It’s midsummer at the tail end of a pandemic (fingers crossed!) and that means one thing: Time to get outside and breathe in that fresh air. But don’t worry, this isn’t your standard pump-up exercise playlist. This is all about quiet, easy movement, taking the time to explore your environment. Whether you’re a homebody who spent the past year in your room or a go-getter always on the move, it never hurts to slow down and get a good look at the world around you. Of course, walking isn’t actually required. Take a walk, take a hike, or just take in a view — either way, this playlist will transform your outdoor excursions into a dreamy, offbeat movie montage. Follow these folksy artists as they sing about their journeys from Idaho to Baltimore, from Wisconsin to Montana and, most importantly, from their front door to the great world beyond.
“500 Miles,” Peter, Paul and Mary
“Lord, I’m 500 miles from my home,” trio Peter, Paul and Mary sing, their voices rising together in harmony. A classic tune passed around by a number of folk singers, “500 Miles” is perfect for setting the tone of this playlist. The guitar is warm, easy and slow, reminding you that leaving your house can be calming rather than anxiety-inducing, but the harmonies are just eerie and wistful enough to trick you into using words such as “wanderlust.” If you’re tired of the same old streets, this is the song for you; get swept up in the melodic wind of Peter, Paul and Mary, and you’ll feel like you’re 500 miles away.
“Mountain Hymn,” Rhiannon Giddens
Featured in the soundtrack of Red Dead Redemption II, “Mountain Hymn” is almost cinematic in scale. Though the lyrics are sparse and succinct, they pack a powerful punch, and the swelling music carries a rustic majesty perhaps only fit for staring into the Grand Canyon. Giddens’ vocals are heaven-sent; if the dated, slightly twee feeling of “500 Miles” kept you from being swept away, Giddens will quickly finish the job. In fact, if you’re walking or moving, you may even need to stop for a second just bask in the sound — but don’t worry, that’s the point. “Now it’s time to rest,” Giddens sings. Who could deny her when she says it so beautifully?
“Erie Canal,” Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger was a wizard when it came to the 1940s folk scene, and “Erie Canal” captures a spark of his magic. With a cheerful voice and a plucky tune, Seeger takes you 15 miles down the Erie Canal alongside Sal, a mule, getting you right into that rugged wanderer mindset. It’s easy listening, no doubt, and yet the muffled audio quality and single-instrument melody also lend it a slightly unsettling quality found in a lot of older music — perfect for adding some mystery and wonder into your day.
“Big Wheel,” Samia
Samia, a 24-year-old indie artist who released her debut album last year, brings a modern, upbeat energy to this otherwise mellow playlist. Still, “Big Wheel” has just enough of a country twang to feel at home in this lineup. Samia’s voice is confident and smooth as she sings about bug bites, Montana boys and her mama — an imperfect recipe for a perfect summer vignette. It may not be your classic outdoorsman song, but it certainly makes you want to move with its catchy chorus and carefree attitude.
“Tire Swing,” Kimya Dawson
One half of The Moldy Peaches and a musical giant in her own right, Kimya Dawson is perhaps the quintessential offbeat, indie-folk, movie-soundtrack artist. If you’ve ever wanted your life to feel like a coming-of-age flick (think “Juno,”) a Dawson song is the way to go. With monotone vocals and cheerful whistling in the background, her signature Moldy Peaches charm is present in “Tire Swing,” but the lyrics are slightly more grounded. Lines such as, “If I’m a spinster for the rest of my life/ My arms will keep me warm,” coexist with a nursery-like round chorus, merging the whimsical with the profound. “Tire Swing” feels character-defining in a way, as if the song is meant to be heard while watching a sunrise or after leaving on an indefinite road trip — it has the capacity to make an ordinary moment extraordinary.