Brian Eno recorded his 1978 ambient record Music for Airports with the intent of “brightening” the anxiety and tedium of flying. It does that, but it’s also a somber, thoughtful listen that doesn’t quite capture the excitement and romance of traveling somewhere. Here are some songs that do.
Yoshinori Sunahara, “Theme From Take-Off (Magic Sunset)” Not just 1970s-style lounge music—it’s 1970s-style airport lounge music, ideal for having a smoke with the flight crew.
The Avalanches, “Flight Tonight” “I need to book a flight tonight,” a voice repeats over an insistent breakbeat, with a hint of funky reggae. Yeah, ya do.
The Fireman, “Sing the Changes”Paul McCartney pretends he’s U2—and he’s good at it. This dreamy anthem continues ascending even as it ends.
Thomas Dolby, “Flying North” The lyrics paint flying as a wearying slog—are we listening to the pilot, perhaps?—but the music is giddy, eager to take off.
M83 ft. Zola Jesus, “Intro” If you lack the nerve to board, this synth-driven affirmation of your inner courage will get you onto the jetway. Carry on!
A Flock of Seagulls, “Space Age Love Song” Hit play just as the plane begins to roll down the runway, and marvel at the meeting of aeronautics and science fiction.
Marvin Gaye, “Flyin’ High (in the Friendly Sky)” Struggling to relax through sudden turbulence? Let the greatest soul singer in history be your copilot.
Sasha, “Magnetic North” Halfway between ambient and breakbeat, this propulsive instrumental sounds like it’s echoing off the clouds below.
Hüsker Dü, “Private Plane” How do you get to the farthest star? Why, you take a private plane, fueled by roaring post-punk. Everyone knows this.
Pretty City, “Melt” This psychedelic rocker is half-airborne, half-landlocked. Cue it up when they tell you to put your tray table up for landing.