If you’ve spent time with me, you know that I love music. If you’ve spent a questionable amount of time with me, you know that I love listening to the same song over and over. I’ll find a song, instantly adore it, and then play it on repeat so many times that it generally isolates the people around me until they’re like, dear god, again? Anyway, here’s a list of some of those songs.
Heart in a Cage, The Strokes
This was my Iceland jam. Specifically, this was my Icelandic tent jam AKA when my sister and I were tucked into our sleeping bags, reading, journaling, listening to music, all that quiet tent stuff one does when they’re too tired to stay outside but not tired enough to fall asleep. I listened to this with earbuds in, but even then my sister could hear it—the intro of electric guitar, the steady pulse of drums, Julian Casablancas’ voice cutting in, sounding like every guy you’ve ever met at a basement house party. It’s an angsty song but not whiny. The music feels like a heartbeat and it pumpspumpspumps and Julian croons “see, I’m stuck in a city, but I belong in a field” and you think, what am I doing here, and it’s just one of those songs that nests inside of you forever and emerges when you’re driving down the highway running from who knows what and the world swallows you whole.
Your Hand in Mine (w/ strings), Explosions in the Sky
Explosions in the Sky is one of my favorite bands, and, fun fact, my most-listened-to artist of 2019. I listen to them a lot when I’m writing or doing anything that requires concentration. I feel like everything about their music—the songs themselves, the titles, the album art—tells a story, which is fascinating because they’re a purely instrumental group. But the songs feel like they have a narrative arc. Things happen. Music swells. Notes die. If any song is going to make you feel like the main character in an indie movie, it’s this one.
She Will Be Loved, Maroon 5
This is the very first song I remember listening to on repeat. This was when I still listened to music on Yahoo Music Player (wut). I remember my dad asking who it was and me replying, Maroon 5. Do you like it??, obviously hoping to be recognized for my superior music taste. I do like it, he said, but I won’t anymore if you keep playing it. Unsure if that was enough to make me stop.
Welcome Home, Son, Radical Face
This is probably my most-listened-to song of all time. My suitemates referred to it as the windchime song because I listened to it so much and the sound would bleed through our concrete walls and they knew instantly what mood I was in and what I was listening to from the faint swell of windchimes that opens the song. I was fragile when I listened to this song. I associate it with aimless walks and cemeteries and how I had to hold my pants up when I climbed the stairs to my dorm because none of my clothes fit anymore. It was my first rough patch as a numerical adult, and this song defined the era. Honestly, it still makes me a little sad when I listen to it now, and there’s one line in particular that just eviscerates me. But it’s a song that carries so much of me within it, and I can’t get over how much is unearthed when I hear those opening windchimes.
Walk Over Me, Dirtie Blonde
This is a driving song. This is a windows-down, hair-loose, screaming-on-the-highway song. Objectively, it’s not an amazing song, but I love sing-screaming about men and the garbage feelings that goes with dating them, and this song really scratches that itch.
The Story of Us, Taylor Swift
I burned through this song pretty quickly, and honestly, it doesn’t carry the same weight that many of these other songs do. But I listened to this song on repeat enough that my roommates knew it, and I’m pretty sure I told them that I’ve never heard silence quite this loud was one of the most profound lyrics of our generation. Like “Walk Over Me,” it is also about garbage feelings about men.
June, Briston Maroney
This is one of many pandemic songs I had on repeat. But this is the one that started it all. Back in March when we found out that the world was closing and our jobs were on the line, I anxiety crafted (who doesn’t). I invited no one and locked myself in one of the buildings and cut up a bunch of old books and made super angsty and super strange poetry collages that I later hung up in our house and made everyone look at. This is the only song I listened to while I made those collages. Just this. On repeat. For hours. The chorus to this song is a list of questions, and, wow, let me tell you, they hit hard.
All I Want for Christmas, Mariah Carey
As a general rule, I don’t like Christmas music, but I make a sweeping exception for this gem. This and Death Cab’s rendition of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” are all you need for the holiday season. Or for any season, really.
Girls Like You, The Naked and Famous
I listened to this song endlessly in India. The majority of my classmates took Hindi lessons every afternoon, but I decided a better use of my time was to simply walk around and be a part of the landscape. So every afternoon I went on a walk. It was the same figure-eight loop and I walked it twice, sometimes more. I always walked alone. I was careful to avoid troops of macaques and was always excitedly searching for the leopard that was rumored to be roaming about. Sometimes I’d pop in the small general store and buy candy on my way back. The store was located in Chardukan, char meaning “four” and dukan meaning “store,” which tells you all you need to know about the retail scene up there. Walking alone in India was not advised, but some of my favorite memories from my four months there are times I was alone and out in the world, the Himalayas unfolding endlessly around me. Sound-wise, this song feels like a precursor to my love affair with Heart in a Cage, a steady beat that thumps along and carries you with it.
This is another pandemic song that I listened to a disturbing amount. The song itself is disturbing because it parallels the pandemic so well. Too well, in fact. Some of the lines include: I don’t know if I’m washing my hands enough and I’m sleeping later every day and wasting a year in the garage like a gravel pit. It’s just too spot on, ya know? Uncomfortably so.
Me & My Dog, boygenius (Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker)
This was my top song of 2020. Spotify did not hold back this year. This is the song you listened to most, Spotify told me, and you listened to it a stupid amount of times in a very small window, and that window was the weeks you were the saddest out of this entire forsaken year, and all your sadness was self-inflicted, you should have known better, but congrats, you’ve listened to 2,043 minutes of Phoebe Bridgers this year, which lands you in the top .5% of listeners! (Fun fact: 2,043 minutes is 34 hours of music and what’s hilarious and sad is that all of those 34 hours come from listening to the same 9 songs. I can’t even name all the tracks from Punisher. . .) Anyway, this song has no chorus and just tells a story, which is one of my favorite song formats. I can understand why people are underwhelmed with this song and think it’s overhyped, but if you’re the right type of person going through the wrong type of thing, it’ll grip your bones and shake them in just the right way.
Somebody That I Used to Know, Gotye feat. Kimbra
Everyone listened to this song on repeat. Be honest. It’s great. It made it to mainstream radio, but it was indie enough—what instrument is even playing in the beginning?—to still be interesting after 50 listens. It’s such a lowkey rage song, and I love it.
Vindicated, Dashboard Confessional
Knowing a handful of Dashboard Confessional songs by heart is probably the most millenial thing about me. I used to have Dashboard lyrics in my AIM bio back in middle school, which dates me in so many ways. Back then, I found their lyrics enthralling, although now I feel like they are too vague and Rupi Kaur-like (sorry). But seriously, trace the moment, fall forever, is a lyric that sounds cool but is not as insightful as 7th grade me thought it was. I spent a gross amount of time looking at song lyrics this summer, and let me tell you, Dashboard has nothing on Andrew Bird or Fiona Apple. But that’s a post for another time. . .
(. . .maybe. If you think I am committing to anything or making any future plans at this point, you are insane.)