Day 7: Grand Canyon Day Trip
We took a day off from driving toward Phoenix and went up to see the Grand Canyon.
46. Anybody Out There? – Burlap to Cashmere. Almost certainly the only Christian flamenco-fusion band that was ever popular.
47. Transatlanticism – Death Cab for Cutie. “Death of an Interior Decorator” is the only song on this record that isn’t flawless.
48. Give Up – The Postal Service. After hiking six miles at the Grand Canyon, I fell asleep on the way back to Flagstaff and missed half this record. Boo.
49. Give Us Rest – David Crowder Band. A massive triple album that capped the band’s career, this record almost can’t be contained in words. It is an experience and a half.
Day 8: Flagstaff to Scottsdale
Coming into the home stretch!
49b. Give Us Rest – David Crowder Band. Did I mention this is a triple album?
50. The Goat Rodeo Sessions – Stuart Duncan, YoYo Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meier. We finally hit the high desert (you know, the part with Saguaro Cactus), and this kind of felt appropriate. I almost chose some Calexico, but I wanted to hear this more.
51. Ocean Eyes – Owl City. I won’t say who chose this record, but we both enjoyed the crap out of it.
51b. “Elegy” – The Young Blood Brass Band. A one-off while trying to figure out what to listen to next.
52. Declaration of Dependence – Kings of Convenience. KoC is pretty distinctive: I’d never heard this record but still was able to guess that it was them.
53. Bleed American aka Jimmy Eat World – Jimmy Eat World. We were driving through Mesa, so it worked.
Day 9: Scottsdale to the Phoenix Airport
All things come to an end, and so did this journey. I sent Kevin off early in the morning to
54. Goths – The Mountain Goats. Another great album from 2017, this low-key record was a suitably soothing way to wake up. It also put a nice bookend on it: Mountain Goats at the beginning, Mountain Goats at the end.
1. “Haze” – Grapefruit Moon. Comes barreling in with a bold, mature folk sound that does not let on that this is a debut. You can hear snatches of influences in the song if you try, but overall this is a bold sound with a clear identity that establishes them as one to watch.
2. “Understanding Light” – Florist. Listening to Florist is like standing outside looking at the night sky and realizing that the moon is slightly orange tonight, and it looks really pretty, and you don’t know why, but it’s too beautiful to pull out your phone and find out, so you just look at it some more. Maybe someone comes up and says, “What are you looking at?” and you just kinda nod that direction and they get it and you’re there together doing the staring and it’s the way things should be.
3. “Make Believe” – Ben Bateman. It’s a tough thing to make a single acoustic guitar sound vibrant and fresh (even with a stomping kick drum). Bateman pulls in characteristics from The Tallest Man on Earth and Brett Dennen to create a bouncy, thoroughly engaging, fresh acoustic tune.
4. “Wild, Wild, Wild Horses” – A. Savage. Lopes along with the idiosyncratic confidence of a person who doesn’t feel any need to be anything other than himself because he already has another band (in this case, Parquet Courts). This tune, a speak/sing ramble full of distant synths, is weird and lovely and unforgettable.
5. “I Won’t Sleep” – Caiti Baker. It’s been a while since back-up vocalists and marching-band horns sucked me in to a song so hard. This one has learned all the lessons of swaggering hip-hop and filtered them through an indie-pop sieve for a really nice cocktail.
6. “Too Good” – Marsicans. Are you sick of me praising Marsicans yet? Here’s another vibrant, bouncy slice of indie rock.
7. “And Such and Such” – The Forty Nineteens. Just a big ‘ol rock and roll song from the ’60s or ’70s school: no psych, no minor keys, just big riffs, snarly vocals, and speedy tempos.
8. “Now I Know” – Sono Oto. Riffs don’t have to be face-melting garage-rock theatrics to be awesome. This rattletrap, Beck-inflected tune has great guitar lines throughout that keep the vibe flowing.
9. “Listening to Devil Town” – Jacob Faurholt. This wide-open, reverb-heavy, ballad-esque indie-rock track is literally about the experience of listening to “Devil Town” by Daniel Johnston. If you haven’t heard that, you should listen to that, and then you should listen to this.
10. “I’m a Tree (Acoustic)” – JOY. A solid acoustic version of what sounds like it could be a promising rock track.
11. “Oceans” – Magana. A cover of a tune by the inimitable CHUCK, Magana takes the jittery enthusiasm that is his trademark and turns it into a mournful dirge. It’s quite the transformation.
