it tells. Some songs are told from a place of regret, love and hope; some from freedom and fear. Life is a battle and we’re all struggling to make sense of what we know and we feel. These songs send me into the worlds of a man haunted by his regret, a girl fighting to save herself, the desire to live a better life, the fear of disappearing–all the wars we face everyday. Sometimes, there’s no better way to deal with those situations than to take a step back from them and go for a late night drive to clear your head. This album always accompanies me because either I’m singing my lungs out or listening quietly to every note. After a few hours, I find it a little easier to face my battles in the daylight. (Hannah Pierangelo)

Death Cab For Cutie – Plans


For me, the nighttime breeds introspection. Plans has always been my go-to driving record for this reason. It provides the perfect balance of solace and melancholy. The timbres of rich organic instruments relax me, as Ben Gibbard becomes my mentor, swaying my every thought. He tells me “there is comfort in the sound” or that “I’m not who I used to be,” and his wisdom carries me as I drive along. I connect with his words as I get lost in my own contemplation about life, what the future holds for me, and what I may have to sacrifice in order to be truly happy. At the end of my drive, I’m reassured I have found where my soul meets body. (Ethan Rose)

The Early November – In Currents


We all have those nights when we want to drive and drive until we reach somewhere we don’t recognize. The Early November’s In Currents is a bitter shot of espresso to send you speeding under a blur of streetlights, too on edge to sleep. This album has riffs more exhilarating than the drive itself, making your chest ache with its intensity. From the electrifying emo anthem “Tell Me Why” pushing you to break every speed limit, to the quietly pensive “Smell Of This Place”, this is a road you’ll want to travel. It’s a journey of dizzying climbs, heart-racing valleys, and winding turns – you have no control over where it will take you. So let In Currents blur the lines between fragility and harshness. But when you get lost in the lyrics and gritty melodies, having this record on repeat means “…you won’t be alone / We’re all going down the same lonely road.” (Alex Bear)

Jimmy Eat World – Futures


A dynamic late night driving record feels like your best friend is talking with you in the passenger seat. Imagine Jimmy Eat World’s Futures as a conversation: things start out high energy as you laugh and catch up, wind rushing through your hair, the windows down, matching the upbeat pace of album openers “Futures” and “Just Tonight.” After the initial spark, your talking falls into a rhythm, a comfortable midtempo pace matched by “Work” through “The World You Love.” Before you know it, the conversation has taken a turn for the personal, at first an urgent heart-on-sleeve confessional (“Pain”) and then slowing down and becoming more introspective (“Drugs Or Me”, “Polaris”) and back again (“Nothingwrong”). And finally, the appropriately-titled “Night Drive” bursts into the closing track “23” like you’re emerging from a tunnel you’ve been driving through for miles and looking up into a night sky more brilliant than you ever could have imagined as you and your best friend fall silent in awe. Suddenly you feel new; suddenly you feel free. And you turn the wheel to drive back home. (Eleanor Grace)

The Maine – Forever Halloween


If you’re taking a late night drive your mind is probably running a 5k. And what better album to accompany your racing thoughts than The Maine’s Forever Halloween? This masterpiece was made for driving under highway lights at two in the morning. It kicks off with “Happy”, a song that finds John O’Callaghan questioning why the five letter emotion is so hard to obtain, over a melody that’s just quick enough to keep the subject matter from being too depressing. This first mile of your musical road trip lays out the ground rules for the rest of the album. Nothing passes a mid tempo range, and everything is alt-rock – near perfection. The quicker songs (“Love and Drugs”) will make you forget your problems and sing along in the same way the slow selections (“These Four Words”) will bring any tears you’ve been keeping at bay to the surface. By the time the final mile ends you’ll breathe a sigh of relief. Why? Because The Maine just helped you decipher your thoughts and find solutions to your problems. Now you can finally go home. Or maybe not. Maybe you’ll keep driving and start over in a land far away. Go wherever the music takes you; The Maine will be there to keep you company along the way. (Emillie Marvel)

Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything To Nothing


Manchester Orchestra’s Mean Everything To Nothing is not quite a sing-along on a never-ending highway stretch, nor is it the break-up album you choke down tears to on a back road. This record is gritty. You will yell. You will slam the steering wheel. Tears will well in your eyes as you shout along with Andy Hull, “I am fine, I am fine, I am fine / I just need one hundred dollars.” The lyrics apply to all your frustrations and misplaced anger with images that open up a wide space for relatability and interpretation, such as the somber repetitive line “I’m gonna leave you the first chance I get” at the end of “The River.” Even the examples that seem specific to the band’s personal experiences – for example, when Hull sings “I found a note in my grandfather’s coat / When I read it out loud I got cold” – have a transcendent quality. Manchester Orchestra’s introspective tunes ebb and flow against their more abrasive numbers, providing a strangely cathartic mix of full body shouting and personal reflection. It’s the emotion, not the scenarios, that shake your core while your headlights steadily push through the night. (Alyssa Dempsey)

Now, Now – Threads


Sometimes when you hit that gas pedal, all you’re looking for is escape. And whether you have a destination in mind or you just need to get away, Now, Now’s Threads is the perfect album to get lost in as you get lost. The pulsing, controlled drums carry you through a wall of sound so full it’s like it could absorb everything on your tired mind. From the delicately plucked guitars that give way to layers of distortion to the endless synths and pads lurking in every musical corner, the songs seem to envelope you as they reach your ears. With a sound that balances perfectly on the fence between eerie tones and irresistible pop sensibility, it’s impossible not to get swept away into the album’s reverie. If it’s escape you need, you can stop looking now – you’re here. (Eleanor Grace)

Seahaven – Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only


Having criss-crossed the US multiple times by car, I’ve soundtracked more than enough late night driving in my life. The record I’m most looking forward to adding to my next road trip is Seahaven’s new sunny, yet mellow album Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only. As the album title already implies, this is the perfect album to let the miles melt by. It opens with the line, “Tell me you found your way home,” as if it was written solely to accompany listeners through those dark, lonely miles. Layers of gentle guitar tones engulf you as vocalist Kyle Soto details accepting the pain and regrets of his past in his signature lazy croon. “Highway Blues” will cause you to reflect on that relationship you let slip away while “Andreas” will instill you with hope that there’s still someone out there. By the time the waves in “Four-Eleven” reach the shore, you’ll arrive home wistful, yet content. Tip: the later at night you listen to this album, the better it sounds. (Catherine Yi)

Sting – It’s Probably Me


1AM, on a curving interstate known as 66 – but not the famous one. My boyfriend of the time and I were headed home after dinner with friends. We had the top down on his convertible; we’d set the music player to shuffle. A rhythm caught somewhere between finger snaps and drumstick strikes started up. It echoed through the night, so we couldn’t help but nod our heads in time. Eric Clapton plucked a counter measure on his guitar and Sting’s smoke-filled voice filtered in. My boyfriend smiled without looking at me, but his fingers intertwined with mine. When the most important lyrics came on he lifted our joined hands and squeezed. “If there’s one guy, just one guy, who’d lay down his life for you and I. It’s hard to say it. I hate to say it, but It’s Probably Me.” (Sherin Nicole)

Turnover – Magnolia


When your headlights are the only difference between you and the night, speculation and memories come naturally. Turnover’s Magnolia captures that essence impeccably. Somber vocals lament the past as if each word were directed toward you. Or perhaps they are all the words you’ve wanted to spill to a certain someone who isn’t in the passenger seat beside you. Subtle metaphors and reclusive guitar solos illustrate the delicate stages of dejection and loss, blunt honesty and reawakening. Turnover carries us through a world colored in shades of grey, yet reminds us there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s impossible not to relate to the darker themes in the tracks. And if you need to pull over to the side of the road to compose yourself, it’s okay. We understand. (Emily Yee)

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