Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road" is my go-to driving song. It features in three of my last four road trip playlists — there is nothing better than a car full of people shouting an old classic in unison. Curating a car soundtrack has been on my mind quite a bit lately, because it's summer, the smell of tarmac is in the air, and there are so many places to go. Not only that, but the new soundtrack for Paper Towns sounds tailor-made to appear on future driving playlists everywhere. A few of the artists are already on my travel music radar (Mountain Goats, Haim, Twin Shadow), albeit with new songs, while others (Grouplove, Sam Bruno, Santigold) make welcome additions to my line-up.
As it stands, the Paper Towns soundtrack makes for pretty great background to a road trip, but with a little tweaking it could be made even better. Really, though, there are no bad choices — they go from good to great, with no exception. I've ranked the songs in order of least to most road trip-able, so you'll be prepared next time you need to get out of town. No highway hypnosis here; these songs are all buoyant energy.
16. "Look Outside," Nat and Alex Wolff
This one is pretty somber — it recalls Karen O's "The Moon Song" from Her, or Michael Cera and Ellen Page's quaint "Anyone Else But You" from Juno. It's a lovely closer, and lyrically fits perfectly with the film, but I can't imagine it powering through a long drive.
15. "Swingin Party," Kindness
One of the less memorable tracks from Paper Towns. Cool ambiance, but again, not much of a road trip song.
14. "Moments," De Lux
While energetic, fun, and with a great synth line, "Moments" loses points for length. I prefer a more fast-paced road trip playlist, and at just over six minutes, this De Lux track tests my patience just a bit too much.
13. "Lost It To Trying (Paper Towns Mix)," Son Lux
I promise I don't have something against bands whose names are plays on "Lux." This remix of Son Lux's 2013 track, off the band's album Lanterns, is totally danceable but too twitchy for a long drive. Still, it would be great to break up the sequence of ’80s throwbacks, Kanye, and Rilo Kiley that usually populate my playlists.
12. "Taxi Cab," Vampire Weekend
It's a fun one, but there are so many better options on the Paper Towns soundtrack. As far as Vampire Weekend tracks go, this one is pretty downbeat and nondescript. A better choice would be "Unbelievers" or "Oxford Comma," if it's Ezra Koenig you're looking for.
11. "Runaway (U & I) – Svidden & Jarly Remix," Galantis
The title itself is a mouthful. As with the Son Lux remix, this track has too much going on to make the best driving playlist. Plus, it doesn't lend itself well to singing along, a key factor in a road trip playlist — especially when driving with other people. There's no solidarity like singing along to your favorite songs together.
10. "Be Mine," Alice Boman
Boman channels Youth Lagoon and You Forgot It In People-era Broken Social Scene for this down-tempo love song. Though I always include a few more folk-infused, slowed-down tracks on playlists, road trips included, there are better choices to fill that niche on the Paper Towns soundtrack, including...
9. "Used To Haunt," The Mountain Goats
This three-minute Mountain Goats beauty makes a great choice for breaking up the fast-paced track list my playlists tend towards. John Darnielle's nasal, almost spoken-word style contrasts with the polish of the poppier songs in the Paper Towns selection.
8. "Burning," The War on Drugs
Clocking in at 5:47, "Burning" lies on the long side for a road trip playlist. Still, it doesn't lose its pace at any point, unlike the De Lux track, which tends to drag as it continues. As a band, The War on Drugs never really did it for me, but "Burning" exemplifies what works for them.
7. "Falling," Haim
Ubiquitous; fun; girl-power; part of Taylor Swift's A+ squad. What's not to like?
6. "Great Summer," Vance Joy
If the title doesn't already speak for itself, Vance Joy's "Great Summer" features the repeated chorus "Why'd I let you go?" — just right for a road trip escape. Joy is perhaps best known for "Riptide," but among the tracks on Paper Towns, "Great Summer" stands out for its perfect blend of low-key folk and warm-weather energy.
5. "Radio," Santigold
She's back with a bang — Santi White, alias Santigold, recorded her first new song in three years for Paper Towns. It's also the first single off her forthcoming album, to be released at the end of the year. I'm already mentally bookmarking the rest of the tracks for future road trip fodder.
4. "To the Top," Twin Shadow
This one already holds a coveted place in my road trip playlist cannon. It's one of singer George Lewis, Jr.'s best recent releases, and actually predates the Paper Towns soundtrack. 2012's "Five Seconds" is a similarly awesome song for a car ride.
3. "My Type," Saint Motel
I haven't heard something that quite channeled Strones' frontman Julian Casablancas's energy the way Saint Motel's "My Type" manages to do. The band recently appeared on Walk the Moon's tour, and they seem poised on the cusp of a huge break.
2. "No Drama Queen," Grouplove
It was something of a toss-up between Grouplove and Sam Bruno, below, for the best road-trip song on the Paper Towns soundtrack. Grouplove previously appeared on The Fault in Our Stars' soundtrack, with a song entitled "Let Me In" that has a similar epic swell to "No Drama Queen." ("Let Me In" might even make a better addition to a road trip playlist. There is no rule against doubling up on an artist.)
1. "Search Party," Sam Bruno
Earlier this year, Stereogum aptly compared Bruno to a hybrid of Lorde and Ryn Weaver. "Search Party" is a song about a shared escape. It contains an exciting sense of conspiracy, and it's just so catchy.
So there you have it. Wherever you're driving from or to, Paper Towns likely has the song to fit the mood. The album is down-to-earth and varied — in short, it doesn't sound like your typical soundtrack. It feels like what I'd play at a beach party or driving with the top down to some as-of-yet unknown destination, and I love every song it offers.