Every year I keep an auditory scrapbook by dragging the song I listened to the most (or that meant the most to be) that month into it’s own playlist. At the end of the year I have a soundtrack for the year. Years later (this is the 11th year I’ve done this) I can go through an old annual playlist and know exactly what I was doing and feeling each month because of how visceral the memory of loving and relating to music is. Here are few songs that helped me get through 2017:
January — ‘Lost in my Mind’ by The Head and the Heart
I’d gone to this concert a few months earlier with an old friend and had one of the best nights of that year dancing and being affectionate and the way you feel when you’re around someone who knows you and loves you and makes you feel like the best version of yourself. I don’t see her often so it was novel for me to remember feeling like this. This month we also started working on the Thought Catalog magazine in which I had an essay about when I lived with this friend on a mountain as part of an intentional community of students with no wifi and wood burning stoves in all our cabins. The Head and the Heart was the perfect kind of music for me to romanticize the life I had there and the people I loved and who loved me and how lonely I feel for a community like that sometimes.
This month I was also obsessed with this Phillip Roth quote and thinking about how I could live my life like this:
“I read till all hours if I want to. If I get up at five and I can’t sleep and I want to work, I go out and I go to work. So I work, I’m on call. I’m like a doctor and it’s an emergency. And I’m the emergency.” — Phillip Roth, Into the Clear
I don’t know if I’ve made that much progress over the year of figuring out how to be in more of a community again, or how to orient my life so that it feels like “I’m the emergency”. I don’t know how to do that on a big, real, permanent scale. I made a secret facebook group for my writer friends to do peaks and valleys every week or so, which has been really, really good. I went to Montana on another trip that was meant to be more about being with people than it was about being on vacation. I’m trying to do more.
February — ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Forever’ by Zayn and Taylor Swift
I went on a yoga retreat way up north with a friend and we had fun driving up there but then on the way home we kind of had to drive in silence for about 45 minutes before we could finally turn the radio on because every sensory experience felt like overload after 4 days of being without a phone or listening to music or doing anything but yoga and reading quietly. We’re both Taylor Swift fans and I love the moment of a good pop song where you hear it everywhere you go and it just makes you happy. It was a really good memory to be silly and sing along to this song with someone after being so serious for so long.
March — ‘In Your Atmosphere’ by John Mayer
I watched John’s live concert Where the Light is like 40 times this month, particularly him performing this song. I was thinking about how I need to be more hopeful than nostalgic.
In the song, John says:
“Wherever I go, whatever I do, I wonder where I am in my relationship to you. Wherever you go, wherever you are, I watch your life play out in pictures from afar.”
I was thinking about how much I hate that I have to be on Facebook. I hate how much people can look me up and read about me even though I also think that for me personally being transparent about my life is one of the healthiest things I do on a consistent basis, and something that helps me learn and grow faster than if I weren’t doing it. And Facebook is so important, it’s so much free information. I want to be a commercially successful writer and every day when I am on Facebook I am getting a free education in what makes people want to read or look at something.
April — ‘Love on the Weekend’ by John Mayer
I spent this entire month thinking about a vacation I took the north shore of Lake Superior the previous winter and how magical it was and every night I was there I took a bath and opened the window so I could hear the waves crashing while I was cozy in the tub.
This was a really difficult month because I was dealing with a lot of personal stuff and this song helped me escape and think about the simple, good times I’ve had in the past and will have again in the future.
May — ‘I Love You Always Forever’ by Betty Who
I discovered Betty Who because she sings on one of my favorite Troye Sivan tracks and I think all I did in May is space out and listen to this on repeat.
June — ‘Higher’ by Carly Rae Jepsen
I think the only people in the world who aren’t Carly Rae Jepsen fans are the people who haven’t heard the first 45 seconds of ‘Higher’. I listened to Emotion Side B on repeat all month and particularly one day when my cousin and I were going to a beach in Wisconsin which involves an incredibly idyllic drive through the river valley and around some cliffs before you get to this little beach town on the St. Croix. It was such a peaceful and happy day and I think I was feeling really happy and hopeful all month.
July — ‘Lust for Life’ by Lana Del Rey and The Weeknd
I went to see Ryan Adams in a neighboring city and didn’t plan it out very well so I ended up getting a ride home from a friend who didn’t even go with me and we ended up driving around for a really long time listening to music and talking. It was a very July Forever kind of night and we listened to this song but it was also just in the same howl-at-the-moon kind of vibe.
August — ‘All I Really Want’ by Alanis Morissette
The only things I did in August were work and walk around the lake by my house and listen to Joe Rogan and My Favorite Murder. But I liked this song I rediscovered, especially the remastered version. It’s a very bossy demand for reciprocity and it made me feel very in control of everything around me as I spent an entire month against a deadline for a 25k word project I wanted to have done by September.
September — ‘Free/Into the Mystic’ by Zac Brown Band
This is kind of cheating because it’s two songs in one, but I was listening to a lot of live recordings this month and went to Montana and just had a very happy, chill month which is reflected in this track.
October — ‘Over When it’s Over’ by Eric Church
I don’t know how I discovered this song but the more times I listened to it, the more times I needed to listen to it. It was a really stressful month and I was working so, so much and when I’m stressed out I romanticize songs about breakups. It just feels cathartic to think about the end of whatever period of stress I’m going through even when it has nothing to do with a romantic relationship.
November — ‘Oh Baby’ by LCD Soundsystem
I think if you opened up my body and a song came out it would be this one. It’s a very Chrissy song, very emo and depressing but in a way that is fun to dance to. I went to an LCD Soundsystem show this month and all my friends left or spent the entire show on a biz call in the lobby and everyone was super apologetic about it and I was like “um I am having the time of my life you’re fine.” I was alone in a crowd dancing to some of my favorite music. There are very few things that make me happier than that kind of night.
And through the rest of the year, there were some other tracks that were there for me as well. You can find your own Spotify year in review here and work backwards to make yours.