With a frighteningly good album on the horizon, the nomadic band of super-troubadours known as Monsters of Folk—Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, M. Ward of She & Him and Jim James of My Morning Jacket—map out their favorite traveling tunes.
Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” by Sons of the Pioneers. This one’s for inner-city thoroughfares, paying tolls and getting stuck in traffic. John Coltrane’s “You Don’t Know What Love Is.” Listen to this one while driving through the middle of nowhere. Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere.” This is perfect for reflection when the freeway is nearing its end.
“Burn Rubber,” by Simon Joyner. I think about this song often. I sing it to myself, I occasionally sing it to my friends and I’ve even covered it. One time, Bright Eyes recorded it. It’s as good a mantra as any I’ve found: “Get behind the wheel, stay in front of the storm.” David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Although this song ends in tragedy, it is still a beautiful description of the final frontier. Hands down, it’s the place I have the most interest in traveling to next. “Hear My Train A Comin’,” by Jimi Hendrix. I feel like Jimi Hendrix was a time traveler. He was from both the past and the future. The sound of his guitar playing in this song actually makes me feel like I’m in motion.
“Once in a Lifetime,” by Talking Heads. This song makes you feel glad that you’re leaving wherever you just were—mostly because it’s an amazing song and you’re happy just to listen to it, but also because it invokes restlessness and the need for change. “Group Velocity” by Arnold Dreyblatt and The Orchestra of Excited Strings. It’s completely instrumental and ideal for the late-night drive. Something about it excites me, and puts me in another world. The whole Animal Magnetism record does, for that matter. I think it annoys everyone else. Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.” My daughter likes to sing this song. She’s only 5 years old, so she doesn’t really understand what she’s saying, but I get a kick out of it. It will brighten any trip if you put this on and you’re rollin’ with Stella.
“Be Thankful For What You Got,” by William DeVaughn. This song is the ultimate statement: “Be thankful for what you got.” It is perhaps the most peaceful and gentle—yet oh so stirring and stimulating—groove mankind hath ever birthed. When I listen to it, I listen on repeat. “Be Thankful For What You Got,” by William DeVaughn. This would be our second listen of the song, at which point, myself and anyone else in the car would continue to feel more and more happiness from its gently mind-melting waves of joy and pure bliss. “Be Thankful For What You Got,” by William DeVaughn. This would indeed be the third of hundreds of repeat listens, stopping the audio only for pee or food breaks. This, my friends, is the ultimate song to listen to on repeat. It is over seven minutes long to begin with, and when you listen, you just get lost in it. Repeated listens turn it into the greatest 2,380,970,900-minute song you’ve ever heard.
This month, Monsters of Folk will release their self-titled debut album on Shangri-La Music.