Music has always been an ideal companion for all of our shorter or longer trips. Feelings like loneliness, homesickness, fear of the unknown, excitement, each and every one of them can be perfectly accompanied by the right track and enrich every individual moment. Some people might even say that travelling has literally formed their taste in music. People we meet, new sounds we get introduced to, all of these elements enhance our overall musical knowledge and identity.
The Millennial generation had the advantage of portable music technology being available since their young years. From walkmans and disc players to mp3s and mobile phones, everyone born after 1980 had easy access to music on the go. As a result, music has become an integral element of the Millennial travel culture and many of our travel moments can be easily retrieved from memory the moment a specific song or artist comes up on the radio or in a bar.
The list below contains fifteen albums that hit the stores between 1997-2011. These years roughly mark the teenage/early adult years of most Millennials (born 1985-2000). The selection is based on my own personal taste and certainly does not reflect the results of any research. The albums are presented by title in alphabetical order.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the album covers and there is no commercial purpose in their usage.
A Funk Odyssey – Jamiroquai (2001)
What can I say? I love Jamiroquai. I loved them since the first time I listened to one of their songs in the late 90s. This album is probably one of the most up-tempo ones in the list, one for a very exciting summer road trip with close friends. Songs like You Give Me Something and Little L are great dance hits, ideal for a pre-drinking session before hitting the local bars or just as background music while the air goes through your hair driving on the highway. Love Foolosophy is ideal for a trip to go meet your long-distance relationship; it always was for me, at least. However, it must be Corner of the Earth that made me think of this particular album the most. This warm song about the beauty of our planet and finding one’s home in nature is relevant to any true world citizen.
American Idiot – Green Day (2004)
Some of you might find this album a strange addition to the list. I don’t know about you, but personally travelling has made me much more aware and sensitive to political issues around the world. This album was written inspired by the contemporary political scene and this makes it very relevant to travellers – at least in my ears. Additionally, it’s a well-balanced album, including both up-tempo and melancholic tunes. Holiday and Homecoming fit very well to long road trips that require you to somehow remain awake. On the contrary, Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Wake me up When September Ends are ideal after emotional goodbyes or other moments when you miss your home and loved ones.
Californication – Red Hot Chilli Peppers (1999)
I mean, come on, even the cover of this album is screaming good trip (pun intended). It also happens to be a fan-favourite among my generation and there’s absolutely no surprise in that. I consider Californication to be a true contemporary masterpiece and always relevant, no matter how many years pass. The moods here are many and different. Around the World reminds us how amazing it is to explore, to travel and to expand our horizons. Californication is an ode to a globalised world, where image has become everything. It certainly makes us think and appreciate the real beauty around us much more. Otherside reaches down to the deepest layers of our own self, ones we don’t always want to explore. Road Trippin’ urges us to pick our favourite friends, the bare minimum and just hit the road to discover ourselves. Need I say more?
Gorillaz – Gorillaz (2001)
From their very beginning I found Gorillaz to be an overall very interesting and innovative act; this impression only got stronger after watching the documentary Bananaz a few years ago. Why do I consider them ideal for travelling? Simply because their music sounds like a movie soundtrack. It’s badass, it’s urban, but at the same time it is low-key, like someone wrote it right out of bed in the morning. Clint Eastwood and Tomorrow Comes Today, the main singles and biggest hits of this album embody exactly that vibe. However it must be Latin Simone that stands out the most as a traveller’s choice from this album. With its Cuba-meets-London sound it qualifies for the title of a great hybrid theme song of any globe trotter.
O, Yeah! Ultimate Hits – Aerosmith (2002)
I generally tried to steer clear of “best of” albums, simply with the argument that all of the artists featured in the list have probably issued a compilation of their best hits thus far. However, there are two instances where I couldn’t abide by my own rule. In this first case, the reason goes by the name Girls of Summer and it’s only available in this compilation. For me it’s the perfect Spring Break song, as well as a tune that reminds me of all these beautiful summers I spent as a teenager falling in love with every unknown beautiful person I saw at the beach. As if this was not enough, other Aerosmith classics like Crazy and Cryin’ remind us of all these summer holiday flings and heartbreaks that formed who we really are today.
Oracular Spectacular – MGMT (2007)
MGMT’s sound always reminded me of the next day after these huge full moon beach parties in Thailand. Everyone is waking up at the beach, still under the influence of alcohol and drugs, trying to remember what exactly made last night feel so freakin’ amazing. This album contains beautiful tunes about youth, growing up, living carefree and other similar themes that make it the perfect sound for a chill-out vacation with friends, parties, new acquaintances and -why not?- a new love interest. Time to Pretend, Kids and Electric Feel are the most well-known songs of the album. I’d be totally surprised if you haven’t heard Kids before; at one point was literally everywhere, from video games to political party promo videos. It also happens to be one of these songs with the most bizarre misheard lyrics.
Saints & Sinners – All Saints (2000)
People who know me well know I am a complete sucker for this album. They also know I am pretty salty that All Saints didn’t have a long, continuous career together. To begin with, I think it’s impossible to listen to Pure Shores and not feel even the slightest bit of nostalgia for your youth. It also happens to be a really charming song about finding one’s private paradise, which obviously is the dream of every modern nomad out there. Black Coffee goes along the same lines, talking about the uniqueness of every single moment. In an era where selfies and Instagram moments are the reason for many to travel songs like these remind me of simpler times, when not everything was seen through the lens of a camera. Maybe I am just a romantic but hey, we all have our little guilty pleasures!
