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!


June 27, 2011