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Build the ultimate road trip playlist

Artwork for The Current
Artwork for The CurrentNatalia Toledo | MPR

by Darby Ottoson and Natalia Toledo

July 11, 2022

A road trip playlist should be as wild and winding as your next adventure. At various points, it could be to spark nostalgia, to accent the scenery flying by, or to keep awake for the last leg. It’s all about the journey, so sit back and enjoy the road-tested favorites of touring musicians and hosts at The Current.

Check out who picked what, and why, below:


Twin Peaks, “Irene”

“I’d say ‘Irene’ by Twin Peaks. It feels sunny, expansive, kinda naive, and curious, and the continuous drums maintain energy throughout. IDK it makes my heart smile, feels like I’m on the cusp of something new.” –Mike Kota

Phil Cook, Southland Mission

“One album I can suggest for a road trip is Phil Cook’s Southland Mission. I’ve put a lot of miles of travel in a car and this album always picks me up. I find its rhythmic pace to be that of a textbook driving album. Bouncing through western Wisconsin I find this album often painting my trail home to Minnesota. Love ya Phil!” –Joe Rainey, Sr.

Onipa, “Chicken No Dey Fly”

“A song that we kept coming back to on our Mary EP tour was ‘Chicken No Dey Fly’ by Onipa, off their Tapes of Utopia Mixtape. We probably listened to that album like five or six times through. It’s so good!” –King Pari

Frank Ocean, Channel ORANGE

“I love the Channel ORANGE album by Frank Ocean for long rides, mostly because I love to sing along and it keeps me awake! It’s 10 years old but was an instant classic from the jump.” –Lady Midnight

Kali Malone, The Sacrificial Code
Kate Bush, Hounds of Love 
Björk, Vespertine 

The Sacrificial Code by Kali Malone is essential backseat reading/sleeping/decompressing music for tour. If I am in the driver's seat for long enough then Hounds of Love and Vespertine are both guaranteed plays too.” –Early Eyes (John O’Brien) 

Andy Shauf, The Party

–Lily Govrik 

Alvvays, “Not My Baby”

“It’s hard to find an artist or album we can all agree on when we are on the road, but the band Alvvays is a favorite for all of us. We probably set the record for most listens to “Not My Baby,” off Antisocialites, but both records are wall-to-wall hits.” –Graveyard Club

Mathieu Boogaerts, “Avant que je m'ennuie”

“His self-titled album is one of my go-to records. Kinda has been for the last 3 years. His music is somehow both intricate and effortless. It demands nothing of you as a listener but when you do listen, it gives a lot.” –we are the willows 

Local radio stations 

“I’m a big believer in radio road trips. Just love listening to whatever is blowing around the airwaves when I travel. Some cities used to have really distinctive radio profiles as you drove into town: New York, LA, Philadelphia, DC, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle … They are still out there, though. Even in our own state: WTIP, WELY, KAXE, KVSC, KUMD, KUOM. That random journey through sounds is what lets me know I’m on the road.” –John Munson (The New Standards, Semisonic, Trip Shakespeare) 

Sheryl Crow, "Every Day Is a Winding Road"
Tom Cochrane, "Life Is a Highway"

“I would say Sheryl Crow's Greatest Hits comes to mind right away and of course the classic, ‘Every Day Is a Winding Road.’ I like something energetic and sing-along-able when I'm driving. And also something that's recorded well because it's very hard to hear what's going on through the van speakers … My other favorite driving song is ‘Life Is A Highway’ by Tom Cochrane. I like songs that are about driving and great to drive to as well!” –Bad Bad Hats

Anju, “In Your Red Car”

“I wanted to conjure and capture a really dreamy in-love car ride I experienced – where the whole moment feels tinted with rose-y sunset-y magic and it feels like nothing can go wrong. To me this song sounds like how I remember that dreaminess – I hope it can be a soundtrack for the joyful rides of others.” –Anju

Dijon, “Many Times”

"I’ll be playing this one on repeat all summer – immediately catchy, head-nodding, and Dijon just slays the performance.  Still a little moody, but in a windows-down, volume-up at the gas station sorta way." –Dessa

Rosalía, El Mal Querer

“As a band, the album we listened to the most was Rosalía’s El Mal Querer. We love how Rosalía effortlessly combines a rich flamenco tradition with modern pop sensibilities. (We hope we are in our own way fusing American traditional music with modern stylings as well!) And her VOICE – technically acrobatic, sounds effortless, sexy, powerful, shifting between colors and timbres like it ain’t no thang! And it’s also nice to hear a totally different sound than what we are usually playing and hearing on our lineups.” –Barbaro

