My 5 favourite travelling records

Being confined at home and observing a very strict quarantine because of coronavirus isn’t easy. I know it could be way worse: I’m still healthy, I haven’t lost my job and the place I live hasn’t been much impacted yet. But I’m getting really bored, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget this period of my life. With so much spare time, I listen to a lot of music and that inspired me to write this article: I wanted to share with you some of my favourite albums of all times, all strongly related to travelling. Enjoy your listening!

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1/ Tash Sultana – Flow State (2018)

tash-sultana-flow-stateI clearly remember the first time I heard a song from Tash Sultana. It was in October 2017 and I was in a plane flying from Hawaii to New Zealand, with a short stopover in Melbourne. After watching a nondescript movie, I closed my eyes for a little while and decided to turn on some music from the onboard entertainment system. I couldn’t find anything I liked until I saw the name of Tash Sultana. I remembered reading somewhere that this young Australian artist was getting more and more popular, so I decided to listen to her. The track was called Jungle.

I loved it immediately and listened to it again and again until the landing. This song was on her first EP that came out in 2016, while her first album Flow State was released on the 31st of August 2018. When I was in Australia for the last time, between October 2018 and February 2019, some songs from this album were often played on the radio, especially on my favourite station called Triple J. This is how I heard them for the first time, and it was always a pleasure to listen to her ethereal rock/folk/psychedelic music. I have very clear memories of me driving along the coast of New South Wales while she was singing on the radio, or playing her songs on Youtube from my phone, sitting on the balcony of my Airbnb during my last week in Melbourne, the city she comes from (pictures below). I bought her album on my last day in Australia and listened to it a countless amount of times since. It always reminds me of this period, the end of an extraordinary two-and-a-half-year adventure all around the world before going back to a more regular everyday routine.

If there was only one song to listen to…

My favourite song still remains Jungle, but it’s not on the album… It’s super hard to only chose one as I love all the thirteen tracks of Flow State, but I’ll take the song called Cigarettes on. It was the one I heard the most on the radio and I think that it sums up very well how talented Tash Sultana is: listen to that incredible solo at the end!

2/ The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding (2017)

the-war-on-drugs-a-deeper-understandingI’m not sure exactly how I heard about this American indie rock band for the first time anymore, but I also clearly remember when and where it was: I was in a little hostel in a city called Rimouski in Gaspésie, in the south-east of Québec, where I was doing a two-week road trip at the beginning of my second year of travelling in September 2017. The album A Deeper Understanding had just been released and it received wide acclaim from music critics (it even won Best Rock Album at the Grammy Awards that year); I must have read about it somewhere, and that’s how I eventually listened to the track called Pain, which is in my opinion a pure masterpiece. It wasn’t the best moment to discover the entire album as I was on the road with no internet connection, but I wrote down the name of the band with the intention of properly listening to it later. Well, it took me quite a while before I finally gave it a go: one year exactly, until September 2018.

copenhagen-nyhavn

I was in Copenhagen at that moment and because of personal reasons I was having a really bad time, despite the beauty of the city (picture above – I really need to go there again someday with a better mindset to enjoy it as it deserves). This album really helped me during these dark moments; I fell in love with the harmony of the compositions, with the sound of the electric guitar, with the voice of the singer. It’s a long record with quite an ambient atmosphere: there are only ten tracks, but the total length is over an hour, with even an eleven-minute song (Thinking Of A Place)! I find it absolutely perfect from the beginning until the end, and every time I listen to it, I always think about this hostel room in Rimouski, and about the streets of Copenhagen.

If there was only one song to listen to…

The answer is easy: it would be Pain, the masterpiece of this fantastic album. This song deserves to be listened to very often, for its beautiful introduction, for the keyboard sound in the background, and for the fabulous guitar solo beginning around the fourth minute. I could never get tired listening to it!

3/ Of Monsters And Men – My Head Is An Animal (2012)

of-monsters-and-men-my-head-is-an-animalI received this album as a Christmas gift in 2015. I lived in Switzerland at that time, but I already knew that I was going to fly to Australia a few months later; I just needed to start planning my trip. In the first days of January, I went on the Australian immigration website and filled up the form to apply for a Working Holiday Visa, while I was listening to this album. There were many questions to answer and it took me a long time to complete the entire form; the album was almost over when I finally clicked on “Submit my application”. Less than 5 minutes later, I received an email from Australian immigration informing me that my visa was (already) granted. The song that was playing then was called Lakehouse, it was the second to last track of the album and it will forever remind me of that moment of pure happiness: the adventure was officially beginning.

