Well, where do I begin? A little while ago someone else posted a short travel/driving playlist, and I figured I would post one of my own soon after. However, in the span of less than 24 hours, everything's changed. I got a call yesterday from my mom, saying that my grandmother who lives across the country is gravely ill, and I should try and see if my finals can be moved around, because I will probably be flying out for a funeral soon. I'm not horribly upset... I was never really that attached to her, and she's had a long and full life. But just the craziness of how quickly this has been sprung on me, and how all of a sudden my semester may now be finished tomorrow and I have to think of things to to pack, has led me to revisit a playlist I made years ago on my iPod to help me through tough situations.
1. Queen - Life Is Real (Song For Lennon) As the title suggests, this was written as a tribute to John Lennon after his murder. I am fond of it because it doesn't dwell on his death, or try to glorify him or anything like that. It's simply a meditation of getting through life. Best line "Life is real. Life is cruel. Life is a bitch." Buy Hot Space.
2. The Boomtown Rats - Fall Down "Put your head between your knees and breathe real deep/Let it in, let it out 'til it's over." One of the few songs that actually seems to help in that actual moment of breakdown, rather than talking about it after the fact. Short and sweet, but affective. Buy Mondo Bongo.
3. Tori Amos - God Tori lashes out at the man upstairs, seething "God, sometimes you just don't come through. Do you need a woman to look after you?" A good choice to channel your feelings in the "anger" stage of sadness. Buy Under The Pink.
4. James Blunt - Carry You Home Yes, yes, I know, James Blunt = cheesiness. But this song just seems so sincere, it always gets to me. Some of the lyrics seem more real to me than most other songs on this subject attempt... "As strong as you were/tender you'll go/I'm watching you breathing for the last time." So, my praise to Mr. Blunt for writing something so heartbreakingly beautiful. All The Lost Souls.
5. Cyndi Lauper - Unhook The Stars To whoever originally posted this song in this community about a year and a half ago, THANK YOU. I am basically forever in your gratitude. I would've expected an upbeat, lighthearted, dance-y number from Cyndi Lauper, but this finds her in a new voice: "Just when everything's in order and good, things fall apart." I couldn't even count how many times this song has gotten me through when the shit hits the fan. Buy Sisters of Avalon.
6. Dixie Chicks - Top of the World For lack of a better description, this is one of the most "beautifully depressing" songs I have ever heard. Originally written by Patty Griffin, the song takes the viewpoint of a man, who has neglected his wife and family and tries to explain why. The pain just seeps out of each verse, culminating in the instrumental bridge at the end of the song. I've always listened to it on rainy days, and it's absolutely perfect for this situation as well. Buy Home.
7. Kate Bush - And Dream Of Sheep This song appears to be a simple lullaby, but its lyrics actually get much deeper and more personal than that. My favorite line is "Let me be weak/Let me sleep." There are those moments when we are so stressed or overwhelmed, and just want to leave it all behind, but are obligated for one reason or another to keep going. "Let me be weak" has always been my silent plea in those situations... Let me break down, let me show how awful I'm feeling. The song helps to calm all of that for the time being. Buy Hounds of Love.
8. U2 - Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of And finally, when you're ready to move on and put everything behind you... or alternatively, when you know you should, but you just can't shake it off... this song comes like the comforting words of a friend. "It's just a moment, this time will pass." Sort of the 'light at the end of the tunnel' effect. Buy All That You Can't Leave Behind.
And as a bonus...
9. France Gall - Évidemment There's obviously a language barrier with this one, but I'll try to explain anyway. I first heard this song last year, when our French teacher played it for us during class. She described it as something like the French equivalent of "My Heart Will Go On," but neither the lyrics nor the music has ever seemed that overproduced/cheesy to me. The song was written after a close friend of the singer died unexpectedly, and the lyrics reflect those numb, uncertain feelings following a death. "On rit encore pour les bêtises, comme des enfants... mais pas comme avant." (We still laugh at silly jokes, just like children... but not like before.) The whole song takes an air of feeling different while the word goes on the same. Buy Babacar.
And I'm not totally abandoning the travel playlist idea, because I have a lot of flying and driving to look forward to in the coming week. Usually my travel playlists are very peppy and designed to make you excited about where you're going, but this one is obviously different. I know I'll be in somewhat of a fog... sort of like driving along, half asleep at sunrise. So that's what I've tried to select here.
1. Joni Mitchell - Amelia I can never get through a post without something from Joni, and I can never take a trip without listening to this song. Joni wrote the entire album it comes from on a trip she took alone across the country, and the results are some of the most evocative road songs ever written. This is an ode to Amelia Earhart, from one woman with "a dream to fly" to another, and it is absolutely gorgeous. Since I will actually be "driving across the burning desert" on this trip, I couldn't leave it out. Buy Hejira.
2. Arlo Guthrie - City of New Orleans I first heard this song, ironically, shortly after I'd gotten off a plane and was driving through the English countryside for the first time. I heard the lines "Good morning, America, how are ya?" and laughed, wondering if I'd even left at all. Ever since I've been attached to the song, and love playing it at the beginning of a long road trip, just as I'm waking up and anticipating all I'm going to see. Buy Hobo's Lullaby.
3. Bob Dylan - Desolation Row This is a long one, everyone. I remember groggily playing it while on a long drive through the mountains, as I'd been awake for 2 hours but the sun had been out less than one. The fog was retreating from the scenery and everything was bathed in pink and gold, and I just lost myself to the characters and setting of the song. Alternatively I've also played it late at night on a plane, while looking out the window at absolute darkness punctuated by a few glowing lights, and it seemed perfect then as well. Buy Highway 61 Revisited.
4. Bruce Springsteen - Devils and Dust No one can write road songs like Bruce. This one in particular seems to fit the uneasy nature of my upcoming trip, because while other songs like his, such as "The Rising" indicate a happy, optimistic trip, the uncertainty in the lyrics of Devils and Dust work so much better here. "We're a long, long way from home, Bobby... home's a long, long way from us." Buy Devils and Dust.
5. Led Zeppelin - Going to California A nice, sunny little song to help calm a racing mind. Every time I hear it I just imagine myself sitting in the grass somewhere, perfectly content and without a worry in the world. Additionally, the song was supposedly written about the singer of song #1 on this list, Joni Mitchell. Buy Led Zeppelin IV.
6. The Innocence Mission - Lakes of Canada Another song that has helped me through a lot of tough times. I don't know what it is about it... something in either the vocals or the lyrics just seems to reassure me, and remind me that whatever is going wrong is just a small episode in a much larger picture. Buy Birds of my Neighborhood.
7. Badly Drawn Boy - The Shining This is my absolute FAVORITE traveling song. It's never officially a trip unless I get to play it. It opens with a single cello, and seems to symbolize the road ahead and setting out on something. The lyrics go best with a sunrise, but I've found that the song works in just about every situation, including sunsets and airplanes. Once, I was humming the song to myself as I walked through an airport somewhere to my gate, and I heard it being played from a kiosk somewhere. That song didn't leave my head for the rest of the day after that. :) Buy The Hour of Bewilderbeast.
8. Simon & Garfunkel - Homeward Bound And finally, when it's all over, a song to help deal with the travel exhaustion and the jet lag by reminding you of where you're going. Buy Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits.
And there you have it! Hope you all enjoy them, and they come in handy when they're most needed.