Train Journey

The Soundtrack: Music For A Long-Ass Train Ride

Welcome to The Soundtrack, a column where we plumb the depths of our musical knowledge to bring you the best* (subjective) music to listen to for very specific life situations. This week we step up our game and actually MADE YOU A SPOTIFY PLAYLIST.

Most of us have been on a prolonged train ride at some stage in our lives. You know the kind I mean. Not like, a 45-minute commute to work that you’ve done a million times and feels both familiar and screamingly uncomfortable. Like a 1.5 hour journey on a train that looks – or at least feels – a little different to the line you usually catch. On a golden afternoon. Or a very early morning. If you’re from Brisbane like me, the first thing that might spring to mind is all those high-school-days trips to the Gold Coast on the Varsity Lakes line. Unclear on what the interstate versions of this is, but I’m sure there’s something. Regardless, there’s also interstate train travel to consider – they’re even talking about putting a bloody bullet train from Melbourne to Sydney now. And friends, you’re going to need something to pass the time, so here ya go. It should be noted that at 5 songs long, this is just a launchpad, but gimme a break. I’m not made of time.

The Avalanches – Subways

Does this one count as cheating? Probably. Who cares. Fight me. In true Avalanches style, they really nailed the total chaos that catching a train/subway can be. But lucky for you, this is a chill train ride, so you get to just relax and revel in the swirling samples, catching snippets of spoken words and weird frog-like reverb. I think this is the newest song I’ve ever put on The Soundtrack. That alone should be a testament to how perfectly this fits. The main vocal sample for this song comes from a VERY strange (but kind of fucking cool) “no-wave” track of the same name from 1980, sung by a 12 year old girl. That’s both a fun fact and a very valid reason to regress into your childhood and daydream the journey away as the trees whip past you.

Wet – Dreams

There’s something about a lengthy train ride that sort of makes you feel like you’re going full bohemian misfit and skipping town for good, right? Even if you really are just going to Aunt Rachel’s place down the coast for the weekend. But who said you have to live in reality? This emotionally ambitious, sonically abrupt little number will allow you to get lost in that fantasy. You’ve likely already put on that “I’m in public but I’m alone” persona we all have, but Kelly Zutrau is breathlessly asking you to bring all your dreams to her. How could you refuse? Besides, falling into a reverie in public is the tits.

The Mountain Goats – Love Love Love

Alright, there’s probably only so much aimless zoning out you can do before you feel like a bit of a wanker. Or maybe not – hey, you do you, guy. For everyone else, there’s The Mountain Goats (tMG). I’ve heard people brush them off as navel-gazing sadboy music before but I have to disagree. This song, in particular, feels like one of the most worldly, considered, and cosmic musical summations of love I’ve ever come across. And, to that end, it is an excellent way to give your train trance some direction. What other topic is so universal that it could potentially shack up in your head so firmly it keeps you deep in thought for an entire extended train ride? It’s time to think about love, and I mean really think. Your childhood sweethearts, your first real heartbreak, your current squeeze, sure. But also the people on the carriage. They all love someone. Is love the opposite of evil or are they ever strange bedfellows? Get really sappy and really weird. Nobody’s listening except tMG.

Harry Nilsson – Everybody’s Talkin’

Another truly gorgeous folksy offering. I have absolutely no clue why, but this song to me has always epitomised train travel. I just double checked and the lyrics say absolutely nothing about trains. The closest allusion to travel at all is “I’m going where the sun keeps shining/Through the pouring rain/Going where the weather suits my clothes”. But somehow… it’s just perfect. Those wistful, subdued strings. Nilsson’s extraordinarily weird but oddly charming vocal timbre. The peaceful but anticipatory finger-picking. It all comes together to say that stuff is happening, and it’s probably nice stuff… but the important thing is that it’s happening at all, because that’s what life is.

Dirty Three – I Really Should’ve Gone Out Last Night

This is, by far, the most melancholy of the lot. Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for all along: the perfect song to stare pensively out the scratched-up train window to, pretending you’re in a hopelessly sad movie. Dirty Three don’t need any words to communicate aching regret, fatalism, and heartsickness. There’s both everything and nothing going on all at once here, and you get to decide which instrument you’re going to follow most closely as you speed towards your destination, thinking about all the things you (in the movie) should’ve done that you didn’t. Make sure you don’t think about your real life regrets though, cos it’ll be super weird if you’re crying actual tears when you de-train and Aunt Rachel’s waiting there to pick you up at the station.

Image: Nstanosheck Blogspot