Great Driving Songs - In Narrative Form

The long distance drive can be one of the most frustrating and annoying experiences known to modern man. Traffic, cramps, coffee, coffee induced bathroom breaks, coffee induced bad breath, rain, and countless other factors can make life on the road a pain in the ass. Out of these frustrations, though, good music can be enough of a pleasure to level out the playing field. Of course, not all music is created equally when it comes to the long distance road trip.

The best kinds of driving songs usually have a few things in common: a driving (pun intended), kick heavy beat, thumping bass, and the energy. Daytime driving differs from nighttime trips, however, and the just-listed attributes do not necessarily apply to driving once the sun goes down. Nighttime perfect songs are slower, full of solid lyrical content, and affecting. Compiled below is a list of absolutely spot-on road trip songs which will be sure to power any driver through the pains of long, draining drives. A nighttime driving mix will follow in the next post.

Daytime driving:

Turn on the engine, throw the car into drive and merge onto the interstate, feeling the vibrations of the pistons percolating in your fingertips. Dial the volume up so that the sound of the music blows away all outside distractions (other than safe driving, of course), and pop in the mix. The CD player teases you for a moment, audibly spinning the disc, before you hear the heavy bass and teasing tambourine of This is Music by The Verve. Suddenly the waves of distortion and mammoth, finger bleeding guitar lines of Nick McCabe kick in with a wave of drums and Richard Ashcroft snarls, “I stand accused, just like you, for being born without a silver spoon!”

The song frenetically pounds its way through moving bass and guitar lines while Ashcroft continues his self-loathing and preaching, shifting its way through breaks, rises and falls with blistering energy until the song abruptly ends in a storm of distortion and noise with Ashcroft smugly proclaiming, “This is music!”.

The music falls away and the track changes after a momentary pause. The car continues to hum along as the dark bass line to Spread Your Love by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club chugs along like a nuclear train. Peter Hayes’ crunchy guitar kicks in as Nick Jago’s drumming steadily holds the company line. Hayes and Robert Levon Been’s alternating vocals, cocksure and sneering, extol the virtues of spreading your love like a fever. Perfectly layered harmonicas and guitars continue to fuel the atomic train’s unstoppable momentum as the song crescendos in an orgy of cymbals, bass, and gritty vocals.

Before you can even catch your breath Guy Garvey screams a muffled, “Four!” and Elbow’s Fallen Angel bursts into life. Garvey’s unique voice rides on the waves of grainy bass and thrashing guitar, taking you through ‘mongrels’, dragging your feathers across the dance floor, and keeping your blues on cruise control. The song peaks with its chorus as Garvey sings, “You don’t need to sleep alone. You bring the house down!” Garvey brings the song home along with the rest of Elbow, layering delicate harmonies over the top of the crunch. Before you know it the song has sped to its end and the track is changing once again.

Black Nite Crash by Ride, driven by miles of guitars and the frenetic drumming of Loz Colbert causes the speakers in your car to vibrate the change out of your pocket. Andy Bell’s nonsense lyrics and ridiculous guitar work moves at breakneck speed as his airy vocals declare, “Everyone’s got the same disease. It’s alright.” After two minutes of contained mayhem the song abruptly ends, leaving you gasping for breath after trying to match Bell word for word through a “hunchback abuser working on a cruiser” and the twists of “evening, daybreak, switchblade, stomach ache, gonna meet a man with a rattlesnake handshake”.

A temporary silence allows you to catch your breath a bit, before Set You Free by The Black Keys drives up your pulse rate with its frenzied blues-rock. The machine gun drums and dirty guitar frame the “I can’t believe this voice comes out of a white guy from Ohio” violent melodies and vocal workings of Dan Auerbach. The song quickly zooms towards its apex and ends as quickly and as torridly as it began.

