Believe it or not, there used to be a day when you didn’t have access to the entire library of recorded music when you got into your car. Long road trips with friends required preparation in the form of CD collections and discussions about which albums got first dibs in the stereo.
While it’s easier than ever to create endless playlists or simply jump tracks during long rides, there’s still something to be said for albums that can play front to back while you cruise down the highway and serve as the perfect soundtrack to life on the road. With summer in full swing, we’ve compiled a list of 10 albums to consider packing (or queueing up) before you take your next sun-drenched road trip with your friends.
Cartel – Chroma
Rule #1 for road trip albums: Every song has to be a banger. Even 14 years after its release, Chroma is fire from front to back and it’s incredibly easy to sing along to every song. Will Pugh’s voice was made for summer, and so was this album.
Key tracks: “Say Anything (Else)”, “If I Fail”
Underoath – They’re Only Chasing Safety
This is a quintessential summertime album for me and one that was the soundtrack to more road trips than I can count from 2004-06. While it’s a heavy album to be sure, there’s enough melody and pop elements crammed in courtesy of Aaron Gillespie and company that this album was made to be heard with the windows down.
Key tracks: “A Boy Brushed Red, Living in Black and White”, “Reinventing Your Exit”
P.O.S. – Never Better
P.O.S. stole the show at Warped Tour 2009 thanks to the catchiness of his breakthrough album, Never Better. An indie hip hop hidden gem, there’s tracks to nod your head to, wild out to, and rap along with your friends to. It’s a gold mine of catchy (and introspective) hits.
Key tracks: “Let it Rattle”, “Savion Glover”
Boys Like Girls – Boys Like Girls
The self-titled debut from Boys Like Girls was peak scene pop punk, masterfully produced to appeal to just about anyone. Every song could serve as a single and it’s impossible to turn the volume down anytime Martin Johnson’s voice hits those high notes.
Key tracks: “The Great Escape”, “Heels Over Head”
Paramore – Riot!
Riot! is truly one of the greatest summer pop punk albums of all time, hitting all of the high notes that a road trip album requires. Hayley Williams comes into her own as a vocalist as the band writes their catchiest and most infectious songs of their young career.
Key tracks: “That’s What You Get”, “Crushcrushcrush”
Mayday Parade – A Lesson in Romantics
Bonus points for road trip soundtracks go to any bands that utilize two singers, allowing travel buddies to trade off on vocals. A Lesson in Romantics is a perfect blend of summer anthems and memorable harmonies from Derek Sanders and Jason Lancaster.
Key tracks: “Jersey”, “Jamie All Over”
A Day to Remember – Homesick
Homesick is the album that took A Day to Remember to another level and it’s also their most instantly arresting version of easy-core that allows for head banging sessions in the car or embarrassingly loud sing-a-longs for everyone on the trip.
Key tracks: “My Life for Hire”, “Mr. Highway’s Thinking About the End”
Gym Class Heroes – As Cruel as School Children
In 2006, Gym Class Heroes were on top of the world thanks to a collection of hit songs from As Cruel as School Children. Lead man Travie McCoy is able to drop a hot verse but also able to flex his songwriting abilities in unexpected, pop-centric ways. This album is just plain fun.
Key tracks: “Shoot Down the Stars”, “Clothes Off!”
Katy Perry – Teenage Dream
Sometimes after all the whining and screaming, you need to cleanse the palate with a tried-and-true pop record. Teenage Dream is hit after hit after hit, and they’re all fun to sing along to. If anyone on the car pretends they don’t know the words…well…they’re lying.
Key tracks: “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”, “E.T.”
Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue
In all honesty, there may not be a better pop punk road trip record than Ocean Avenue, an album that bleeds summer from every corner. It’s catchy, nostalgic, energetic and delightful in pretty much every way. Plus, if you let the album repeat after it finishes, no one will complain.
Key tracks: “Breathing”, “Ocean Avenue”, all of them.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.