Music is a weird thing.
My way of listening to music baffles my boyfriend, who prefers to listen to albums all the way through in their given order. He knows the music he likes and that’s what he listens to. Apparently, I’m a random music barbarian that hops from song to song without a second thought.
I view music as little windows to different times in my life. There are days I will listen to music for nostalgic reasons, and usually it changes based on the season. Sometimes there are very specific songs that my brain craves because it takes me to an entirely different moment, and that’s not always a bad thing.
For example, “Give a Little Love” by Noah and the Whale takes me straight back to senior year of college. I remember wearing my favorite green boots that gave me awful blisters until they were broken in, and the smell of dust and falling leaves on my walks to and from class. There was a cool tree I would go out of my way to walk past simply because it reminded me of an Ent from “Lord of the Rings.” And of course let’s not forget the vague fear of getting hit by a truck crossing the street from campus
to the neighborhood south of the football field. This all may sound ridiculous, but as soon as that song plays I’m back in Menomonie, Wisconsin and things were a lot less scary.
The way I find new music to listen to is kind of trash. It’s literally my Spotify discover weekly list that is produced for me each week based off of whatever random stuff I’ve listen to in the past seven days. Please don’t judge me for this. I don’t have the time or patience to sift through lots of songs to find specific artist, so I mostly let the app do the work for me.
Every Monday at work brings an opportunity to listen to the new stuff Spotify thinks I would enjoy. A large percentage of it is filtered through my brain and leaves no impact. If it really sucks I skip it. But if it’s “good,” I will add it to my current random ‘things I kind of like’ playlist. These playlists are interesting to go through once in a while because it’s a way to see what I was interested in musically over the past few years. When one playlist gets boring I simply start another one with whatever crap seems decent at the moment.
My music taste is likely not good to most people. It is folksy and punk/rock, indie pop, electronic, and probably fairly obnoxious all at once. Sometimes there is stuff I save specifically to listen to later. Sometimes I listen to the same song several times in a row to decide if it’s worthy of my current random playlist. Right now I am in kind of an electronic/house phase because it’s easy to listen to at work, where my brain is split multiple different ways and I have to be able to answer the phone fairly frequently.
If I’m feeling really wild I’ll listen to an artist or genre radio to see what kind of randomness can be collected next. It’s pretty unorganized, but the eventual plan is to have specific playlists based on different moods. Right now a few favorites include “art thoughts” with more relaxed stuff, “new noise” with techno/electronic crap, “ladyjams” with some favorite female artists, and “not so crazy after all,” my current random playlist.
This vague attempt at sorting these songs and genres out is one of the few aspects of my life that I relinquish control over. If I like it, I listen to it until it’s boring, and it may never get fully sorted out. The majority of other things I do is planned out or sorted neatly, but for some reason this is the one part of my life that is unorganized. How do you organize music? It means something different to everyone, right?
There are odd, serendipitous moments that occur with music. Certain songs playing at specific times often make a moment more impactful. It’s not always a happy thing, but it makes some moments more memorable.
Last fall my family was going through a rough time, and I distinctly remember leaving my mom’s house in Lakeville late on a weekday night and beginning the drive back to Owatonna. I plugged the aux cord into my phone (my car is not evolved enough for bluetooth), turned on my previous favorite random playlist, “it’s a time,” and started the drive home. Due to general stress and anxiety I sort of started crying as soon as the car was in the street. The song “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” by Car Seat Headrest began playing.
Now, this is by no means my favorite band, and I’m not a huge fan of the ending of the song or majority of the other songs they create. But somehow it was very right for the moment.
Hopefully everyone will know what I’m talking about with this because it’s kind of a weird experience when it happens. It’s completely by chance, and kind of a “take what you want from it” sort of thing. I choose to take a mental note of these moments, mostly because if it’s a fairly decent song and a memorable time then it should be remembered regardless of the situation.
There are certain songs that are painful to listen to as well. We all know those. The ‘ex-significant other’ songs. The ‘angry as a teenager’ songs. The ‘I am very sad’ songs.There are specific songs for driving, songs for things like cooking or making art, and ones for absorbing into your heart and soul just because they resonate well. Then there are heartbreak songs, for various reasons. Fighting songs. Victory songs. Depression songs.
We all carry our own secret playlists with us.
It’s good to take note of this. It seems to help with whatever healing or growing process needs to occur, for whatever reason. When I was able to listen to “Calling You” by Blue October without having a full blown panic attack I knew that my previous three year relationship with someone from a long time ago was fully processed. (That song is actually kind of horrible now. Blue October had some pretty good songs once in a while, but I fell off their bandwagon many years back and haven’t listened to them recently.)
Then there are the deeply nostalgic songs and albums from the growing up years; those bands that were obsessed over because
they were your band. Mine was My Chemical Romance from my good old emo/scene phase that was a thing in the mid 2000’s. I knew way too much about that band as well as almost every word to Black Parade, arguably their best album. So that’s a fun fact.
The phrase “throwback” is tossed around a lot with popular songs from years ago, and honestly half of the time I forget that songs I enjoyed in middle school are over 10 years old now. At a rather sketchy bar recently some rando decided to play “Look At Me Now” ft Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes by Chris Brown. My friend looked at me and was just straight up like, “Well, this is a throwback.” And, sadly, we both knew a lot more of the lyrics to that song that we would probably like to admit. Also, Chris Brown is super gross.
Am I allowed to have a favorite song? I’ve decided to go against the notion of absolute favorites. There are too many songs and artists which are enjoyed for too many various reasons. Some artists are beloved for their older aesthetic (early albums from Death Cab for Cutie and The Format, for example), while others are tolerated for a select few songs (such as “Your Rocky Spine” by Great Lake Swimmers). A lot of times I’ll dislike an artist but a enjoy a few of their musical endeavors and only listen to those.
It becomes a lot more interesting to let music take its course over time. Those playlists, both the ones on Spotify and the ones only I remember, will be a part of me until they aren’t. Many songs will be forgotten and left behind as new music replaces it. Perhaps they will be revisited at some point, but its impact will not be the same as it was initially. It will become nostalgic instead of fresh, and maybe I won’t even remember why it was deemed good in the first place. Maybe I’ll remember it all instantly. Who’s to say. All I know is that it’s good for me right now, and that’s enough.
Renee Brown is a freelance writer living in Southern Minnesota who really does have more interests than being a member of her generation, but you’d have to ask her about that. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JinjahSnap.
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