12. “Brassy Sun” – S. Carey. Carey knows how to make a beautiful song. This serene piano-led piece is just majestic.
Day 6: Albuquerque to Flagstaff
Having made it to Albuquerque, we visited Monk’s Corner Taproom, the home of Abbey Brewing. If you are ever in the ABQ, you need to go visit them. Great beer and great bartenders made for a great experience. We also had great coffee at the charming Zendo Coffee. Albuquerque knows its stuff.
39. The Lord Reigns – Hosanna Worship. It being Sunday, we visited City Presbyterian Albuquerque for a lovely service. We also put on this live worship record from the late ’80s that I grew up with. Hail, hail, Lion of Judah.
40. Flying Into Daybreak – Charlie Hall. Kevin preferred this modern worship record to my ’80s worship extravaganza. Pfft.
40a. My friend Duane put together a playlist of songs to send me off to Arizona. We put that on as we approached and crossed the Arizona border.
41. This Is Happening – LCD Soundsystem. I love this record, but it kinda doesn’t fit with the desert. Oh well.
42. The Life of the World to Come – The Mountain Goats. Now this fit with the desert. There was a thunderstorm at our back as this played, but it never quite hit us all the way. It fit the mood of this record excellently.
43. Fences – Bombadil. If you haven’t heard the new Bombadil record yet, you’re missing out on one of the best folk-pop records of this year.
44. Hold On – Bombadil. I don’t remember why we listened to two Bombadil records back-to-back, but this one is great too.
45. Supertones Strike Back – the OC Supertones. Kevin texted me this article shortly before we took off on our road trip: “Federal Government Creates Wildlife Refuge For Endangered Christian Ska Bands.”
Day 5: Tulsa to Albuquerque
The longest haul of our whole journey: a 10-hour day. I think we forgot to record some albums in here, but what can you do? We drove for over 10 hours.
28. “Albuquerque” – Weird Al Yankovic. Can’t start a trip to Albuquerque without it. I had forgotten how weird and violent this song is.
29. Theseus and the Time Machine – The Programme. I was obsessed with this instrumental rock album when I was 18. It’s the lone album of a short-lived Tulsa-area band whose live shows still make me miss them, a decade later. Fun fact: Folk troubadour M. Lockwood Porter was in this band.
30. Futures – Jimmy Eat World. This record is almost exactly 40 minutes long and therefore a perfect record to listen to if you’re running 4 miles at a 10-minute mile pace. It is also fun to drive to. Jimmy Eat World is from Mesa, AZ, which is a huge city that you’ve never heard of in the Phoenix area.
31. Computer World – Kraftwerk. Kevin was stoked about this record and I kinda got into it as we went along.
32. Tarpits and Canyonlands – Bombadil. I don’t know how we’d gotten this far without listening to Bombadil, whom I love and he likes. This is a masterpiece of indie-pop; in the Top 10 of all time on my list.
33. mmhmm – Relient K. One of the best RK albums. Weirdly, Kevin’s phone did not have “I So Hate Consequences” on it, which is my favorite track off this record, but it did have every other song. “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been” is a close second, and we did jam to that one.
34. Leftrightleftrightleft – Coldplay. This is my second-favorite Coldplay release, behind A Rush of Blood to the Head. It has a perennial contender for my favorite Coldplay song on it: the 7/4 guitar chug of “Glass of Water.” “SON! DON’T ASK! NEITHER HOW FULL NOR EMPTY IS YOUR GLASS!”
35. Demon Days – Gorillaz. Right up there with Slavic Soul Party in “Weirdest experiences we had during this trip.”
36. Borderland – John Mark McMillan. It was either this or Love and War and the Sea in Between by Josh Garrels, and I’d heard the Garrels record a number of times already.
37. Coming Home – Leon Bridges. This record is just awesome.
38. Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac. Kevin made me choose between Rumors or the self-titled. A real tough choice.
1. “Hey! Ya, You” – The Elwins. Every now and then a song comes along and makes me think, “Oh yeah, that’s what that genre is supposed to sound like.” This slightly funky, slightly spacy, slightly disco-esque tune combines a lot of genres into one big ‘ol indie-rock track.
2. “Top 8” – Who Is She? There’s big cloudy SanFran garage rock, and big Weezer garage rock, and then there’s the chipper, hectic, fun major-key garage rock of this track. It’s a tune as old as MySpace–the cultivation of identity via the selection of top friends in digital space. Love it.
