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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

So, Steve, how about hopping in the car for that road trip now? A really, really short road trip, given that gas is so expensive this Labor Day Weekend. NPR music producer Stephen Thompson picked some songs to travel with, none of them over two minutes long. Morning, Stephen.

STEPHEN THOMPSON: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: How short, exactly, is this road trip you've planned out?

THOMPSON: Well, there's not much summer left, so I put together a nine-minute road trip. That way, you can sort of condense all of the soul-searching and catharsis that you get out of a road trip. I wanted to condense all of that into a nine-minute experience.

So either you can take a very, very short drive, like to the store, and experience this road-trip play list. Or you can zoom down the highway, take the first available exit and arrive at a very nearby destination.

MONTAGNE: Okay, well, we don't actually have time to take the entire road trip with you on this one, but five songs will be posted on the music section of npr.org.

THOMPSON: Right.

MONTAGNE: Where do you want to pick this road trip up?

THOMPSON: Well, let's assume that we've already pulled out of the driveway, and we'll go into the second song that we've got on the list. I've got a song by the Mountain Goats, a staple of every road-trip play list.

(Soundbite of "See America Right")

THE MOUNTAIN GOATS (Rock Band): (Singing) I was I was driving from Tampa when the radiator burned. I was three sheets to the wind. A civilian saw me first. And then there was the cop, and then the children standing on the corner. Your love is like a cyclone in a swamp, and the weather's getting warmer.

THOMPSON: I feel like in an effort to sort of come out of a road trip transformed, it's necessary to do a little bit of wallowing to get that your of your system before it's time to clear your head with some of the other stuff on this playlist, which is a little bit less reflective.

MONTAGNE: All right, so we can skip ahead. Let's say you're cruising along on your trip. It's like a minute later.

THOMPSON: If you've taken a very, very long trip, there's always this eternal stretch of turnpike where, just, it's flat and it's straight, and you're just zoning out and staring out the window. And I think it's really important to have a stretch of a road trip where you're absolutely clearing your head.

So you want a song that's really as stupid as possible.

(Soundbite of song, "Nuclear War (On The Dance Floor)")

THE ELECTRIC SIX (Rock Band): (Singing) Nuclear war on the dance floor. Nuclear war on the dance floor. Electric six is on time. Electric lovin' a sex crime.

MONTAGNE: And here's where you're bouncing your head on the ceiling. Or the part - is it safe to drive to a song like this?

(Soundbite of laughter)

THOMPSON: Well, this is "Nuclear War (On The Dance Floor)" by a band called The Electric Six. You don't - you're not really thinking much at the end of it. And, obviously, over the course of a long road trip, you're going to listen to a lot of just stupid, fun, fast music to sort of keep yourself occupied and entertained. This does a lot of work in a minute and 16 seconds. It's a very, very efficient song.

MONTAGNE: Now I'm guessing we would've gotten off the freeway, and then you've got your song to wrap up the trip.

THOMPSON: You want to get a little bit more reflective as you approach your destination, and I've got a song by Neko Case called "Outro With Bees."

(Soundbite of song, "Outro With Bees")

Ms. NEKO CASE (Singer, Songwriter): (Singing) How's hope feeling today? Tired and sick of this place. Red wine is fast at the lip of your glass, saying I'm going to ruin everything.

THOMPSON: You know, you want to pack in a lot of catharsis: feeling good, feeling bad. Going on a road trip is not just dropping the hammer and turning your mind off. You know, you want to do a little bit of thinking along the way. And in that way, that song is sort of a nice way to wrap up the summer.

MONTAGNE: NPR music producer Stephen Thompson. And you can test-drive all of the songs in Stephen's nine-minute road trip at npr.org's music section.

(Soundbite of song, "Song 2")

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Renee, the Democrats should have included that old Bob Seger song, "Get Out of Denver." It's a road-trip song.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: Are you going on a road trip?

INSKEEP: Oh, me? Not anytime soon.

MONTAGNE: This Labor Day weekend?

INSKEEP: No, no, no. I'll be at home. I'll be home.

MONTAGNE: Oh, yeah. Well, I'm just going to go and into a little quick road trip, as Stephen suggested, to the store.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Oh, okay. Get that Neko clip.

MONTAGNE: Piling on all these records. Go into the Web site to find out what the other two are. We only talked about three of them, and then I'm out of here.

INSKEEP: Renee, what's the name of this program?

MONTAGNE: This is, Steve, MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne, by the way.

INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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