Soundtracks for All Your Bay Area Road Trips

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Photo: Thinkstock
Photo: Thinkstock

Summers in San Francisco make me itch to get out of the city every weekend. While the city is lovely during the summer (albeit cold), I long for long breezy car rides, warm evenings where you don’t have to put on a sweater, and any body of water where I can swim. Besides packing the requisite toothbrush, shades, bathing suit, tank tops, sunscreen, and casual-but-literary novel, I always make sure to bring the perfect soundtrack for that particular kind of road trip. Here are a couple recent releases and the best Bay Area trips where you should spin them.

Windshield view of the Bay Bridge.

Robyn/Royskopp’s Do It Again = crossing into/from the East Bay

Whether you’re taking the Bay Bridge, BART, or ferry to cross between San Francisco and the East Bay, there's something about the throbbing collaboration between Swedish pop auteur, Robyn, and her pals Royskopp that captures the beauty of going over or under the Bay and discovering the summer fun that's just a short stretch of water away. Opener, “Monument” is practically about the bridge: “I will let this monument represent a moment of my life.” And "Do It Again" is the perfect combo of Robyn's romance-on-the-dancefloor songwriting and Royskopp's dark beats to blast when you have to return home to your side of the bridge.

Kelis’ FoodRiver Road

An easy day trip away, River Road is a perfect place to laze about and drink beers while floating down the Russian River. Whether you get into the shenanigans of Guerneville or go a little further to Monte Rio where it's a little less crowded, you'll need something good to listen to while making the last 20 miles to fresh water. Kelis' funky, retro new album is the perfect answer until you get find a spot to settle your blankets and barbecue to "Jerk Ribs" or "Friday Fish Fry." And because the song titles will surely stoke your appetite, grab a fancy bite to eat at Boon Eat + Drink or a burger and beer at Stumptown Brewery.


IMG_6594Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence = Big Sur on a foggy day

Everybody’s talking about Lana’s sophomore sad-sack triumph. I wouldn’t call her Americana masterpiece much of a road trip banger (especially for the driver!), but imagine an inevitable foggy morning driving down the coast on Highway 1 listening to “West Coast” or “Cruel World.” All those blown-out-of-proportion guitars, all those crashing waves and rocky cliffs: they were practically meant to be together. Round out the drive by stopping by the Henry Miller Memorial Library, where you can channel Del Rey's literary references and browse books full of sad girls and old men.

SZA’s Z = Orr Hot Springs Road

Orr Hot Springs Road is one of the most beautiful roads north of the Bay Area. Mountainous and remote, it connects Ukiah on the 101 to Mendocino on the 1 and contains Orr Hot Springs Resort and the Montgomery Woods. Non-single cut, "Julia" sums up the curvy roads, the clothing-optional quietness of the hot springs, and the magical trickling light in the redwood groves.

The lady's bathroom at the Madonna Inn. Photo: Lisa Gordon

Mariah Carey’s Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse = Paso Robles and the Madonna Inn

There is always a time and place for Mariah. Forget Sonoma and Napa, take old school jam “Dedicated” south to Paso Robles, which is known for its French-style blends and Zins. Roll up to Castoro Cellars or Jada Vineyard blaring “Thirsty” and you will be well taken care of. The only way to end the tour would be to end up at the infamous and wildly decadent Madonna Inn, an over the top kitschy hotel that Mimi was practically born to rule.

How to Dress Well’s What Is This Heart? = June Lake

June Lake is almost too far to even get to from the Bay Area, but its secret and secluded mountain lakes are a magical place for a long weekend (or week or month). How to Dress Well's new release is just as magical and surprising. Secret, building choruses that are as clean and crisp as the Caribbean blue of the lake and as personal and honest as the sweet owners of the The Haven or the bartenders of The Tiger Bar and Cafe.

Road to Bodie. Photo: Lisa Gordon

The Black Keys’ Turn Blue = Bodie Ghost Town

You have to travel down a dusty dirt road with sheep clanging their bells over the hillside before you even get to Bodie Ghost Town. The Black Keys’ most recent release captures the eerie, forlorn atmosphere not only of the town itself with its sand blown, abandoned homes full of rotting furniture, newspaper and drapery, but the road that gets you there. Title track “Turn Blue” perfectly expresses the sky as dusk settles and you hightail it out of there.

Listen to this playlist of the best cuts from each album:

And leave your favorite road trip albums in the comments!