3. “Harvard” – Diet Cig. This kiss-off to an Ivy Leaguer is the latest proof that Diet Cig makes great, punchy punk rock. Also, the video here is just fantastic–I won’t ruin it any more than that.
3. “Avalon” – The White Buffalo. Here’s some excellent country rock that speeds along with the tempo, acrobatic drums and melodic punch of a pop-punk tune.
4. “Walk the Other Way” – Bend Sinister. There’s a corner of my music heart still reserved for excellent rock songs. Bend Sinister’s tune reminds me of Brand New’s Deja Entendu combined with a dance-rock band. Great stuff.
5. “Clean Lines” – Rotoscope. The sort of vaguely dancy, emotionally-infused indie rock that sails on a huge, memorable chorus.
6. “Companion” – Humming House. Man, but does Humming House know how to write a pop song or what? Fans of singing, happiness, love, and fun should apply.
7. “Tunguska” – Ephrata. Fun fact: Tunguska is/was a giant meteorite explosion. Sounds like something more in line with death metal or space-rock bands, but this relentlessly cheery, high-powered indie-pop-rock tune is what we have instead. If you love big vocal harmonies, this one is chock full of them.
8. “Lowlands” – Far Lands. Comes in smooth, doesn’t ask too much of you, leaves before it can outstay its welcome; this sleek indie-pop tune is basically the coolest friend you know.
9. “Gold and Green” – Slaughter Beach, Dog. The vocal approach of emo married to some low-key, slightly minor-key indie-pop with great results.
10. “Honey Colony” – Soft Fangs. You’re headed over to the next door neighbor’s to hang out, kick it, maybe have a beer. It’s a lazy Saturday in the fall. It’s kinda overcast, but still bright enough that you can see the sun and feel its warmth. This song comes on and it’s perfect.
11. “Push the Boat Out” – Hero Fisher. This keys-led track inhabits a unique, almost unclassifiable space: there are dramatic lead vocals; whirring, doomy background vocals; arhythmic whistling; and more. It’s like Imogen Heap in a marsh at night, maybe.
Day 4: Wilburton to Tulsa
After having a great steak dinner with Jeff, we woke up and headed to my old hometown of Tulsa for a family visit. Super-short drive, this one.
25. The Secret in this Town – Mark Mathis. I hadn’t heard this record before, but it is a really nice folk record. Very pleased with Kevin’s selection here.
26. Metals – Feist. Not a Feist record that I had heard before. It was also nice!
27. Underdog – Audio Adrenaline. I got real brave and busted out my favorite record from when I was 13. I had almost put it on earlier but was afraid it was a bit too Christian-nerdy. Kevin said he had almost put it on earlier as well but pulled back for the same reasons. We had a blast with this record. Fun fact: when I DJed at OU, my name was DJ Smooth Steve, in tribute.
1. “If I Could Make You My Own” – Dori Freeman. The sort of song that makes the distinctions between country and folk kind of meaningless: it’s just a fantastic melody, no matter how you slice it.
2. “Bitter End” – Gordi. The opening lyrical and melodic salvo of this moody, expansive, downtempo acoustic tune are a knockout.
3. “The Sailor” – Ethan Samuel Brown. Brown’s rough-around-the-edges voice and Ray LaMontagne-inflected arrangement create a svelte, romantic folk piece.
4. “Joe” – Max Gomez. Fans of David Ramirez will love this down-and-out storytelling in an alt-country acoustic vein.
5. “City of Vines” – Ryan Joseph Anderson. Anderson’s smooth voice and subtle intonation shifts fit beautifully with the gentle arrangement in this fingerpicked folk tune.
6. “Fast as I Can” – Loyal Wife. The vocal performances in this dusky, forested acoustic tune are excellent.
7. “Little Ann Sucking Her Thumb in Terror” – Little Husky. A delicate little walking speed lullaby that is entirely endearing.
8. “Come and See” – Lean Year. This track puts a slightly woozy cast on the “hushed and intimate” school of alt-folk. A beautifully weary vocal performance leads the way through.
9. “Billy Burroughs” – Jeffrey Martin. Sounds as if the expansive work of Gregory Alan Isakov got some Jason Molina sadness mixed into the sound.
10. “Before” – Jason van Wyck. This quiet, piano-led composition has more in common with minimalist composers and modern composition practices than the droning synths that are often associated with “ambient.” The enfolding atmosphere is extremely well-developed.
