Auto Erotica

Van Halen, "Panama" (Warner Bros.; originally released 1984).

Vitalic, "My Friend Dario" (Citizen).

Mylo, "Muscle Car (Freeform Reform)" (Breastfed).

Electric Six, "Devil Nights" (Warner, U.K.).

The Hold Steady, "Multitude of Casualties" (Frenchkiss).

Beck, "Rental Car" (Geffen).

Bloc Party, "Price of Gas" (Vice).

Aesop Rock, "Fast Cars" (Definitive Jux).

Doppelbanger, "Flash Runner" (MP3).

Ciara ft. M.I.A., "Goodies (Richard X Remix)" (BMG).

Daft Punk, "Make Love (unknown remix)" (MP3).

Basement Jaxx, "Oh My Gosh" (XL).

Brooke Valentine, "Ghetto Superstarz" (Virgin).

Kano ft. Sadie, "So Sure (Remix)" (679).

Annie, "Come Together" (679).

The Perceptionists, "Breathe in the Sun" (Definitive Jux).

Spring is about cars and sex, pretty much. Not to gloss over+ the latter—with the 150th reiteration of the "Apache" break turning a moribund Daft Punk toss-off into unattributed euphoria, M.I.A. slotting neatly into sultry U.S.A. R&B without changing a damn thing, Jaxx's Prince-as-moon-eyed-teen-girl cut the best reason to buy a comp of songs you already have, Valentine and Sadie waxing sultry badass, Annie bathing lux-uriantly in disco-jazz delirium, and the Perceptionists' should-be all-time No. 1 backpacker summer chill-out anthem, there's plenty to test your average Kenwood. But I'm halfway to buying a used 180SX and people are rolling the windows down, so I got priorities.

"Panama," recently resuscitated as the intro theme to Gran Turismo 4, is the apex of the vehicular-erotic trans-genre; being Van Halen, it's obvious and gleefully shticky from the get-go. The sentiment is malleable enough to fit in a few dance-floor contexts: E6's rolled-up-sock disco cruises around with the "dev-ill" to swinging switch-hitter camp, Vitalic's frenzied electro-metal tilts Euroturbo sideshow reckless, and the Mylo track rattles off a "well-oiled" '70s Big Three lineup like a roster of celebrity bedroom conquests ("Camaro, Chevelle, Camino, Daytona, Trans Am, Mustang, Charger, G.T.O."—godspeed, John DeLorean). But the indie types are less about pleasure cruising and more into hitting and running: Aesop Rock can only follow his fast cars with references to "danger, fire, and knives," as he fishtails across expressways at 115, gunning for hipster-fanzine +haters like Carradine racking up pedestrian-corpse points. The drug-smuggling "high as hell and shivering and smashed" girl of the Hold Steady's "Multitude of Casualties" is pilled out from Colorado to Cali like a Springsteen-scripted Vanishing Point, riding on the conceit that "a cool car makes a guy seem that much cooler" even as everything begins collapsing into a post-comedown Revelations. Bloc Party are too worried about petrol costs to have a sunshiney coastline drive, which is probably why the surf guitar sounds spooky, cavernous, nail-biting. And the car in Beck's song isn't even his, just where he happens to be, running on borrowed Petra Haden hooks and driving to "the end of the road/Down where the reaper is walking alone/Singing a death knell, clapping along/At the end of the night there's a road we'll be on/Taking me far, far as a rental car can go."

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Nate Patrin is a freelance writer in St. Paul, Minn.

 
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