As we make the trek to, around, and back from Chicago, we’ll need plenty of auditory stimulus to keep us alert and prepared for what we’ll be experiencing. Some items on the list are just nice to drive to, others allow us to connect in a more meaningful way with the experience. Luckily our musical tastes don’t clash too much, otherwise we’d be in for a long trip. Here’s the top-shelf, cream of the crop, untouchable tunes for our trip:
Sufjan Stevens – Come on Feel the Illinoise!
It would be downright criminal to leave an entire album written about The Prairie State off of our list. The album contains some of the most lush arrangements and wonderful melodies to come out in the 21st century. It seems to almost exist specifically for long stretches of highway, clear skies, and even a bit of soul-searching along the way.
The Dodos – Visiter
A percussion-heavy effort from a band that appeared at last year’s Pitchfork festival. The album has frenetic drumming, acoustic guitar, xylophone, and a toy piano. This album may take time to grow on some people, but it’s intensely enjoyable and unique. We’re eagerly anticipating the official release of their latest album, Time to Die (which you can hear at this site), but Visiter will help keep the morale up through the ride.
Michael Jackson – The Stripped Mixes
This new collection of Michael Jackson’s Motown-era songs contains stripped-down versions of Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 songs that had not been previously released. This seems like a perfect fit for a brief drive through Gary on the way to Chicago. We’re anxious to hear if these mixes of Michael’s classic songs put the vocal talent of King of Pop in his earlier years in a new light. Yes, we will be singing along in the car. No, we won’t record it.
Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
That video is the creepiest thing ever, isn’t it? That still doesn’t detract from one of our mutual favorite albums of 2009 so far. Balancing between serene and haunting, Grizzly Bear refined their ethereal, yet powerful, sound to create their best effort to date. They are returning to Pitchfork after a one-year absence, and we’ll be prepared to sway along to the new tunes.
Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
Frogs, tornados, piano orchestra, a Harry Nilsson cover, and killer whales! What more could you ask for? How about one of Neko Case’s best lyrical and vocal efforts to date? The album contains songs that more catchy and personal than some of Case’s prior releases, but nearly everything she touches turns to twangy, country-tinged gold regardless. We’ll be seeing Neko at Clowes Hall and are very eager to hear how the songs from this album sound in a live setting as well.
The Stooges – Fun House
One of my personal favorite albums to listen to while driving through any city. This raw, aggressive, and visceral punk precursor helps you get mentally prepared for whatever is coming your way. From the infectious vamp of “Down on the Street” to the beautiful mess of Iggy Pop’s howls, Asheton’s powerful riffs, and screeching sax contained in the album’s title track, this album shows you the good in being bad. I consider this album to be an underrated masterpiece and will find any excuse to put it in my rotation.