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Music to skid by

Keep your eyes on the road and your ears on these winter road-trip mixes

When Led Zeppelin was growing up, buttons were considered a great luxury.
  • When Led Zeppelin was growing up, buttons were considered a great luxury.

Sure, we could start this piece off with a reference to "Ice Ice Baby," but we're better than that, and so are you. Plus, we want you to actually live through and even enjoy your next frozen sojourn to whatever part of the country (or county) beckons this winter.

As a helpful alternative to putting Vanilla Ice on infinite repeat, we asked a few of our erstwhile critics to meditate on winter and driving and the music they believe would make a perfect on-the-road soundtrack. So whether you prefer slippin' and slidin' with Little Richard Penniman, cold lampin' with Flavor Flav, ghost ridin' the whip with Keak da Sneak or getting, um, cold as ice with Foreigner, let the following suggestions guide you to music that'll make your trip a memorable one. Don't forget to write.

Adam Leech

When compiling a road-trip mix, there are many factors to consider, namely, destination, motivation, transportation, format and theme. You see, a midsummer trek with an iPod through wine country in your sugar daddy's Miata will play out far differently than a spontaneous deep-winter mission to Vegas in a broken-down Econoline with a book of matches jammed into the badly damaged cassette deck. Believe me, I know! The Vegas part, anyhow, not all that sugar daddy nonsense ...

For this winter's trip, however, the destination is my dad's house down in Sante Fe, the motivation is Thanksgiving dinner, the transportation is "Large Marge" (our new '80s hand-me-down RV), and the format is straight vinyl 33 1/3 dubbed to blank vintage magnetic 8-track cassette tape. As always, on a long, cold drive with three kids and two dogs, the theme will be survival.

"Immigrant Song," Led Zeppelin

"We Gotta Get Out of this Place," the Animals

"The Race is On," George Jones

"Roadrunner," the Modern Lovers

"Gotta Keep Movin'," the Haunted Windchimes

"I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine," Elvis Presley

"Ring of Fire," Johnny Cash / Social Distortion

"Six Days on the Road," Dave Dudley (Note: the Flying Burrito Brothers version is an acceptable substitute, but the Grateful Dead version is not.)

"Truck Drivin' Man," Shane MacGowan and the Popes

"Roadworn and Weary," Supersuckers

"Keep on the Sunny Side," the Carter Family

"Don't Go to Sleep on the Road," Shel Silverstein

"Final Stretch," Oblivians

Bill Forman

Ah, winter. The cough of a cold engine. The lust for snow tires. The joy of kitty litter. And last but hardly least, an audio solution for highway fatigue, a surround-sound mix for monochromatic vistas.

Turn it on, crank it up, you'll be there in no time ...

"Baby, It's Cold Outside," Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting

"Tell Me When to Go," E-40

"Father Christmas (Give Us Some Money)," the Kinks

"Little Drummer Boy," Low

"Highway Star," Deep Purple

"Immigrant Song," Led Zeppelin

"Frosty," Legendary Pink Dots

"Hazy Shade of Winter," the Bangles or Simon & Garfunkel

"Let Me Ride," Dr. Dre

"Free Ride," Edgar Winter

"Drivin'," Pearl Harbor & the Explosions

"Drivin' Sister," Mott the Hoople

"Ice," Crack the Sky

"Winter Song," Lindisfarne

"Winter is Gone," Nick Drake

John Benson

Aside from checking the oil, filling the tank and packing your bags, the most important aspect of your junket whether to go home, to ski, to see friends or the long-distance lover is music. Some people may tell you otherwise, but those people are just idiots who don't understand how integral music is to your existence.

Even under clear skies, Supersuckers speak to your roadworn and weary soul.
  • Even under clear skies, Supersuckers speak to your roadworn and weary soul.

More so, the multiple-hour road trip is almost like a religious ceremony. There is no better solitary experience to define your spirit, your soul, than a playlist suited to get you safely, quickly and mindlessly from Point A to Point B. My idea is to make the music flow like a roller coaster: slow uphill ride becomes quick downhill rush. So here's my no-brainer list, bookended by a gloomy start and cathartic ending.

"House of Cards," Radiohead

"I Will Possess Your Heart," Death Cab for Cutie

"Details of the War," Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

"Myriad Harbour," the New Pornographers

"Change," Blind Melon

"Say It Ain't So," Weezer

"Like You Know," Film School

"Rotten Apple," Alice in Chains

"Baker Street," Foo Fighters

"Hurt," Johnny Cash

"Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)," U2

"Clampdown," the Clash

"Let Me Sleep," Pearl Jam

"Santa Claus is Coming to Town," Bruce Springsteen

"Jesus of Suburbia," Green Day

Jason Notte

Nearly 15 years ago, the gray pall that enveloped Syracuse, N.Y., from October through April taught me a lesson about winter: Embrace the dreariness, because the cold and clouds aren't going anywhere.

For just this reason, my winter mixtapes and iPod offerings have been devoid of both seasonal numbers like "Baby, It's Cold Outside" or suicide-hotline prompts such as Joni Mitchell's "River," Counting Crows' "A Long December" and Ben Folds Five's "Brick." A winter playlist should make you feel cold and contemplative in the middle of August, and should include people uniquely qualified to convey both the meteorology and melancholy of the season: Canadians.

While holiday homecomings, ski outings and seasonal affective disorder can't last all winter, a moody road-trip playlist should.

"Under the Blacklight," Rilo Kiley

"Basement Apartment," Sarah Harmer

"Buffalo," Kathleen Edwards

"Possession," Sarah McLachlan

"Stuck Between Stations," the Hold Steady

"Dogs of February" and "Gamble," Lowest of the Low

"Here Comes a Regular," the Replacements

"Blue Train," John Coltrane

"Keep the Car Running," Arcade Fire

"Take Me to the Riot," Stars

"Nothingman," Pearl Jam

"Mushaboom," Feist

"In the Cold, Cold, Night," the White Stripes

"I'm With You," Avril Lavigne (I'm willing to face heavy scrutiny here. I maintain that if somebody listens to that song during the winter, there's a strong possibility that it will be a damn cold night.)

"Thursday," Asobi Seksu

"Sleeping In," the Postal Service

"New Country," Broken Social Scene

"The Avalanche," Sufjan Stevens

"Girl from the North Country," Bob Dylan

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