The Hi-lo Listens: Songs (and podcasts) for your train or bus commute

The second iteration of “the Hi-lo Listens” includes tracks, and some podcasts, for the train or the bus, or any mode of transportation that allows you to stare longingly out a window or at the back of someone’s head, when instead of your own thoughts you’d much rather listen to Lucky Days’ funky “Real Games” or a melancholy “Ceremony” cover by Chromatics. Below you’ll find a group of people whose experience in transit has given us quite an eclectic playlist, something for everyone.

Make sure to listen to the accompanying Spotify playlist, the Hi-lo Listens #2, where you’ll find even more songs than you see here, given on the fly by those who answered a call for recommendations on Instagram.

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Areli Morales | Community Engagement Manager at Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition

I love listening to Radio ambulate, a Spanish NPR podcast, on the A Line, but also Suppertime in the LBC. I’ve also been super into Dolly Parton’s America and Locatoria radio. I take the train at Pacific Station and get off at 7th and metro.

Radio ambulate opens my commute to the rest of the world. It’s like traveling and understanding the issues Latin America faces, but it also makes me feel connected.

Dolly’s gives me perspective and history on a large portion of the United States I would not otherwise know. It’s fascinating to hear about the sexism and politics she’s had to deal with.

NiceGuyxVinny | DJ and producer

I don’t listen to music on the train that much, to me riding the train is kind of music in itself, some people come on the train with music playing off their phones or Bluetooth speakers and it blends with the train’s ambience. I love it. But when I do put the headphones on these are the songs that are my first choice because of how they make my ride more enjoyable.

[Crazy by Snoop Dogg] is a great song riding from Long Beach passing Compton and the LA neighborhoods. Classic G funk.

Tuesday by Afta 1: This song always is my go-to on late-night train rides home. Very relaxing.

Brian Ulaszewski | Executive Director at City Fabrick

I have not been riding the Blue Line much recently (back in college, all the time) and luckily live within walking distance of work. We just got back from NYC where we did all sorts of transit, including a train ride from Hudson. I have often been listening to louder music, not so much out of mood but to drown out everything but the music. So bands like Death from Above 1979, Refused or Japandroids. Totally different from walking to work where poppy alternative rock tends to strike my mood, so Vampire Weekend and Small Pools.

For walking, “Harmony Hall” from Vampire Weekend gives me a pep in my step when I first hit the sidewalk from my front stoop in Alamitos Beach.

For Transit, “Right On, Frankenstein!” from Death from Above 1979 is loud to drown out background noise, and it is fast which helps move things along on the train.

Freddie Sanchez | Refinish Technician

The funky upbeat of [Real Games] drowns out the craziness of the Blue line.

Angel Carreras | KCRW Report LA Fellow

A cover of the New Order classic, I vibe to [Ceremony] on commutes all the time—it’s a mellow ass song. Any anxiety about work or cramming yourself into a train full of people kind of fades away as you melt into this song. Also, especially this time of year, this song’s perfect. Just slightly melancholy enough. Perfect lean-your-head-against-the-window-as-rain-pitter-patters-against-said-window-as-you-get-kinda-sad-for-no-discernable-reason.

Most of [Alex] Cameron’s oeuvre is telling story-songs from the point of view of the outliers of society, table-for-one kinda people. All weird self-contained stories that you can get kind of lost in your imagination with, visualizing all the shit he’s singing about. Throw a dart at his discography and you’ll hit a song like this. I picked this one because… I don’t know, it’s catchy as hell. Think Lou Reed if he had a sense of humor!

Jillian Vondy | Photographer

Eric Molinsky has such a calm and soothing voice that draws you into whatever imaginary world he is exploring that week. He’s covered a wide range of subjects from “The Haunted Mansion” (Ep. 77) to “Workin on the Death Star” (Ep. 56). I’m regularly surprised by what he chooses to dive into each week. It’s the perfect mental escape from a long commute that scratches my Sci-Fi and Fantasy itch.

Roshi | Visual artist

It’s been a while, but I usually take the Blue Line to Los Angeles with my skateboard and a sketchbook and some fungi.

These songs have a sense of movement with a constructive direction. I think that backs up a sense of journey or adventure and helps set an intention behind a commute—to be mindful and joyful of the process in every step—bringing attention to details and meaning to moments and observation. Pairing music with movement through landscapes helps me embrace perspective of that space as a whole and engage it ore readily as an individual passing through.

Evan Whitener | The Bicycle Stand

I honestly use Communion After Dark when I’m trying to be in work-focus or creative mode, but it satisfies the commute in a very intense and slightly surreal manner.

Chris Chavez | Deputy Policy Director at Coalition for Clean Air

David Bowie – “Heroes:” While the chorus, guitar riff throughout and vocals make this one of David Bowie’s most famous songs, there’s a lot to unpack here. Its vivid Cold War imagery gives me chills.

The Who – “Eminence Front:” While I’ve always liked this song, it took me a while to really delve into it. John Entwistle’s bass work starting at the 2:37 mark is truly incredible and the song’s message really resonates with today.

Want to submit your own songs for the next Hi-lo Listens? Send an email to [email protected] with the song, artist and when and why you listen to that particular track. 

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.