You reach down and take a sip of coffee as the next song begins. A short intro falls away to reveal a quickly moving bass line, distorted organs, synth, backbeat heavy drums, and the strength of Noel Gallagher’s singular voice. Let Forever Be by The Chemical Brothers is easily one of the most triumphant amalgamations of dance-fused rock n’ roll and its pace and layering leaves your ears almost unable to keep up, dropping new sounds and melodies with every passing second. Gallagher’s voice seems surprisingly comfortable outside of his usual Oasis elements and the mixture of dance and rock vibrates your chest cavity. The song ends with a stuttered synth line fading out into silence.

The silence continues for a moment, allowing you to again sip from your coffee and change lanes, accelerating past a slow moving Jetta. The next track begins rather benignly, the simple drum beat and monotonous melody devoid of frills as well as any hint of bass. Once Julian Casablancas declares, “Is this it?” you are thinking the same thing despite tapping your left foot absentmindedly along with the beat. The song continues to layer as your head nods more and more and your fingers begin to tap the wheel. In a moment you are singing full out to Is This It? by The Strokes, and the poppy, distinctive bass line propels the song to new heights as it kicks in. Before the song is over you are singing, playing the air drums (hitting the air freshener hanging from your rear view mirror like a cymbal), and singing the bass line when the vocals drop out. The song is affecting despite its sparseness and when it sputters to its end after only two and a half minutes you are craving more.

The track changes, however, and Pool Song by Longwave kicks in with its Strokes-esque, ringing guitars and overdriven vocals. The song moves in a way which The Strokes never quite capture, however, blending quickly moving rock, gorgeous guitars, stuttered bass, and clickety-clackety drums perfectly together with Steve Schlitz’s simple yet acute observations and lyrical musings. Once the song hits its chorus you can’t help but sing along at the top of your lungs connecting as he sings, “And when it’s over you feel much older. You have your fill.” Massively distorted guitar solos and increasing layers of intricate guitar work add new dimensions as the song quickly transforms itself throughout its verses and choruses. After one final rousing chorus the song ends immediately and abruptly.

An organ fades in as Leadbelt by Sunbear, the little known but brilliant Irish shoegaze and indie pop band, begins. As the organ crescendos an array of distorted, overdriven, and effects laden guitars bursts into life. A stuttered and heavy drumbeat worthy of Loz Colbert fills every nook and cranny of silence the waves of guitars don’t fill as the Martin Kelly vocals plaintively scream for attention, “So climb that ladder slowly, cause I don’t want reach the top right now. Tie that leadbelt round your waist and mine. We’ll do fine just hanging around for awhile.” Halfway through the heavy guitars drop away leaving a slowly building mixture of atmospheric guitar work and complex drum patterns. The build reaches its apex as the thumping bass and heavy guitars join with the lyric, “Sometimes things just work out. Sometimes.”

As the song dies away the track changes and you are suddenly aware of a cherubic falsetto chattering layered nonsense under a hypnotic guitar line and perfectly matched bass and drums of Rockist Part Four by The School of Language, the new side project of Field Music genius David Brewis. The underlying vocals, which sound like someone sang “do, re, me, fa, so, la, te, do” and then chopped them up and rearranged them to sound like a droning drum beat, are present throughout the entire song as Brewis sings over the top, formulating and crafting unique and thoughtful melodies and lyrics. The song hums along brilliantly as you sing along with Brewis trademark “ohhs” and “ooohs” , before the song hits its chorus of “There is only you. There is only you. There can only be yoooouuuu.” The bass steadily beats the rhythm into your chest as reverberated guitar solos take you back to 1974. Despite its repetitive nature, Brewis and the rest of The School of Language continue to surprise your ears with distinctive sounds and by the time the song ends with a droning orgy of noise worthy of mentioning in the same sentence as The Beatles “A Day in the Life” you are continuing to hum the signature guitar riff.

The CD ends and you are arrive at a sudden realization that you have traveled far further than you first thought. Your breath smells like coffee and you don’t care who is unfortunate enough to be the first to have a close-quarters conversation with you. The road stretches out before you and you accelerate, feeling the pistons pumping in your feet as the tips of your fingers buzz along the wheel.


