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Commuter's guide to great driving music

By Michael D'Addario
On March 27, 2014

  • While stuck in traffic, try listening to some of these suggestions. epSos .de/flickr

Driving: an activity loved by some and loathed by others. Some Marist students drive every day (hence commuters), others don't even have a license. Some give rides, some get rides and some pay for rides. I drive a lot. When there is class, I spend a solid hour or so in my car commuting to and from Marist. The only thing that keeps me sane during these trips is the wonderful little creation, music.

I probably care about the sounds coming out of the speakers a little too much, rotating between nine satellite radio channels, a few FM channels, the CD player and the music on my phone. Okay, maybe I'm crazy when it comes to my driving music. Regardless, I have found that certain songs will make any commute better, no matter how long it is or how much traffic you have to endure. Of course, there are the typical songs that people associate with driving, like "Life is a Highway." Clearly, I am too hipster to write about these mainstream driving songs, so I present to you some tunes that might not necessarily be associated with driving but will enhance your experience; check them out, and maybe you'll add a few to your playlist:

"Take on Me" by A-ha: Who would have thought that a song by a Norwegian '80s band could become so prolific in American society and pop culture. You know the song; it has one of the most memorable keyboard riffs ever written and has been featured in Family Guy, a Volkswagen commercial, a GEICO commercial and Psych. It's also been covered by the Jonas Brothers (back when they were relevant to girls between the ages of 8 and 15) and Sara Bareilles. It was also sampled in Pitbull's "Feel This Moment."  Aside from the catchy keyboard hook, the song also has a memorable and vocally challenging chorus. I'm no expert, but I will contend that basically everybody who goes to Marist sings while driving. Try to sing this song; I dare you. You know that you can't resist the cheesy Norwegian synth-pop. You'll be in the safety of your own car, so nobody will hear you belting out "In a day or...TWOOOOOOOOO." Unless, of course, you want to roll the windows down so others can admire your skill.

"Superunknown" by Soundgarden: If you have never listened to Soundgarden or are only familiar with "Black Hole Sun" because it was featured in the game Rock Band, I strongly recommend that you change that. While I can talk about the band all day (if you can too, please find me so we can have a nice conversation), the title track from 1994's Superunknown holds a special place in my car's speakers. While the song itself sounds like a modern-day Led Zeppelin, mixed with a neo-psychedelic flare, all wrapped up in the angst of Seattle, it possesses an additional magic quality: it makes you unconsciously drive faster. Maybe it's the beat, maybe it's the powerful vocals, maybe it's the ripping guitar, maybe it's the combination of all three, but something about this song wills you to accelerate. It was featured in an obscure videogame from 1995 called Road Rash, so I guess I'm not the first one who thought that this track makes a great driving companion. If you listen to it as you drive you should probably check yourself (speed-wise) before you wreck yourself (literally).

"Steal My Sunshine" by Len: Honestly, I don't know most of the lyrics to this tune; I can't understand the singers. However, that really doesn't matter because the second you listen to this song you are overcome by a wave of nostalgia. Len brings you back to summer days long before you had to worry about things like GMATs, night classes, group projects and six mandatory credits in math. I'm pretty sure that the lyrics of this song have something to do with a breakup but it makes you feel so happy and carefree that you really don't care. All that you can think of is "blah blah blah if you steal my sunshine" for the duration of the song. It doesn't matter if it is raining, dark and gloomy, "Steal My Sunshine" will make you want to roll your windows down and will give your drive a minimum of four minutes and 25 seconds of cheeriness. If this song happens to come on the radio during the summer when you are driving somewhere, it makes the trip all that much more enjoyable.

"Tom Sawyer" by Rush: Imagine that you foolishly decided to travel across the Mid-Hudson Bridge during rush hour (pun kind of intended). Conversely, you can imagine being a commuter who lives on the other side of the river and has a class that ends at 4:45 p.m. As you can guess, there is an obscene amount of traffic at this time and, quite frequently, there is an accident or two that slows you down even more. Instead of screaming and cursing at the cars around you, a more sane activity is to participate in the classic art of steering wheel drumming. It's like having a full drum kit right in front of you, and a full kit is necessary if you want to rock out like Rush's Neil Peart. Widely regarded as one of rock's greatest drummers, Peart crafted the ultimate car drumming song with 1981's "Tom Sawyer," one of the band's most accessible and well-known tracks. The song contains everything from a steady beat, to a drum solo, to a section of 7/8 time-the perfect components to jam along to on the wheel while stuck in traffic.

"I Can't Wait" by Nu Shooz: There really are no words to describe this song. I don't even think it's that good. Let me tell you though, if you hear this once, you will sing it for the rest of the day. Then, when you are trying to sleep, all that you will hear in your head is the hook. Blast it and be proud.  

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