Day 3: Memphis to Wilburton, OK
My friend Jeff, of Irrational Confidence, lives in Wilburton, so we trekked across Arkansas to see him.
18. Bishop Allen and the Broken String. I love this record to pieces, but it was pretty bad driving music. It relies pretty heavily on negative space and hushed sounds for my noisy car. This was recorded in Norman, OK, which we would drive past later.
19. Welcome Interstate Managers – Fountains of Wayne. This is a perfect pop record, and great for driving to.
20. Nice Nice Very Nice – Dan Mangan. Because we both loved Managers, I had some goodwill banked. I tried out this angsty folk record on Kevin. Didn’t quite go over. Oh well.
21. Apartment Life – Ivy. He retaliated with a deep cut ’90s post-grunge record. Didn’t quite go over. Oh well.
22. Kaleidoscope Superior – Earthsuit. Technical difficulties had cut short our first Earthsuit listening experience, so we picked up the back half of the record here.
23. Time – ELO. Kevin loves ELO and NOW I DO TOO. SERIOUSLY THOUGH DID YOU GUYS KNOW ABOUT THIS RECORD????
24. FM Static – FM Static. Rolled in to Wilburton with this early ’00s pop-punk jam playing. I kid you not, I think only one of the tracks makes it to 3 minutes. It is amazing.
Day 2: Asheville to Memphis
Otherwise known as “all of Tennessee in one 8-hour go.”
9. American Kid – Patty Griffin. One time I was at a Patty Griffin show in Durham and she said “HELLO RALEIGH!” and got booed. She tried to pawn it off on the airport being named Raleigh-Durham. More boos.
10. The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart. There were a lot of trees on this stretch of road. It felt right.
11. Live at Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash. Surprisingly, I’d never heard this record. Duly impressed. One time Kevin tried to play “Cocaine Blues” at a song swap and mortified all of the other people there. His wife was sitting next to him and approved of his song choice (according to Kevin). Good times.
12. The Lone Bellow – The Lone Bellow. They’re from NYC? Really?
13. Random Access Memories – Daft Punk. Needed a change of pace. “A room within a room / A door behind a door” was one of the worst lines we heard the entire trip.
14. “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” – The Darkness. Needed one song to get us to lunch at Marche in Nashville. Who doesn’t love this song?
15. Graceland – Paul Simon. The only album that is allowed to permanently live in my car. Also, we were back in the car headed to Memphis.
16. Beat the Champ – The Mountain Goats. Another Mountain Goats record that is a lot of fun.
[Something else was here, but we forgot to record it.]
17. Employee of the Month – Relient K. Kevin and I share a deep love for Relient K, and this deep cut EP is very near the top of my favorite RK releases.
I recently moved across the country, from Raleigh, NC, to Phoenix, AZ. My friend-for-life Kevin took time off work to drive the 32+ hours with me. He and I kept track of (almost) everything we listened to during the week-long road trip. As a testament to our friendship, good music, the joy of road tripping, and the fact that I run a music blog, I’m going to post that whole log over the next week.
Day 1: Raleigh to Asheville, NC
We wanted to take it easy the first day, and so our first leg was short. After the four hours to Asheville, we took a short jog up the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the sights from the road and from the trail.
1. Heretic Pride – The Mountain Goats. I started off with what I think is the most unabashedly fun album of the Mountain Goats’ discography. John Darnielle’s desperate cry of “I am coming home to you” had great significance as we started our week-long journey.
2. The Complete Travel Series – Future of Forestry. Kevin and I started out swapping albums back and forth, although that would deteriorate by the middle of the trip. Kevin picked this one, I’m assuming because of the “travel” bit.
3. Kaleidoscope Superior – Earthsuit. Future of Forestry reminded me some of MuteMath, and this band was the direct predecessor to MuteMath. If you haven’t heard this album, you’re missing out on a electro-reggae-rap-space-alt-Christian-rock oddity the likes of which the world had never seen and will never see again. It is boss.
4. Comfort Eagle – CAKE. This is just good driving music.
5. Slavic Soul Party Plays Duke Ellington – Slavic Soul Party. These slavs were pretty great at standards but not so great at ballads.
6. No One Is Lost – Stars. Hadn’t listened to them much since Set Yourself on Fire, but I must say this was enjoyable listen from Kevin.
7. Furthest From the Tree – Ty Maxon. As we drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway, we needed something woodsy. I didn’t have Fleet Foxes at hand or we would have gone there.
8. Sigh No More – Mumford and Sons. Kevin and I both still love this record.