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Reasons Why 2008… Is, and Will Be, Great!

Does anybody remember those carpet commercials from the 90s in which some deep, mysterious voice announced financing deals with such reverb and circumstance that it seemed the heavens would fall from the sky, all the while managing to come up with a ‘fresh’ rhyme every year?

“It’s a deal from heaven! You don’t pay ‘til 1997”
“Your payment will wait… until 1998!”
“You don’t pay a dime… until 1999!”

Well, do you? Maybe? Doesn’t really matter, the title of this post simply reminded me of those commercials.

On to the reasons why 2008 already is, and will continue to be, great!

The video for We Are Scientists’ “After Hours”:

We Are Scientists are quite possibly the perfect band: Insanely catchy songs, sweet haircuts, the occasional moustache (!), and top notch videos. With their first single off of their second (proper) album We Are Scientists have raised their game to a whole new level. “After Hours” is not only easily one of the best songs to be released thus far this year, the video is pure perfection. The boys from We Are Scientists have always shown a penchant for interesting and comical videos, but “After Hours” showcases their strange sense of humor melded with classic songwriting and a heartfelt honesty which serves as the foundation for most of their best work.

The video begins with Keith and Chris having a double date night. Unfortunately something goes horribly (and hilariously) wrong, much to the apparent satisfaction, and later, the dismay, of guitarist/vocalist Keith Murray.

Check out the video here:

The Return of Elbow

Anyone who knows either me or my fiancĂ©e Allison knows that we are obsessed with Manchester based band Elbow. This could stem from the fact that we once got drunk and bowled with them, but more likely is the result of the fact that they are simply one of the most innovative and interesting bands to ever produce music. Add in Guy Garvey’s distinctive and pitch perfect, soul-melting voice and there is no chance for us to ever wriggle away from the clutches of Elbow’s grip.

So it is with great excitement that we await the official release of Elbow’s fourth studio album, “The Seldom Seen Kid”. Although I do not advocate piracy, I have heard the new album many, many times already even though it has not been released yet and it is simply stunning. It’s already penciled in for the number one album of 2008 in my own eyes and I doubt many other albums will come close to measuring up to its loveliness. It is simply great.

For now surf on over to youtube at and get a sampling of the album by listening to first single “Grounds for Divorce”: a rollicking, bluesy, tour-de-force of exploding guitars, thumping beats, chain-gang wailing, and Guy Garvey playing a mug, not to mention Pete working his bass like a madman.

While you’re at youtube do a search for Elbow’s video for “Fallen Angel” as well… you won’t be disappointed.

The Letter K

It has been revealed that the title of the new Coldplay album will be Prospekt, although Coldplay has sort of half-denied this despite using “Prospekt” all over the place. Either way, despite early reports that the album would have a “latin” feel to it, the last time Coldplay used a K where a C normally appears (Politik), the results were spot on genius. Here’s hoping that the fact that the new album could have a ridiculous K somewhere in it means it’ll be better than the last album which was just a bit too much on the cheese side of things.

Random Vowels

David Brewis from Field Music has just recently put out a new album under the name of School of Language, taking his fanciful view of modern indie-pop and putting a heavier, rockier spin on it. The results are quite enjoyable, particularly the songs “Rockist Part 1”, “Rockist Part 2”, “Rockist Part 3”, and, the best of the lot, “Rockist Part 4”. Anyone see a trend?

It’s true that four of the songs on the album are brothers with each being built off of one hell of a hypnotic and driving guitar riff, but the real treasure here is the backing track throughout each song. Brewis sings random vowels and phrases (ooo, aaa, eee, ayy, errr, iii, nnn), cuts them up, and then layers them behind the music to form sort of beat-boxing, random human phrase generator bit of weirdness which is strange at first, but which quickly gets stuck in one’s head. Brewis has already established himself as one of the revolutionaries of British indie-rock along with his brother Peter and his work on the School of Language album only solidifies his stance as a genius.

