The Newspaper of McDaniel High School

The Oracle

The Newspaper of McDaniel High School

The Oracle

The Newspaper of McDaniel High School

The Oracle

Making the trek this summer

Summer is the time of road trips. Students get out of school and soon reassemble to trek to new and exciting places, creating novel experiences and coaxing out a feeling of independence. Whether they take a drive to camp, hike, shop or just wander, something is necessary to fill the void between point A and point B. 

Music is a perfect time-killer, and it can also help set the mood of a trip. Here are five songs by musicians from the five states surrounding—and including—Oregon that I feel capture the summer road-trip feeling perfectly.

 

“Hunnybee” – Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Oregon)

 

After a long, exhausting school year, Portland band Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s “Hunnybee” is the perfect track to escape the metro area with. A haunting orchestral intro clears into a light poppy melody as funky guitar and synth duets reverberate and bounce off each other. Before long, the signature soft and thin vocals of Ruban Nielson harmonize with the guitar as he repeats, “Hunnybee, hunnybee / There’s no such thing / As sweeter a sting.” This part reminds me of the hot Portland sun and the contrast between its beautiful luminance and its suffocating heat. After floating through the chorus, a playful, rising motif buzzes the song back into the verse. This little line is maybe my favorite detail, as it brings just enough energy to carry one laid-back and lazy section to another.

After a second chorus, a guitar solo slices through the mix, hot and burning, like nerves after a bee sting. It doesn’t get too out of control, however, and maintains the whimsical feeling of the rest of the song. As a third chorus winds down, the motif repeats once more, only for the track to end abruptly and unresolved—something that is very fitting for a song with unrivaled amounts of nonchalance.

 

“Want” – Jawbreaker (California)

 

I believe that long car rides need electricity. After all, whoever is driving needs something to keep them from boredom, or worse, from sleep. “Want” by San Francisco’s Jawbreaker brings the perfect balance of punk angst and emo reflection to keep you awake.

The track opens with a heavy, rolling bassline as a noisy guitar intro heaves out an immense weight. At its core, “Want” is a love song drenched in self-loathing. Pounding drums and sharp chords rip through the bass as the verse begins. Invigorated and youthful, the song peaks in its distinct proto-emo feel with the vocal performance of Blake Schwarzenbach—a mixture of punk angst and desperate introspection. My favorite part of the song are the verses, with lyrics like, “Dark secrets burn their vessel / Tearing out to grab a mouthful / Chunk of heart destroyed by quiet / Yell it out before it kills you now / Let it all out.”

When the chorus comes around, there’s an unexpected control; guitars aren’t turned to 11, the drums aren’t ejecting blast-beats. Instead, the intro repeats again as Schwarenbach whines, “I want you,” in one last effort to bottle up his anger and make a final attempt to convey his feelings. This song reminds me of adventurous summer days and introspective summer nights.

 

“99 Red Balloons” – 7 Seconds (Nevada)

 

This cover of Nena’s “99 Luftballons” by Reno’s 7 Seconds is a far more angstier companion to “Want.” The song immediately bursts with punk energy as low, muted guitars growl and the lead singer’s snarls a prelude to what is both a love story and a war tale. The vivid storytelling gives way to a breakdown layered with a catchy lead guitar melody. I can practically feel the tension of a crowd jammed into some small, offbeat venue rise during this part, eagerly awaiting. As the song soaks up all the sweat and spit of this cramped spot, the drums cue in the chorus, “99 red balloons / Floating in the summer sky / Panic bells it’s red alert / There’s something here from somewhere else.” A bridge sees the song coalesce in a flaming ball of noise and hollering vocals, snares pounding like gunfire over the heads of soldiers.

The instrumental dwindles as the drums and bass softly pound while the narrator reflects on the loss of war, cherishing the final moments spent with the one he loved and letting go of the one thing left to remind him of them: a single red balloon. An emotional explosion into an outro follows, burning in the sun with guitars squealing like tires burning on the scorching Nevada highways. This reminds me of the intense feeling of excitement and gratefulness that comes with trips to new places with friends and the luck I have to be able to do such things.

 

“Don’t Fence Me In” – Bing Crosby (Washington)

 

When driving, I think anyone can appreciate some easier listening from time to time. “Don’t Fence Me In” by Tacoma’s Bing Crosby is a grandiose and nostalgic song about wanting to be free to explore. His deep voice is a testament to the oldies style, with strong vibrato and a unique inflection. Accompanied by twinkling piano and guitar, he duets with the breathtaking harmonies of the Andrews Sisters, trading verses back and forth.

They sing of sprawling, neverending lands and a deep desire to adventure. “Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above / Don’t fence me in / Let me ride through the wide open country that I love / Don’t fence me in.”

I especially love the inclusion of the Andrews Sisters on this song. Their layered voices give a comforting feeling, like hearing my grandparents tell stories of times long past.

A brief bridge sees a more intimate interaction between Crosby and the whistling, soft voice of one of the sisters. This song is a great pause following the emotional and heavy performances in “Want” and “99 Red Balloons.” This song feels like driving through the open fields and forests heading through the high-desert to visit my grandpa’s cabin.

 

“Good Thing” – Paul Revere & the Raiders (Idaho)

 

To wrap things up, “Good Thing” by Boise’s Paul Revere & the Raiders is a classic ‘60s rock track designed to create a feel-good feeling. Out of all the songs I’ve picked, I feel this one is the most applicable to the many road trip moods. While “Hunnybee” demands a sense of peaceful disconnection, “Want” and “99 Red Balloons” a sense of youthful excitement, and “Don’t Fence Me In” a more starry and nostalgic feeling, “Good Thing” is neutral in a perfect way.

Revere’s voice is low and gruff, diverging from the classic ‘60s rock sound and instead feeling like a prototype of Tom Petty. Mixed with Beach Boys-esque backing vocals and harmonies, the band’s singing finds a way to press all the right buttons in the listener’s brain. The instrumental is restrained and lets the lyrics and singing take center stage.

Eventually a guitar solo closes out the song with the screeching and whining pentatonic riffs that had just recently been revolutionized in the wake of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.”

My feeling on “Good Thing” is that it’s an amalgamation of all the best pieces of the ‘60s rock movement and is definitely a light-hearted song I could see myself listening to on the road, no matter the context.

 

These songs are a versatile set that I think could set the mood for any road trip on the West side of the United States, whether it be to the Redwoods, Crater Lake, Yellowstone, Las Vegas, Seattle or anywhere in between.

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About the Contributor
Lincoln Wheeler, Editor-In-Chief
Lincoln Wheeler (he/him) is a senior who loves playing hockey and guitar. He enjoys being a journalist because he wants to bring new perspectives and ideas to people.

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