10 Best Indie Rock Songs for Your Road Trip Playlist

If you’ve got any sense at all, you’ll be taking a trip somewhere this summer to escape the heat for at least a couple of days.

Sure, you could fly, but that means dealing with gross airports, TSA searches, and constantly wondering if you’re going to miss your plane. Instead, you can opt for the more relaxed road trip, and you’ll need some tunes to go along with it.

Go ahead and make yourself an old school mixtape (or CD, really, because who has a tape deck in their car anymore?) of some of our favorite indie songs about road trips.
10. Sufjan Stevens - “Chicago”
Is “Chicago” really just about driving to different cities? Not really, but that’s the premise that Sufjan Stevens lays out of this song about self-discovery. If you’ve never been on a road trip that made you really think and grow, you’ve been missing out. If you have been on one of those trips, then you can totally appreciate this tune.
9. RAC - “405”
There are dozens of songs named “405” (no really, look it up). That’s what happens when you’re one of the biggest freeways in SoCal. RAC’s overly-infectious chorus-driven song is among our favorites (in the indie category, at least), and it’s as much about a road-tripping through California as any song that wasn’t featured as a theme song for an Orange County-based TV show that was actually shot in Los Angeles.

8. Broken Bells - “The High Road”
Alright, so the song might not be talking about a literal high road, but it’s still a great nighttime road trip song. It never builds too high, but offers a chorus with enough sing-along factor to keep the sleepiest of driver’s awake. When you get right down to it, isn’t every road trip about running away from something, even if it’s only temporary?
7. Death Cab for Cutie - “Passenger Seat”
If there’s a Death Cab for Cutie album to put on in the car, it’s definitely Transatlanticism. “Passenger Seat” is probably the best song ever written about riding shotgun, but it’s appropriate whether you’re driving or not. The song channels those long nights driving home with your significant other, even if it does make putting your feet on the dashboard seem alright.

6. Modest Mouse - “Interstate 8”
Of all the roads Modest Mouse could’ve sung about, they pick the one that goes straight from the far west Valley down through the middle of nowhere and eventually spits you out near San Diego. If you’ve lived in Phoenix for any amount of time, you’ve presumably taken the 8 to San Diego (it’s a lot easier than taking the 10 to Riverside and heading south from there), and you know just how empty that drive can be. There’s plenty of time to ask yourself and others “How have you been?” between Buckeye and Yuma (or whatever towns they are).
5. Arcade Fire - “No Cars Go”
You might not want to be stuck in a car with the entire band (you’d probably need a bus, or at least a good-sized limo), but for those times when you get stuck in traffic or lost on a dead end road, “No Cars Go” may be the perfect song to play. The small village known as Arcade Fire can create many different sounds within a song, and this song highlights their variety. Plus, there are plenty of “Hey!” and “Go!” screaming moments, which are perfect releases for the anger of being stuck with nowhere to go.

4. Mumford & Sons - “Hopeless Wanderer”
Is there any band that consistently sounds more like a road trip than Mumford & Sons? Everything from their folksy rock to the rhythmic style of Marcus Mumford’s delivery just works perfectly for long stretches of open road. What better way to enjoy it than with a song about stumbling along the road of life?
3. Matt and Kim - “Daylight”
For one thing, this is the only Matt and Kim song that most of the world knows. For another, it makes the road to anywhere seem like a more adventurous and exciting place. Images of cars floating down hydrant drenched streets and skating on subway grates remind us that you should never be afraid to go someplace different because “in the daylight anywhere feels like home.”

2. Something Corporate - “I Woke Up in a Car”
Before you try to argue that Something Corporate isn’t indie, let’s look at the evidence. They’re a piano-driven light rock band that launched the successful poppier career of a fragile and friendly-looking white guy who wears really tight pants. Yeah, that’s what we thought. Anyway, this is that skinny sweater-wearing fellow singing singing about spending long nights traveling the country back when he was still a somewhat-angsty youngster, and it’s the perfect kind of anthem to belt out while you’re on the I-10 in the middle of nowhere at 4 a.m.
1. Bright Eyes - “Another Travelin’ Song”
This isn’t just Conor Oberst singing about traveling, it’s Conor Oberst singing about singing about traveling. Almost all of I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning could be used for your indie road trip, but there’s something about the descriptions of various scenes in “Another Travelin’ Song” and “Road to Joy” that both make them prime road tripping songs.

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Josh Chesler
Contact: Josh Chesler

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