Saudade – Thievery Corporation (2004)
Whoever is familiar with Thievery Corporation knows they strive to make “global music”, bringing together sounds from all around the world. This album is my favourite one for travelling purposes, not only because it contains sngs in five different languages (French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and English) but also because of its soothing chill-out, ambient sound. Claridad stands out for me for its mystical atmosphere, reminiscent of the most magical of dawns. Bateau Rouge is another great track, speaking of redefining human relationships throughout a couple’s summer holidays. In terms of language, if I have to collectively pick the one on this album that makes my mind travel the most, then I’d say Brazilian Portuguese the trick with the least effort.
Savage Garden – Savage Garden (1997)
Savage Garden is one of these bands that were very hard not to like back in the 90s. Their songs were so radio-friendly, while Darren Hayes’ voice was always so dreamy. Maybe today they would be considered cheesy, but back in those simpler times they were speaking to most hearts. Although this album doesn’t really have a strong travel theme/association, I added it here because it is the perfect album for a honeymoon or another trip with your loved one. It also happens to be one of the softest, safest tunes to fall asleep with while on a long plane or train ride. Truly Madly Deeply is a timeless anthem of love, Darren’s voice delivering every word like an angel. To the Moon and Back is a song about escaping from a suppressive reality, even if only for a second and through one’s own imagination.
The English Riviera – Metronomy (2011)
Just look at the cover of this album and listen to the first 10 seconds. Seagulls, alluring guitar, seducing electro beats and a charming British accent. I personally knew nothing about Metronomy before, until I happened to walk in a clothing store in London only to come across this album’s biggest hit, The Bay. I don’t think I ever travelled faster to a place I’ve never visited before just with my imagination; I instantly felt like a posh Londoner sporting my pasty white freckled skin and new Lacoste t-shirt somewhere in Torbay. Cause this isn’t Paris, and this isn’t London, it’s not Berlin and it’s not Hong Kong, no Tokyo – if you want to go I’ll take you back one day, promises the singer and my mind has already made the round of the world in just a few seconds.
The Greatest Hits – Texas (2000)
Another “best of” compilation I picked for this list, again for one particular song. Inner Smile has to be one of the sweetest but also most nostalgic songs for me. Its videoclip with the lead singer imitating Elvis is a pop culture reference deeply carved in my adolescent mind. The song was exclusive to this album but is definitely not its sole gem. Summer Son is an ode to these beautiful summer days we sigh thinking about through the harsh winter. I Don’t Want a Lover speaks of independence, getting rid of the past and moving on. Isn’t this what travel is all about after all?
Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends – Coldplay (2008)
Dear reader please don’t hate me for what I’m about to say. I cannot lie, I am not a big Coldplay fan. However, I must admit this album makes my mind travel more than many others. Lovers in Japan reminds us how short time is and how important it is to persevere and chase one’s dreams. Lost! is my favourite song here, reminding me of many of my personal past difficulties as a young expat and how I fought through them all. Lastly, Viva La Vida is a fairytale composition that feels like a trip through history: Templar Knights, the Promised Land, medieval armies and so much more pass through your mind just by listening closely to the lyrics.
Whoa, Nelly! (2000)
Not sure how this came to be, but teenager me instantly associated this album with travel. Maybe the reason was I’m Like a Bird, a song that quite literally speaks about belonging everywhere and nowhere. The videoclip definitely helps as well, featuring trees, birds and Nelly levitating like a forest spirit. Turn Off the Light was another recognisable song from this album, with a videoclip that starts in a bayou, moves to a Chinatown and ends in a typical Latin American setting. Nelly’s Portuguese and Canadian heritage mix perfectly throughout the album, creating a fresh, youthful and positive result that definitely carries the excitement of a new faraway trip.
Walking on a Dream – Empire of the Sun (2008)
Where Star Wars and Mad Max meet the Aztecs and the Samurais. That is the easiest way for me to explain the unique visual style of Empire of the Sun, which so nicely compliments their mystical electronic tunes. We are the People is a song from this album that I have strongly connected with a very specific part of my life, as well as a very dear friend (you know who you are). When listening to it I imagine all people being engulfed by colorful auras that connect to the planet’s elements. I think of the sun’s last blinding rays, of the end of a long summer, of a bittersweet memory. Walking on a Dream, the homonymous song, speaks about travelling “for the thrill of it”, a very strong cultural tendency of our generation which should probably be the topic of a whole separate blog post.
Within my Walls – The Idan Raichel Project (2009)
I came across Idan Raichel randomly, while looking on YouTube for Israeli music samples. His albums work as a bridge for different cultures, languages, people and musical styles all coexisting in his homeland, Israel. This album contains songs in Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic and Spanish; although this bunch might sound very different and distant at first, they create a harmonious mixture that seems perfectly homogenous upon hearing the album. Mai Nahar (מי נהר) is the most enchanting track here in my opinion. A deep, ambient tune that gets a further enhancement by the ancient mysticity of the Hebrew language, it speaks of a life that starts anew like the first rain, no matter how much experience one collects. Love is the center of human existence and the only point of reference where every trip should start and end.
What are your favourite albums for travelling? Let me know in the comments below!