Here’s the video for “Rockist Part 1”, which apparently had a production budget of $10:

In related Field Music awesomeness here’s the video to “She Can Do What She Wants” from my number 1 album of 2007, “Tones of Town”:

Keep checking back… this is going to be an ongoing series…


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It is generally accepted that in its present form the music industry as a profitable business is failing. Sales of physical units are down some 10% since 2001 and although digital sales have helped buoy the ship to a certain degree, the industry as a whole is still facing a downturn. Recently, a slew of top name bands and artists have begun to chafe at the normal release schedules and structure of the major record labels opting either to release their music on their own or through a smaller label (Radiohead), dropping all connections to labels (Nine Inch Nails), or signing a new type of record deal known as a 360° contract (Madonna).

360° contracts are, in their simplest form, an agreement between the artist and the label in which the parties agree to share profits from physical album, tour ticket, merchandise, and other sales relating to the artist. Up until this time record labels have mainly been chained to receiving revenue only from the physical sales of CDs, DVDs, records, tapes, and digital downloads of their artists’ music. The revenue streams from touring, merchandising (for the most part), and any other income generating ventures which are brought in by the artist are kept by the artist. This has been the way the industry has worked for more than half of a century.

Unfortunately for the labels, this model is no longer viable. The downturn in the physical sales of albums and the inability of digital downloads to make up the ground lost to free downloads is simply too much for the labels to bear and it is showing. More often than ever, labels are putting all of their eggs in one basket, choosing to play it safe by releasing uninspired, paint-by-the-numbers, contrived music recorded and performed by interchangeable and utterly forgettable musicians. This is also not helping the cause of the music industry. A complete lack of real talent, creativity, and/or difference is causing most real music lovers to repel even further away from the mainstream and what the major labels have to offer. There was a time when major labels broke important, groundbreaking bands whose vision not only sold albums, but which helped morph music through its many waves. Now we are given Lindsay Lohan, Hillary Duff, Britney Spears, and The Backstreet Boys. Packaged goods which sell for a short time, but which ultimately have little to no staying power and which only further separate the major labels from the people they should be targeting: 14-35 year old music lovers.

The Merits of 360 Degrees

Of course, the industry’s music signing tastes are really better suited for another, less specific article. The question being pondered here is whether or not 360° contracts are good for the industry and if they are an actual option.

The reality is that 360° contracts do net the labels more profit. This can be easily seen when you consider a band selling 100,000 albums at $10 a piece and 100,000 tickets at $10 a piece. Using a traditional contract (and assuming the band pockets a generous 20% of every CD sale) the band will make $1.2 million. The record company would generate $800,000 of revenue (readers will forgive the obviously laughable revenue divisions; it is simply much easier to illustrate this way).

Now let’s see what happens under a 360° contract with which the company takes 20% of ticket sales and offers the band 30% of CD sales. The band will make revenues of $1.1 million and the record label will receive $900,000. This shows that the label has increased revenues by $100,000. So why aren’t all the labels out there signing bands to 360° contracts?

The answer is simple: musicians are not stupid. Why would an artist decide to sign a 360° contract which lowers their amount of income? They wouldn’t. The only way a band would sign a 360° contract is if the amount of revenue they give up in ticket sales is matched by an identical increase in CD sales. Obviously this would end with the label making no extra money and the 360° contract being completely pointless.

Profitability or Coordination Failure?

There is only one way in which the industry could use 360° contracts to create increased income: require all contracts to be 360° deals. If suddenly, all at once, every artist was only offered a 360° contract which allowed the label to increase revenue by way of the example above then artists would have no choice but to acquiesce and sign such contracts. This is not a completely efficient outcome for the musicians, but from an industry standpoint it would be absolutely wonderful.

