Whether with friends or going it alone, a road trip is often only as great as its soundtrack. And sometimes that soundtrack is best served in the form of a coherent, formative project, in lieu of a shuffled and scattered Spotify playlist.
Indeed, even the most scenic of drives can be enhanced with the proper score, which is why this may be the most sound, critical advice we can give you throughout all of UD Road Trip Week. These are our favorite albums to pop in (because we’ve chosen to use imaginary CD players for this exercise) and hit the road to.
Channel Orange, Frank Ocean
I've listened to this album all the way through countless times, and not once have I successfully nailed the high notes on "Thinkin Bout You." There's no better place to try and fail and try and fail again than in the car. I'm also of the mind that a great road trip album is one you know well—not to mention, one that flows together as a cohesive whole, so you don't have to bother skipping the songs you don't particularly like. There is no reason to ever skip a song on Channel Orange; they're all good. And this being Ocean's most accessible album, they're all compulsively sing-alongable. Even if you don't know most of the words. I definitely don't know most of the words.—Sam Eichner
Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd, Lynyrd Skynyrd
It doesn't matter how cliché some things might sound, the human brain is just hardwired to feel some type of way when you've got the windows down, your foot on the gas with nothing but open road ahead and Ronnie Van Zant wailing chay-yee-yay-yee-yay-yeaange as "Free Bird" kicks into overdrive. Not to mention Skynyrd's seminal album is filled with bangers aside from Bird. There's the possibly even more belt-along-worthy "Simple Man," the riding-around-and-brooding "Tuesday's Gone" and the four-and-a-half-minute-sprint-across-the-salt-flats-fueling "Gimme Three Steps." The album is widely considered the birth of southern rock, but I'll be damned if it wasn't the closest thing 1973 had to southern gangster rap with the severely slept-on "Mississippi Kid."—Najib Benouar
Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Lucinda Williams
This Americana classic is the perfect soundtrack to accompany you on the long stretches of road between town names you may or may not recognize. Lucinda's country twang emboldens your westward travels, but the impeccable folk lyricism is intimate and touching enough to keep you grounded. It's the perfect "Are we ever gonna be this young and free again?" album. "Still I Long For Your Kiss" is the perfect love song for someone not ready to fall in love, for someone who's running away from something. There isn't a song on here that you shouldn't scream out the window with your hair whipping in your face.—Kady Ruth Ashcraft
Meets Rockers Uptown, King Tubby
Augustus Pablo's dub classic will make you one with the road.
Midnight Radio, Big Head Todd & the Monsters
I’ve never heard another album from these guys that I liked, but I'm willing to stake my reputation on the fact that this one album from the guy behind "Bittersweet" is a complete masterpiece. Dark, spacious, sensual and hard-rocking.
Surfer Rosa, Pixies
A soundtrack for driving across the desert on acid.—Hadley Tomicki
Ride the Bee, Allgood
Back in 236 BC (though it could've been the '90s) I did a lot of road-tripping between Kansas City and Atlanta to spend the summers with my dad. It's a long drive. And I'm not sure when I adopted this ritual, but the second I left the on-ramp and hit the first stretch of highway on every trip, I would always fire up a song called Trilogy by a band that no one's ever heard of called Allgood. Something about it just screamed freedom to me, and still does. Looking back, it's probably a little cheesy and the lead singer may or may not sound like he's got a piece of tri-tip stuck in the back of his throat, but the never-ending, Allman Brothers-y guitar solos that are peppered into the nine-plus minute song more than make up for all of that. As long as I keep driving places, I'm going to keep listening to this song.—Kelly Larson
The Love Below, Andre 3000
The Love Below is a musical—a gnarly and shockingly cohesive joyride of p-funk pop rap laced in jazz. And where its sonic counterpart, Big Boi’s Speakerboxx, was tailor-made for pimp-walking through Atlanta traffic, TLB is best tethered to the righteous energy of the open road. There are moments of sing-along perfection ("Hey Ya," "Roses"), lush enablers of peace and solitude ("Prototype," "Take Off Your Cool," "Vibrate"), delectable features (people forget Kelis made great peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before her milkshakes started bringing all the boys to the yard) and several genuinely funny skits to help navigate its vast sonic landscape. Just try not to get lost piloting your own.—Thompson Brandes