If we’ve known each other for a while, you’d know that my Sundays are very long. And yet there’s something very refreshing about being able to stick to a rigid schedule regulated by filial duties and traditions involving a lot of driving. When my sister still lived here, we used to split the work: she’d drive my dad to church, I’d drive my mom, then we’d all meet for lunch, then dinner with my grandma. We’ve had to work around it since she left, wherein I drive my mom to church, then to my grandma’s place for lunch, then yoga (maybe), then I pick up my dad from church, and we have dinner then call my sister in Texas. Then I bring my dad home.
This song came on as I was pulling into our driveway tonight, and I knew I’d fucked this CD up so badly that the song would start skipping at the point in which I would be getting out of the car to open the gate. But it didn’t. And this comes with a very petty and yet very profound sense of relief, in which you don’t have to break the rhythm that comes with going from shifting gears to releasing the clutch to stepping on the brake because the song is still playing. The song is still playing, and what a lovely night, and why waste it by parking the car and going back inside to cap it off?
Some songs are made for driving—heck, some albums are made for driving, and I’d have to say Panda Bear’s Tomboy (2011) is one of them. Some albums are all textures and layering and made for you to scrutinize within the safety of your bedroom, or between your ears through headphones; and while this album could also fit that definition, it’s definitely a driving album—owing to Panda Bear’s (aka Noah Lennox’s) fairly underrated capacity as the rhythm section for Animal Collective. What was I saying with that run-on sentence? These guys are all about the rhythm section, but even that is completely overshadowed by their perceived weirdness.
A good album to drive to would have a melodic component that makes the world feel larger than it actually is. It creates a sense of awareness of the space you’re charging through: you in your little metal tube, covering the distance from point A to point B. The distances covered on Sundays fall anywhere within the range of 3 blocks to 3 cities. In the mornings, its Cubao to Makati, in the evenings, it’s just a hop and a skip to another end of the same neighborhood – a hop-skip that my dad feels is too unsafe to cover on foot. We need family-friendly music for these trips, and Panda Bear, with the gajillion-part harmonies and the folk guitars, could fit that bill. Of course, all this is assuming that my parents actually give a crap about what I’m playing in the car.
(You think people can tell a lot about you from the kind of music you listen to, but you also overlook the fact that some people really don’t give a shit about music in general. [My parents aren’t these types of people, but what they consider music is in a separate universe from anything considered habitable by the likes of…say, Animal Collective.])
There are songs for road trips and there are songs for being on the road. There are songs you’ll play in front of your friends and songs you’ll arm-dance or sing-along to only when you’re driving alone. Tomboy is both a road trip and on the road album. I remember being stuck in heavy traffic with Edu, trying to find our way out of Malate (then again, when is the traffic in Malate ever light?), and singing along to Panda Bear’s “Last Night at the Jetty”. After that, it was “Surfer’s Hymn,” because I’d accidentally arranged the tracklist backwards.
Other albums that come to mind: Modest Mouse’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, The Magnetic Fields’s The Charm of the Highway Strip.
The Charm of the Highway Strip is too easy – too obvious a choice, but that doesn’t make it any less fun (TO CRY TO). Conceptually, this is an album that was made for long trips. The narrative component makes you regret things you thought you already forgot, but at least you get to dance (or at least sway) in spite of how awful you feel. We Were Dead… was something I listened to while driving to and from my first office—in fucking Antipolo—so it defaults to being a road album. The gradual crescendo that opens “Invisible” is something I associate with switching the gear back to third in preparation for sharp turns and speeding uphill. Some songs you can’t listen to without first strapping yourself in for the ride.
I once made the mistake of listening to Liars’ Sisterworld while caught in an early morning traffic jam, and more or less spent the rest of the day tearing everyone a new asshole. The Morning Benders Big Echo belongs on a long bus ride going anywhere.
I think I had Funeral playing that New Year’s eve, when I’d just learned to drive and could finally do something about being bored at home while everyone else was out celebrating. It wasn’t even that anyone I knew was out, somewhere specific, having more fun than I was. I just didn’t want to stay home, and for the first time having keys to a car actually meant something more purposeful than waiting to be taken somewhere. It actually meant getting there yourself.
And that’s what happened, in spite of having nowhere to go. That was a great New Year’s eve and the Arcade Fire may not have done anything I liked since then, but I still can’t listen to Funeral without seeing the skyline lit up the way it was that night. Funeral is an album to park to, it demands that you pause, but it also demands the power and possibility, the might, that come with sitting behind the wheel.
This was supposed to be a tweet.