Driving during the day is no fun. Who needs rush hour traffic in your way, construction in your ear, or sun on the pallid skin you and your Game Boy spent years perfecting? I sure don’t — which, frankly, is why I plan on never doing it again.
From here on out, I will only drive at night: that blissful time when hazy smog gives way to purple skies, the crickets begin their serenade, and the In-N-Out Burger drive-thru line is so short you simply have to hug somebody!
If this sounds like a movement you want to be a part of (and I can only assume it absolutely does), then it’s time to start preparing a great playlist, some official tunes worthy of its chilled-out cause.
So what exactly makes a song perfect for your wheels at the witching hour? Based on my, ahem, “scientific ratings,” I’ve got 7 night-friendly anthems that give answers as clear as day.
1. “Night Drive,” Chromatics (listen)
Spacey synths: 8.7 Some call the synthesizer the true instrument of night. Not me, though. ‘Cause that’s a pretty weird thing to say.
Nuanced, meaningful vocals: 7.3 “Oh, little stranger, bring my baby back home.” Not bad.
Absurdly literal vocals: 1 billion “I take a drive … in my car.” Ah that’s the stuff; the night is no place for subtlety.
Goose bump factor: 9.2 “Windows down and hair in the breeze” will do that to you.
2. “Come Away with Me,” Norah Jones (listen)
Night usefulness: 9.9 London Metropolitan University recently analyzed an experiment by a UK insurance site and found this song to be the safest to drive to because of its rhythmic tendencies akin to that of the human heart. And, of course, being as safe as possible while night driving is always a good thing.
Norah Jones’ beguiling voice: 10.0 Double-check if you want, but it’s there in spades.
Tranquil imagery: 8.4 “I want to wake up with the rain / Falling on a tin roof.” Depends how early.
Goose bump factor: 8.9 Can this lonely piano ever find a friend? The suspense is spine-tingling.
3. “In the Air Tonight,” Phil Collins (listen)
Hypnotic crescendo: 10.0 No song does it better.
Mysterious-mood-setting ability: 9.3 Even if you’re just running out to buy milk, you’ll be convinced someone’s on your tail.
Vocals that launch a thousand insane conspiracy theories: 10.0 “Well, I was there and I saw what you did / I saw it with my own two eyes.” Oh boy.
Goose bump factor: 9.9 The literal translation of “goose bump,” in some dialects, is “drum solo.” I mean, probably.
4. “Roads,” Portishead (listen)
Trance-like opening: 9.1 Imagine sitting at a red light before a coastal highway …
Killer beat to snap you back to life: 9.4 … and now you merge onto open, star-lit road.
Deep, rhetorical questions: 10.0 “Can’t anybody see / We’ve got a war to fight?” “How can it feel … this wrong?”
Goose bump factor: 7.8 Trying to sort out such deep, rhetorical questions is bone-chilling night business.
5. “She Moves On,” Paul Simon (listen)
Primal percussion and sultry guitar: 9.8 The kind of shimmying and head-bobbing you’ll find yourself guilty of just isn’t suitable for daytime; heavens, there are children out!
Falsetto backup singing: 8.5 It’s falsetto-ey but could be falsetto-ier.
Earworm vocals that stick in your dreams: 10.0 “Then I fall to my knees / Shake a rattle at the skies / I’m afraid that I’ll be taken / Abandoned, forsaken / In those cold coffee eyes.”
Goose bump factor: 9.9 If only for the remote possibility of the specter of Garfunkel appearing on a misty eve. Yikes.
6. “Do the Astral Plane,” Flying Lotus (listen)
Psychedelic-electro-funk: 9.6 Sometimes night driving isn’t so much about introspection as it is about wearing glow sticks.
Soaring violin: 9.3 Any violin not soaring has no business leaving the house after 5 o’clock, obviously.
Trumpet: 20 million (!)
Goose bump factor: 10.0 The maniacal, laughing crypt-keeper around 2:53 takes care of that.
7. “One Thing Leads to Another,” The Fixx (listen)
‘80s-ness: 10.0 Hot neon. Rolled-up jacket sleeves. Convertibles and feathered hair. The ‘80s really were the pinnacle of night driving, and this jam is dipped in a Day-Glo bucket of the stuff.
One thing leading to another: 10.0 That’s just the way some nights go.
Insanely catchy chorus: 9.8 “Do what they say / Say what they mean / One thing leads to another.”
Goose bump factor: 9.3 “The wrong words going in the right ear” never sounded so sweet.
Of course, for those longer trips, you’ll need more night driving songs. What are your favorites?