Enjoying: 12 Songs That Got Me Through the Year
My Year 33 has been weird and tough and uplifting and depressing at the same time. I’m still untangling how much of this is because of personal events, how much is because of weird internal chemical imbalances and how much is geopolitical.
But whatever the reasons were for needing it, I listened to a lot more music this year. It wasn’t really the voracious Pitchfork/Stereogum/music blog devouring of my early-20s, but my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist has been generally pretty good to me. Lots of things went into Favorites. And of the things that went to Favorites, these were the twelve I loved the most.
(It’s not tied to a month, or listed in order, or anything. Twelve’s just an arbitrary number I settled on because ~I like it~)
1. Autumn Love - Death Cab for Cutie
I probably listened to Transatlantacism way more than any other album in college, due in large part to it coming out just as I had a big ol’ teenage heartbreak my sophomore year. As I’ve grown cynical towards earnest expressions of emotion, Death Cab kind of fell out my rotation. Then this song came out this month, and maybe we’ve both aged and gone through enough so that the heartbreak sounds relevant again. It’s crazy that this song only came out this month - I feel like I’ve heard it forever.
2. Drive Away - The Brummies feat. Kacey Musgraves
Having listened to the rest of The Brummies’ songs, I found them a little too twee country pop for my liking (If you’re a Mumford & Sons fan, you might enjoy their work). But with this song, and its featuring star Kacey Musgrave’s, you get a beautiful harmonic duo that elevates this chill folksy throwback into something genuinely moving.
3. Girls@ - Joey Purp feat. Chance the Rapper
And now for something completely different! I will listen to just about anything by Chance The Rapper, and lines like "Where all the girls with the book in the club? / With the readin' glasses on, gettin' shook in the club / Readin' Ta-Nehisi Coates, hummin’ SpottieOttieDope / With the "why I let 'em drag me here?" look in the club” makes this probably the funnest club song to come out in 2016 to make it to my playlist about a year later. Joey Purp’s cool too I guess.
4. Saturdays - Twin Shadows feat. HAIM
This song is for white wine dancing
5. Nice Guy - courtship.
There’s something about setting the whiny lyrics to a fun poppy beat that makes this song way better than it should be. Like the fact that you're bopping your head & clapping your hands to the words "Why so hard to be a nice guy? / Could've had a nice life / Friendliness went out of style” calls out the absurdity of the premise, bumping the banality away from what could’ve been Eliot Rogers-flavored misogynism and firmly into the territory of “LOL this dude.”
6. Raingurl - yaeji
Since we’re on a dancing kick, this bass heavy party anthem has been my go to exercise track (I don’t go out very much anymore ;_;). I love that it’s by an Asian-American female producer. I love that it unabashedly mixes Korean & English, but not as K-Pop Koreinglish. I love that it drops the words “family planning” into its chorus, though I’d urge all club kids to maybe still fuck with it. It’s kinda important.
7. All the stars - kendrick lamarr feat. sza
Black Panther was a fun popcorn movie that also, for the first time, introduced my parents to how much it sucks to be black in America in a way where they wanted to keep talking about it. That is only tangentially related to how much this song bangs, but I thought it was important to mention because the fact that this song bangs is probably pretty obvious.
8. karaoke - big freedia feat. lizzo
Whenever I hear this song, I have two emotions: I am thrilled by Big Freedia & Lizzo. I am mad that no karaoke I’ve been to in China has it yet.
9. call the police - lcd soundsystem
Over the last decade++, the internet has been able to record how many times I play a single song, and LCD Soundsystem’s All My Friends is at the top of that list. Every couple of years, I end up playing it on repeat for hours. It’s something about its length, the jangling piano mono-key, the New Order-esque guitar melody, the tension in the lyrics between wanting to hold on to your youthful nihilism as you feel yourself aging out of it.
Anyway. James Murphy retired and then came back almost before we could register that he retired, but American Dream is worth more than what was made of all of those shenanigans. And 'call the police’ is a track that has that similar addictiveness to All My Friends, and the kind of social commentary that keeps you guessing at what exactly it is about, while you know what it’s all generally about.
10. lucky 88 - speedy ortiz
This new album came out just a couple of months ago, but I love it, and this song from it. It reminds me of me discovering the 90s in the early-aughts. (Hey, in the real 90s, I was in Hong Kong/China and had very little access to record stores outside of a Costco during a California summer).
11. Figures - Jessie Reyez
A lot of the last year-and-a-half has been devoted to tangling with the breakdown of a seven-year relationship. Well, I guess not really a break down so much as a quick fade out - much more of a whimper than a bang. People bizarrely tend to view cheating as some sort of end all and be all of a relationship, the literal worst that can happen. I’ve never cheated. I’m mostly sure nobody’s cheated on me. But if there’s something I learned from all that time scrambling to make sense of what was happening in this last relationship, it’s that when someone acts like they just don’t really care anymore, that’s pretty hurtful too. Anyway, I like this song because, unlike most breakup songs, it’s never particularly specific about how the dude sucks. He just kinda dId, and I wasted my time because I cared too much, and also yes I have always been supremely confident that there are many other men & women out there who’d be interested in me, you jerk.
12. Forget to forget - shy martin
Someone somewhere called this song a “pristine pop moment.” It’s like a great gif - a fun, engaging bauble with limited meaning that loops very well. It’s only about 3 minutes, but if someone put this on repeat, it’s possible nobody would notice until an hour passed by and someone else was like “God, this song is kinda long, isn’t it?” Maybe that’s why I like it so much? It’s like meditative dance music.