If you want a glimpse into a person’s psyche, just see what they listen to when they’re driving at night. A car is one of the most intimate places to enjoy music: it’s a judgment-free zone, where volume control and so-called “coolness” cease to matter. From pulsing electronica to brooding emo, everybody has their own go-to playlist for those nighttime drives — because some songs just sound better when the sun goes down.
Amanda — The Killers
If I want to reminisce about my angsty middle school years, the Killers offer the perfect tracks for singing at the top of my lungs with the windows rolled down. The infamous, rock-out-in-your car hits like “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me” are my personal outlets for a nostalgic musical vent session, and what better place to jam than in my car in the middle of the night? Brandon Flowers lends the songs an authentic, impassioned spirit, combined with erratic guitar melodies and relatable lyrics. Aside from my favorite oldies, their newest album, Battle Born, offers a more haunting sound with tracks like “Deadlines and Commitments” and the empowering “Flesh and Bone,” giving me some deep, late-night feelings on the road.
Armando — Aphex Twin
When you think of electronic music, Aphex Twin is definitely one of the names that should first come to mind, especially his Selected Ambient Works 85-92 album. After a long day, hearing the pulsating rhythm of opening track “Xtal” while driving on the bleak nightmare that is I-35 during rush hour is just what I need for my journey back home. This album has been my study soundtrack since I came to college, and I find new details to obsess over with each listen. The different layers of the track each hit you so softly and it all builds up to this beautiful ambient track that will keep you awake and focused, but also prevent any hysteria-induced car wrecks.
Belicia — Rihanna
I feel like Rihanna and I are gal pals, since I’ve been with her from the start. I downloaded her first albums off Limewire and watched her slowly transform from a sweet girl into the bad girl “RiRi” we see dominating the charts today. Rihanna was vital to my cheerleading career: for six years, my cheer squad included her music in our routines. In middle school, we danced to the extremely upbeat “Pon de Replay,” and by sophomore year, our routines turned extreme with “S&M” and “Where Have You Been” in the mix. After growing up in a small town of barely 2,000 people, moving to Austin was a culture shock — it’s easy to lose yourself, and I sometimes forget my previous lifestyle. When nostalgia hits, I’ll cruise the empty Austin streets at 3 a.m. with Rihanna’s old hits to remind me of home. And I’ll admit: singing “Bitch Better Have My Money” with the windows rolled down in the middle of the night makes me feel like my street cred is higher than it actually is (zero).
Ashika — Young The Giant
I don’t drive. But as a self-proclaimed “passenger seat DJ,” it’s safe to say there’s nothing like grooving to some soulful tunes at the end of a trying day. Young the Giant’s upbeat and melodic tracks get everyone in the mood to jam all the way home. Not to mention, frontman Sameer Gadhia’s vocal chops are killer. Next time you’re cruising home, queue up “Mind Over Matter.”
Amy — Ryan Adams, 1989
For me, Taylor Swift’s 1989 is too happy and upbeat for a nighttime drive, but Ryan Adams twists it on its head and reimagines the songs as melodramatic ‘90s ballads. My personal favorite, “Out of the Woods,” evokes a ghostly but lovely feeling perfect for dreaming of that gorgeous guy in your advertising ethics class who has the greatest man bun you have ever seen. The popular “Shake it Off” that everyone and their mom has had a dance party to quickly turns into a sad self-reflection, perfect for your restless, sleepless nights.
Ignacio — Kavinsky, “Nightcall”
The unofficial theme song to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, this ‘80s-inspired track became my go-to nighttime driving song in my ongoing quest to have a stronger spiritual connection with Ryan Gosling. After buying a replica of the golden scorpion-emblazoned jacket Gosling wears in the movie and wearing it on non-Halloween excursions, blasting this particular track while cruising down empty, winding roads seemed to be the next logical step. With its incredibly heavy synths and distorted vocals, Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” is the perfect anthem for your nostalgic celebration of all things ‘80s, from the Sega Genesis to cops wearing shoulder-padded blazers.
Jim — Death from Above 1979, You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine
You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine has been in rotation since I got my learner’s permit, and it’s been both the best and worst decision I’ve ever made. Death from Above 1979’s debut record is packed with crushingly heavy basslines and frantic dance beats, and my driving habits have suffered as a result. Album opener “Turn it Out” starts with ten seconds of soft piano and then smacks you across the face with gigantic, squealing synths, just because it can. “Going Steady” lays down a driving, distorted bass riff, and rocks relentlessly for three straight minutes. “Blood on Our Hands” and the swaggering intro of “Little Girl” dare you to air-drum on the highway (not recommended). You will speed while driving to this album and you will get pulled over, and neither ORANGE Magazine nor Death From Above 1979 can be held responsible. That being said, 35 minutes of pure dance-punk adrenaline while driving fast enough to defy God himself will be worth the hundreds of dollars in tickets you’ll be paying.
Kristen Balderas — The Wonder Years
After 10 years and five studio albums, it’s safe to say the Wonder Years will keep you company no matter how long your night drive is. Their previous albums deal with the classic themes of navigating adolescence while still being clueless about adulthood. The Upsides couples profound lyrics about growing up with completely jam-worthy music that will have you channeling the edgy punk kid you’ve always wanted to be. Their fourth album, The Greatest Generation, has some of my all time favorite songs on it. Their latest album, No Closer to Heaven contains songs about being grown up that are reminiscent of the years the band sang about in all their previous albums. They kept their emotional vibe and made a fantastic album that adds another dimension to the story their discography tells and in a lot of ways showcases their growth as a band. A night drive with the Wonder Years has never been anything less than perfect, and don’t worry about the stares from the people in the car next to you. If they were blasting these songs after a stressful week, they’d be screaming lyrics and crying a little bit too.
Bryan — My Chemical Romance, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge
The beauty of this album lies in its dynamics. As the heart-piercing emo of “Helena” spills into the cocksure aggression of “Give ‘Em Hell Kid” and “To the End,” it seems like My Chemical Romance have got everything put together. But the seamless transition from “I’m Not Okay” into “The Ghost of You” signals a definitive shift in pace and tone, ending Side One with a blast of colossal melancholy that’s impossible to shake even as the album gathers steam again. Because for all of its earworm choruses and triumphant guitar solos, Three Cheers is as black as the night sky, steeped in blood-and-mascara imagery and boiling with rage. “I miss you, I miss you so far,” Gerard Way wails on the penultimate track, “Cemetery Drive,” and as the album swells to a cathartic close, you can’t help but crib the band’s lyrics and think: I’m not o-fucking-kay.
Jackie — Drake, “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
I’m always a sucker for Drake’s singing voice — I fall for him every time he shows us his soft side. For this reason, I might not even be considered a true Drake fan, but no one can resist the instant feels Drake infects you with in “Hold On, We’re Going Home”. When Drake chimes in after a building intro, he comes in hard, pouring his heart out in the first line, “I’ve got my eyes on you, you’re everything that I see, I want your hot love and emotion endlessly.” I feel for him every time. With poppy beats and dreamy falsetto vocals that warm your body and soul, the song is a sweet serenade that brings you a feeling of both comfort and desire. Every time I listen to it, it feels like Drake is lovingly wrapping me in the warmth of his arms. And isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day? Just hold on, Drake, I’m coming home.