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Songs For Speeding In Summertime

Matt Cardy/Getty Images News

For all the romance associated with road trips, there's a lot of tedium, too: Just ask anyone who's ever slogged diagonally across Indiana, pausing occasionally to stagger, dead-eyed, into the Stuckey's outlet in Wolcott. But the crushing exhaustion and faceless landscapes can fade from memory in a nanosecond when accompanied by the perfect piece of adrenaline-infused music. These five tracks serve that purpose beautifully, so be sure to put them on for those moments when the landmarks are starting to whiz by in a joyously indistinct blur. Before you put them on, though, it's best to set the cruise control to something reasonably safe: That way, when you instinctively and inevitably stomp on the gas pedal, no one will die.

For more entries in this summer's weekly Road Trip: Songs to Drive By series click here.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Bleeding Heart Show

Speaking of momentum, The New Pornographers' best songs often shift through phases, each with its own discrete hook -- and each, in turn, more outsized and infectious than the one preceding it. "Letter from an Occupant," "My Slow Descent into Alcoholism," and many others showcase this mastery, but best of all may be "The Bleeding Heart Show," which piles on candy-coated surprises until the whole enterprise collapses into a heap of "hey la / hey, la" choruses. (Warning: When heard in heavy traffic, "The Bleeding Heart Show" may cause listeners to barrel over stopped cars as if in a monster-truck rally.)

Back to the Sea

Okay, so The Thermals' 2006 album The Body, The Blood, The Machine is actually a serious-minded examination of the way religious faith is found and lost. But it's also a deliriously enjoyable bundle of raging, fist-pumping hard-rock mayhem, best heard at speaker-demolishing volume. Just listen to the acceleration at work in "Back to the Sea" -- the way each second seems to infuse the second that follows with that much more urgency. Sure, singer Hutch Harris is leading us all to certain doom, but at least we'll go really quickly.

To Cure a Weakling Child/Boy Girl Song

Adem's 2004 gem Homesongs is a perfect companion for anyone speeding home to long-missed loved ones, but it's driving-while-crying fodder, through and through. For all his divine winsomeness, though, Adem perks up on this slow-building Aphex Twin cover, which builds like a gathering storm over the course of nearly seven minutes. Best heard as a soundtrack to the parting of clouds, "To Cure a Weakling Child/Boy Girl Song" also functions as the perfect track to accompany the moment when one construction-choked lane of traffic fans out into four lanes at full speed.

I'll Bring the Sun

If you're going to hurtle down the interstate while listening to one song by a Broken Social Scene alumnus, make it Jason Collett's "I'll Bring the Sun." (Feist's "I Feel It All" is better suited to in-town driving.) On Idols of Exile, Collett demonstrates an admirable gift for ambling, slightly countrified, '70s-style pop-rock, but "I'll Bring the Sun" is a giddy thrill through and through, carving a figurative sunroof into any car lucky enough to blare it.

Good to Me

Now best known as Jack White's co-frontman in The Raconteurs -- and perhaps most widely heard in commercials for something or other -- Brendan Benson has made several spectacular pop records, starting with the 1996 gem One Mississippi. "Good to Me," from his terrific sophomore disc Lapalco, opens with loving praise for Benson's 1980 Volvo before taking a tour through the bedraggled old reliables in his life: an amp, a guitar, a faithful girlfriend. It's a sunny, sweetly propulsive reminder that some things are worth speeding home to.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)