Packing A Soundtrack To A Holiday

Constitution Beach from The U.S. National Archives

[Photo: The U.S. National Archives]

There was a time when packing for holidays was easy. Just grab a few changes of clothes, a couple of roles of film, squeeze them all into a suitcase and throw it in the hold. Now things are a little trickier. The money-pinching tactics of the budget airline has turned us into misers too. We now squeeze everything and anything into our carry-on luggage for the sake of a few extra quid. We stand in line at the check-in queue worrying that the airline attendant might notice the excessive size of our portable wheelie-bags or how our rucksacks look just a little over-weight. We worry too that all our liquids might not be in order. Are they held in the right kind of plastic bags and did I decant my shampoo into a small enough container? Even our bottled water is gulped down in a hurry, knowing for sure the kind of rumpus that would ensue if security found us drinking it.

These are the standard banalities in the world of the luggage packer. They are the jaded complaints of any dinner party that has ever had someone recite their travel travesties, and they’re the regrettable trivialities that I presume we all know too well. But there’s another type of packing which I find even more loathsome – it’s the packing of a music collection. There was a time when all my music could fit in one place, now I like to travel light. I select a few choice albums and aim for them to soundtrack my week away. Yet the choosing of these albums is too important a choice to leave to the gods of randomness and luck and instead I’ve devised some basic steps to make the most of selecting the musical accompaniment to your light-weight trip away.

Last week I took my holidays to Portugal’s beautiful city of Lisbon and in four simple albums I had the perfect travel companion. Below I’ve outlined the steps I took and my reactions to packing the soundtrack to a holiday:

Step 1. The Relaxer
My Choice: Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics by Ducktails

If you’re on holidays, you’re there to relax. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a beach, hiking in the hills or just enjoying a coffee – you’ll need to find that album which holds all the characteristics of an easygoing summer evening.  My recommendation is Ducktails‘ most recent album Arcade Dynamics, which is filled with the kind of light and breezy tracks that those familiar with both his previous releases and  his work with Real Estate have come to love.

Step 2. The Local
My Choice: Pop Negro by El Guincho

If you’re visiting another country then I recommend you try and track down some local music. Before I left I did a little work in finding some Portuguese tracks to take along but soon discovered that is was too hard a task. I bent my rules a little and tried to convince myself that an Iberian selection was justifiable; I brought along El Guincho‘s wonderful Pop Negro album. It’s an album filled with tropical sounds and good-old-fashioned rhythmic fun! Perfect for traveling through unknown lands.

(As a side note: While in Portugal I came across the wonderful Sam The Kid, if Portuguese readers have any other recommendations please let me know).

Step 3. The New Album
My Choice: Tom Boy by Panda Bear

Always take a new album with you. It’s as simple as that. I took Panda Bear‘s Tom Boy for it’s first listen to Lisbon, and I’m not sure if it was because it was recordered there or just because it’s a just a great album but it perfectly suits the vibe of the city.

Step 4. The Classic
My Choice: Ram by Paul McCartney

You’ll always need to take a classic album with you. One of my favorites is Ram by Paul McCartney. Ram was written during a lengthy holiday McCartney took with his wife Linda back in 1970. The whole album is filled with plenty of fun and crazy ideas and it’s possibly one of the happiest albums McCartney has ever written. When I suggest you ‘bring a classic album’, I probably mean ‘bring this classic album’.

Hopefully these 4 steps will help in you pack a soundtrack for your holiday and feel free to share your suggestions in the comments. Also, you should of course make sure to grab a copy of The Summer Soak Mixtape by Aquarium Drunkard. I’m listening to it now and it’s terrific!


4 Comments Packing A Soundtrack To A Holiday

  1. Dan June 27, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    Such an interesting concept Philip, especially in our digital age where you can load more music than you could ever hope to listen to on your iPhone… I like the idea of restricting your soundtrack for a holiday to a few albums covering these well-thought-through bases. The associative connotations of music are powerful, and I like the idea that you will, in a sense, find yourself transported back to that particular holiday anytime you play these albums back home (this would be especially true of the ‘new album’ I imagine). I’m currently on a four month traveling stint, and whilst I haven’t quite limited my music choices to four albums, I have found drawn to particular music for different legs of my journey – although not always on the terms I may have suspected. Anyhow, great article dude.

  2. Sara June 27, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    Hi Phillip. I am Portuguese, from Lisbon, and I am amazed you liked Sam The Kid. He is a terrific rapper, but not very likable by all people, so I am glad you liked him. In sort of the same genre, I suggest you listen to Da Weasel, they are also pretty good. Panda Bear lives here and the album was recorded here, so that was cool as well :)

  3. antoNio June 27, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    Hi! Great that you have mentioned Sam the Kid. Good stuff. There are many other possibilities. I take two: Buraka Som Sistema, hyper cool, global electro dance music [] and the arty pop, old school, my favourite Portuguese pop band ever, Pop Dell Arte. As you this is a post about holidays, please enjoy Avanti Marinaio:

  4. Júlio Santos June 29, 2011 at 9:48 AM

    Hi Phillip,

    I’m Portuguese, but I’m not much into our music scene these days. However, you should check out «Orelha Negra», a fantastic project in which Sam The Kid (who is otherwise bland and boring in my opinion) is involved.

    Make sure you try something by Carlos Paredes (a master of the Portuguese guitar, a twelve-steel-strings guitar. Also, on the same note, don’t miss «Guitolão», the incredible result of experimenting with a set of plans for a new-generation portuguese guitar — think of it as building Da Vinci’s machines from his scrapbooks and playing with them.

    Belle Chase Hotel is a now defunct band, but their albums «Fossanova» and «La toilette des étoiles» are totally worth it as well.

    Enjoy Portugal :)

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