If you’re planning a last-minute road trip before summer ends or have a long drive back to school, channel your inner vagabond with these four bands.
Three sisters from England, The Staves combine British folk and Americana into beautiful harmonies and soulful lyrics. The trio — Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor — grew up singing together, performing in local pubs and have since performed at South By Southwest and Glastonbury. The Staves gained popularity in the U.S. by touring with musicians such as Bon Iver and The Civil Wars. The group’s first album, “Dead & Born & Grown,” released in 2010, expresses themes of travel and movement in songs such as “Gone Tomorrow,” “Mexico” and “Facing West.” Its latest album, If I Was, released in March, contains songs such as “Horizons” and “Black & White,” which made NPR’s Heavy Rotation: 10 Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing list in July. The group’s calming voices will soothe any road rage inclinations and encourage road trippers “to see the colors of another sky.”
Artists you might like: First Aid Kit, Laura Marling, The Mynabirds
Listen now: “Facing West,” The Staves
Another English trio, Bear’s Den got its start in 2012, performing as supporting acts for bands such as Mumford & Sons and Daughter. The bearded musicians released their first full-length album, Islands, in 2014, and the track “Above the Clouds of Pompeii” was recently nominated for the Ivor Novello, a prestigious songwriting and composing award. With explosive choruses and subtle banjo playing in songs such as “Agape” and “The Love We Stole,” the band’s songs are fitting for long drives down winding paths. One of the band’s first experiences together was on the road. Shortly after forming in 2012, the group joined three other musicians, including The Staves, on a tour in which they piled into five Volkswagen Campervans and played shows across the U.S. The trip was filmed as a documentary called “Austin to Boston,” which was released in 2014.
Artists you might like: Ben Howard, The Avett Brothers, Benjamin Francis Leftwich
Listen now: “Agape,” Bear’s Den
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ upbeat and often-playful folk sound makes for great whistle-while-you-drive tunes. The two lead singers, Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos, often joke back and forth in the band’s tracks, such as in the popular song “Home,” while they sing about places across the U.S. The band captures the freedom-inducing feeling that being on the road often evokes in the song “Janglin” when they sing, “And now we’re out to be the masters … to set our spirits free.” The group formed in 2007 and based its name on a character in a story Ebert had written about a man named Edward Sharpe, who he described as someone “sent down to Earth to kinda heal and save mankind, but he kept getting distracted by girls and falling in love.” The band released its first album in 2009, entitled Up From Below, and its second, Here, in 2012, channeling folk, gospel and psychedelic sounds into its music.
Artists you might like: Fleet Foxes, The Shins, The Head and the Heart
Listen now: “Home,” Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
The New Basement Tapes
The New Basement Tapes combine the talents of Marcus Mumford, Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Nearly 50 years after Bob Dylan created “The Basement Tapes,” producer and musician T Bone Burnett asked these musicians to create songs out of Dylan’s recently resurfaced song lyrics. The group, dubbed The New Basement Tapes, spent two weeks creating music, and the result was a 20-track album entitled Lost on the River. The country-rock vibes and lyrics about different cities make this a travel tune staple. In the song “Kansas City,” Mumford repeats the line “I’m going back to Kansas City” and croons, “gypsy woman, you know every place I go even a thousand miles from home.” Goldsmith carries through the theme of movement in the song “Florida Key” as he sings, “I sail out under the sun looking for my darling, my only one.”
Artists you might like: Shakey Graves, Jamestown Revival, Houndmouth
Listen now: “Kansas City,” The New Basement Tapes