Gram Parsons, Grievous Angel

“Depending on my travel destination, it really pumps me up to listen to musicians who grew up or base themselves in that location. However, it's usually a LONG CAR RIDE. I always find myself going back to Grievous Angel by Gram Parsons. He and Emmylou Harris have such a unique voice combo and it's really fun to sing along and jump between harmonies. Some of the songs are pretty mellow, but the majority chug along at an easy laid back traveling pace.” –Monica LaPlante

Crazy Frog, “Axel F” 
Darude, “Sandstorm”
Black Eyed Peas, “Pump It”

“We couldn’t decide between three songs that we play probably three times a week when on the road, both before the gig and after. All insane choices but all honest.” –Gully Boys

Lewis Del Mar, “Sewers”

“So much grief and nostalgia. Surprisingly good feelings to navigate while sitting still for hours.” –papa mbye


Beach House, “Zebra” into 
Band of Horses, “St. Augustine” 

“I went on a month-long road trip through Scotland with my best friend back in ’08. Those two songs were on the mix that I made. It provided a wonderful soundtrack to the lush green countryside. I would put this on in the early morning, dew-on-the-leaves portion of the trip.” –Jade

The Black Keys, Dropout Boogie
Lenny Kravitz, 5
Jack White, Fear of the Dawn
Bob Moses, The Silence in Between
Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe”

“I took a road trip recently, and these are the albums that I listened to most. Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe’ for me is the ultimate sing-your-heart-out pop song. Her albums are great pop fun too – just don’t get lost in the singing and fun like I did. I was driving and singing, lost track of my speed, and got a speeding ticket back in 2020 coming back from Montana." –Zeke

Kate Bush, “Running up that Hill”
Foghat, “Slow Ride”
Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes

“‘Running Up that Hill’ from Kate Bush has always been my road trip song because I’m generally on a road trip to go hike the highest elevation I can find. My alternatives are ‘Slow Ride’ by Foghat and the entire album of Fleet Foxes title record which I’ve taken to India, Alaska, and just about every hike I’ve ever been on.” –Ayisha

The Nude Party, The Nude Party 

“One of my go-to road trip albums is the self-titled debut from The Nude Party. This album is perfect for rolling down the highway. You’ll have songs like ‘Feels Alright’ and ‘Chevrolet Van,’ which is about a band’s struggles on the road turned up to 11! The Nude Party perfectly blends the sounds of  the Velvet Underground and the Rolling Stones. Nobody makes music like them anymore!” –Bill DeVille

Miriam Makeba, “Pata Pata” 

“Pata Pata is Xhosa for ‘touch touch’ and was also a dance that was popular in the shebeens (bars) of the Johannesburg Townships like Soweto. Miriam Makeba, a South African artist, recorded it in 1967 and it was a worldwide hit. Miriam Makeba has an incredible story. But why do I love this song for road trips? It’s super catchy and gives you that burst of energy you need on the boring part of the drive, and Miriam is an amazing artist to celebrate.” –Lindsay Kimball

Regina Spektor, Soviet Kitsch

“I love to sing in the car, so any album that gets me singing like an unhinged lunatic is great for a road trip. Regina Spektor’s 2004 release, Soviet Kitsch, is a perfect example of a record that I can sing word-for-word, note-for-note. It’s odd, quirky, and filled with glorious melodies, peculiar stylistic choices, and honest, at times hilarious lyrics … I think I tend to like artists more before they become huge. The music industry can adulterate humans’ authentic souls.” –Diane

John Tesh, “Roundball Rock”

“Say you're in a car with a friend, or a few friends, or one or two friends and their friends who may not know you very well. Crossing the various highways and byways, at some point you're going to be passed the aux cord. The last thing they're expecting is a deeply soul-stirring piece of nostalgia that they haven't heard in years … An instrumental created for the purpose of hyping professional basketball games [NBA on NBC], throwing this baby on randomly mid-playlist is a great mid-trip bit of fun, especially if your fellow passengers aren't basketball fans.” –Chaz Kangas

Various Artists, Saturday Night Fever (The Original Movie Soundtrack)

“I actually have a go-to mix CD called "Road Trip Hits" that I compiled when my teenage son and I went on our first road-trip together – and we bring along the same CD every time we travel anywhere. It’s mostly disco and classic R&B and soul hits from the ‘70s – upbeat tunes with groovy vibes that bridge generations (most importantly, fun for all ages to listen and sing-along to) … But if I had to pick one singular album, it would be the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever – there's nothing more fun to sing along with than those crazy falsettos from the Brothers Gibb.” –Jessica Paxton

Don’t see your road trip picks? Let us know your favorites in the comments below.

A collage featuring outdoor concert, pow wow, baseball, state fair
Minneapolis artist Andrés Guzmán created three original pieces of 89 Days of Summer artwork.
Andrés Guzmán for MPR

This feature is part of The Current’s 89 Days of Summer series, helping you enjoy the best of the season with weekly guides to events, entertainment, and recreation in the Twin Cities.

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.