I enjoy music. I also enjoy visiting national parks. Sometimes, these two most enjoyable activities overlap. Certain albums take on a life of their own in certain parks, so I have decided to include a visual of what I see when I hear these albums along with my favorite track. Here are my top 6 (arbitrary number) national park albums:
6. Talk Talk- Laughing Stock
Here are beauties to behold. “Laughing Stock” is an album that has flown under the radar for pretty much all of its existence, but you would have to wonder how much Talk Talk care. The album itself is incredibly dreamy and natural, rarely commanding your attention as anything more than a beautiful soundtrack to beautiful scenery. It really does deserve to be higher on my list, but it is difficult to play without wanting to just fall asleep to it. It is great for a late afternoon drive following a heavy hike, as long as your driver can stay awake. My Track: New Grass
5. Sigur Rós- Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Simply put, Sigur Rós makes some of the most beautiful music that I have ever heard. This comes as no surprise given the band’s attachment to Iceland, one of the most beautiful countries that I have ever seen filmed or photographed. This album holds special significance for me because of one particular moment while driving back from a long day of hiking the Lakes Trail in Sequoia National Park: listening to Ara Batur, a song that builds and builds to a beautiful, succinct crescendo, we came over a hill through the beautiful Sequoia forests and the light of the late afternoon sun came shining through the trees at the exact moment of the climax in beauty of both the auditory and visual senses when the song reached it’s glorious peak. Needless to say, we all looked at each other as though something otherworldly had occurred. My Track: Festival
4. Woody Guthrie- My Dusty Road
This land is your land, this land is my land. It makes me sad to know that Woody Guthrie is not very well known by our generation. This man is a legend, one of the pioneers of the folk that has become such a constant in American music. Without Woody Guthrie, we may have had no Bob Dylan. His recordings are often songs mixed with rants about dust bowl blues, depression-era stories, and riding the rails. When listening to him in a National Park, you get a sense that the land around you echoes those who have come before you. My Track: This Land Is Your Land
3. Marco Beltrami- 3:10 to Yuma
I love the American Southwest. As many of my closest friends can attest, I used to hate driving through Southern Utah on the way to Denver where I went to school. It has now become one of my favorite places in the entire world. Vast wastelands and beautifully crafted arches let my mind wander to a lonely, yet enticing place where there is still some sense of quietness in our busy, shrieking world. What does all of this have to do with the soundtrack to the film 3:10 To Yuma? Quite a bit, as I have yet to find a better soundtrack to this part of our planet. What Marco Beltrami has created in his Oscar-nominated work is a perfect Western scene which mixes more characteristic Western themes with a subtle acoustic guitar. I’ve yet to find anything better for a cloud-filled Southwestern day. My track: Bible Studay.
2. Django Reinhardt- The Indispensable Django Reinhardt
There is a strange connection in my mind between Django Reinhardt and Woody Guthrie. They are not particularly similar in most ways, but somehow both of their brand of music takes me to the same place; a relaxed, peaceful place where I can focus less on the music and more on who and what is around me. The only reason that Django Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz is higher on the list than Woody Guthrie’s folk is that it makes for a better social piece. It hearkens back to a time when Americans were still learning what these parks were and what they would become. This is classic background music and just what is needed after a long day of hiking. My track: Beyond the Sea (La Mer)
1. Sigur Rós- Takk
As I said earlier, Sigur Rós makes incredibly beautiful music. Their 2005 album Takk is, in my mind, not only their best (at least at this point as they are still making music), but also their closest to nature. The album rises like a mountain and falls as though in a valley, at times reaching high points of near ecstasy and at others dropping down into the deepest and most solemn places of sound. At one point while in Sequoia National Park, I was sitting on the giant monolith known as Moro Rock, overlooking a massive valley and looking up towards snow-capped peaks when I decided to lay down and turn on Takk. What followed is still a memory that seems more like a dream. The beauty around me was transformed by the incredible soundtrack playing in my ears. Birds were diving down and between the rocks before rising back up to great heights. Lizards were at play upon the rock face itself. The mountains became more massive and the valleys far deeper. It was beyond beautiful; it felt perfect. If I had one album to take with me anywhere, this would be it. My track: Glósóli
Woven Hand – Mosaic: An incredible night album.
Turisas – Battle Metal: Exactly what it sounds like.
Band Of Horses – Everything All The Time: A great album if for nothing more than “The Funeral”.
Beck – Sea Change: Listen to this album in the afternoon. You will enjoy it.
Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost of Tom Joad: The Boss tells stories about America. Give it a listen.