Apart from this very specific moment, this album is not directly related to travelling memories for me (although I listened to it many times during my various road trips), but everything in it makes me travel: the themes of the songs, inspired by traditional stories of monsters, explorations or mystic creatures; the positive and happy atmosphere of some of the tracks such as King And Lionheart or Mountain Sound; the fact that the first song Dirty Paws is on the soundtrack of the movie The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (not the best movie ever, but it definitely made me want to travel the world when I first watched it); and the sound of the ocean with the grinding noise of wood and riggings at the end of Little Talks. A perfect record to escape your everyday life to a fantastic world!

If there was only one song to listen to…

Once again, it’s a difficult choice, but I would say Dirty Paws, the opening track of the album; have a look at the music video at the same time, it contains scenes from the movie The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty and you will understand why it made me want to travel!

4/ DMA’s – Hills End (2016)

dmas-hills-endI have a deep connection with this Australian band. I saw them live for the first time in 2014 in London, where they were the supporting act of The Courteeners. I really liked the brit-pop/Oasis influence in their music, so I listened to a couple of their tracks when I went back home and loved it. After that first gig, I saw them live many other times, including twice in bars in Switzerland in front of around 20 people; I had a chat with them, one of the guitarists offered me the vinyl of their first EP and I had a beer with the other guitarist. I watched them slowly gain popularity over the years, especially with the release of their first album Hills End during spring 2016. They are now super famous in their home country, and their 2020 UK Tour in venues big enough for a few thousand people was going to be entirely sold out before it was cancelled because of the current situation. It’s kind of strange for me to think that I was there at the very beginning of their story, while they’re now becoming a very popular band, headlining big festivals!

dmas-live-glasgow

DMA’s live in Glasgow in 2016

It was only a few weeks since the release of Hills End when I arrived in Australia at the end of June 2016. I landed on the Gold Coast in the south of Queensland, where I rented a car and drove towards Byron Bay; the first thing I did was listening to this album, windows open, singing out loud, extremely happy of finally being there and beginning my adventure. The extraordinary feeling of freedom I had at that moment is something that I’ll never forget!

If there was only one song to listen to…

The most famous track of the album is Delete, my personal favourite is Melbourne, but I choose to introduce you to Lay Down here because it’s the most energetic song of the record, and it fits perfectly with the atmosphere of the moment that I described just above.

5/ U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987)

u2-joshua-tree-coverThe oldest and most famous album of this list, often considered as one of the best ever recorded. It absolutely had to be part of it as it’s probably also the one that makes me think the most about travelling (as well as one of my top 3 albums of all times). I have countless memories of moments listening to it, but if I had to remember only one, it would be when I visited the Joshua Tree National Park in California in April 2018 (pictures below). The couple of days I spent there inspired an article very different from anything else I ever wrote, called “The Joshua Tree: an album and a National Park”.

The entire album is a love message from the band to America (although some tracks such as Bullet The Blue Sky are very critical of the country and the Reagan administration) and to American music, with influences of blues, gospel and folk. Many tracks make me think about the wide-open spaces of the south-west of the United States: the opener Where The Streets Have No Name of course (see below), In God’s Country and its “desertic” atmosphere, the slow-tempo Running To Stand Still (even though the lyrics are about drug problems in a suburb of Dublin), the Far West atmosphere with the harmonica on Trip Through Your Wires… And of course there’s the black-and-white artwork, with golden typefaces and beautiful pictures of the desertic Californian landscapes such as Zabriskie Point in the Death Valley. The weird and lonely tree that gave its name to the record became almost iconic for me, and it was a very emotional moment when I finally saw one (picture below). If you’re ever road tripping in the United States, there’s no better soundtrack than The Joshua Tree by U2.

Joshua tree, black and white

If there was only one song to listen to…

It would be the first track, Where The Streets Have No Name, one of my favourite songs of all times. A long synthesizer introduction. An instantly identifiable guitar riff, slowly growing until the humming of the bass and the powerful drums suddenly kick in, more than one minute after the beginning of the track. It’s a pure masterpiece and listening to it with the volume at its highest while I was driving in the Joshua Tree National Park is an unforgettable memory.

And you, do you have any favourite albums that remind you about travelling? If so which ones and why? Share your taste in the comments!

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