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In my opinion, building a playlist is one of the most essential parts of packing for a roadtrip. It has become almost ritual for me: the night before the journey, I’ll sit down, charge the iPod and throw a ton of good music all in one place. Sometimes the genre or style will matter (“Sunday Morning Music,” or “Punk List” have been good to me), but typically I give it the name of the destination (“Buffalo Trip” shows up a number of times) and don’t limit myself to music type.

Lately, I’ve looked at some of these playlists and found a ton of overlap. Without even trying, I nearly always manage to include a certain subset of tracks. It’s not that they’re necessarily the greatest songs ever; it’s more that these are the cuts that are perfect single listening. They don’t need context, they usually don’t need a theme. They’re just always on standby, waiting to pump through speakers.

So I’m going to start doing a feature on IWP about The Ultimate Playlist. One song at a time, I’m going to build the playlist and give a bit of justification for each track. And while this is certainly based on my listening habits, there’s no way I’m going to have all the answers on this one – if there’s a song that just clicks always clicks for you or feels like a road trip tune, let me know! I want my next road trip to have some great tunes, and this is where it starts.