Of course, there is a large hole in this logic: it would take all of the labels working together to happen. This creates a possibility for coordination failure, one of the most basic principles involved in Game Theory. Let us assume that the industry attempts to institute a voluntary 360° contract program because it would be best for everyone involved. Now let’s also assume that one of the major labels decides that instead of instituting the 360° deals they are going to offer traditional contracts. This sneaky label would end up with the power to pick which and how many bands they would like to sign, increasing their share of the market and increasing profitability by the simple fact that they have the best talent. This is best illustrated in a 2 player game table:

The table is read as follows: Rain Records’ payoffs are the first of the two numbers in each cell. Mercury Records’ payoffs are the second number.

The payoffs are shown as simple numbers to simply indicate higher payoffs and lower payoffs with 3 being the best and 0 being the worst. This sort of game is known as the Prisoner’s Dilemma game because it ends with a Nash Equilibrium which is not the most efficient outcome for both parties.

This type of payoff structure will always end with both players, Rain Records and Mercury Records (who could also be thought of as simply the rest of the industry) choosing their dominant strategies. What’s important is to find the best responses. When Rain Records chooses the 360 contract Mercury’s best response is to choose Traditional because the payoff of 3 is better than the payoff of 2 (if they both choose 360). Identically, if Mercury Records chooses the 360 play, then Rain’s best response is to choose traditional (again, 3 is better than 2). Finally, if either plays Traditional then the other’s best response is also Traditional (1 is better than 0).
Thus, both players (in this case labels) will choose traditional contracts, resulting in no improvement in the situation. The only possible way the industry could win with 360 contracts would be to somehow come up with a way in which they all complied with the 360 structure.

Alternative Thinking:

There are other thoughts to consider here. For one there is the possibility that if an act signed a 360 deal there could be a scenario in which both the record company and the band were made better off. This is possible if one believes that once the incentive structure is changed for the band and for the label they will act in mutually beneficial ways. For example, since bands will begin to receive a larger chunk of the profits of their physical album sales they would most likely act in ways which sought to increase sales. This could be increased personal appearances, publicity deals, less leaking of albums onto the internet, more support for protection from ripping and piracy, etc. Similarly, the label, now that it will be receiving revenue from merchandise and ticket sales for live shows, would attempt to create more income by tirelessly promoting their artist, creating more merchandising opportunities, and attempting to sign bands whose appeal will translate well to live audiences. These mutually beneficial actions could spur on sales of all areas of the band’s portfolio and result in increased revenue streams for both the artist and the label.

The Beginning of the Revolution?

Madonna recently signed a 10 year deal with Live Nation worth an estimated 120 million dollars: an absolutely jaw-droppingly huge deal. Some have speculated that Madge has seen the writing on the wall and believes that the 360° deal is central to improving sales of all of her considerable enterprises. It is thought that the above thinking about mutually beneficial actions is part of the reason that Madonna would agree to give up some of the income from her massively profitable tours.

Unfortunately, the real reasons are most likely much more about age and overpaying than anything else. Live Nation is paying Madonna such a large amount that it is unlikely that it will see any sort of boost to its profitability over signing her to a traditional contract. They paid for Madonna’s name because they are a fledgling label attempting to make a name for themselves as innovators and major players in the music industry. For Madonna the deal was too much to pass up. The overpayment, coupled with the fact that Madonna will be 60(!) when the contract ends makes it idiot-proof. Madonna probably does not mind giving up some of her tour revenue when she realizes that most 58-60 year olds, no matter how physically, mentally, and kabbalah-ly fit, are not monster draws on the live tour circuit and if they are, they are not able to play the amount of dates or physically demanding shows which bring in the major money Madonna’s tours usually do. Madonna is not stupid, she knows she is getting older and she has cashed in brilliantly.


So what does all of this analysis truly reveal about the future of the music industry? Unfortunately, a lot less than those who support 360° contracts would hope for. Of course, the industry could do quite well with these types of deals but they would simply have to demand market wide compliance with 360° contracts while avoiding the temptation to stray into traditional realms in order to get a leg up on the competition.

-Luke Barnard


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