Whenever I do work*, I like listening to the same song on repeat for an indefinite period of time. Doing this can be really helpful for getting into a rhythm, and being able to maintain a focus comparable to that exhibited by the Hollywood version of Silicon Valley guys — completely locked in with those giant headphones, despite the fact that some guy named Bennett is yelling about how awesome he is at Madden a few feet away.
This list is a little bit specific — I’m no psychologist (though I did almost minor in psychology in college, which definitely makes me internet-qualified), but a lot of this flow state-type stuff often seems to center around specific emotions and moods, which oftentimes center around personal memories and individual circumstance. In other words, no song is gonna do the exact same thing for two people.
This article then, isn’t so much a “listen to these songs, MY music taste” as it is a “think about these moods, see if they trigger anything on your end, and then judge me for my easily mockable music taste.” With that, some songs:
1. The Quiet Screaming (Brand New vs. Dashboard Confessional): The Legion Of Doom
As this article explains rather well, we have a very strong emotional connection with the songs we listened to as teenagers. Basically, the songs we listen to between the ages of 12-22 “matter” more on a neurological level, just because they’re inextricably associated with personal formation, which is a less eye-rolly way of saying “discovering who we are.”
As someone who spends a pathetic amount of reminiscing about hanging out in Wendys parking lots, I came of age listening to these two bands, fully embracing their brand of hyper-intense personal introspection. The Legion Of Doom’s excellent mix seems to put these on another level — providing a fully-accessible passageway to last decade, while creating something that’s also exists in it’s own moment.
2. Divinity ft. Amy Millan – Porter Robinson
EDM in many ways is the new emo, in the sense that it’s a type of music that demands full-on immersion; it’s either not for you, or you find yourself completely absorbed in wherever it seems to be going. This is song feels thoughtfully aspirational — it’s not obnoxiously rave-y, but has enough energy to elevate whatever your doing into something that feels meaningful — which makes it a great song to blast in your headphones amidst an otherwise quiet workspace.
3. Big In Japan ft. Idoling! – Martin Solveig, Dragonette
One time, when I spent a semester in Denmark, I stayed out until 10am. I’m not telling you this to be cool (ok, a little to be cool), but because it’s a very powerful memory that, for whatever reason, is always triggered by this song.
Memory triggers like these are always great — they stimulate this feeling of high-octane accomplishment that make you feel like you can achieve anything, so long as you figure out how to apply that sentiment to every other aspect of life. Which of course is impossible, but that’s part of the allure.
4. Sirens – Angels & Airwaves
During my freshman year of college, I once took a long walk to clear my mind. I was going through a lot of #stress at the time, and just needed to breathe autumn air and remember that the while problems you have at age 18 are in fact important, they can mostly be remedied by sitting on a ledge and being kind of cold because you totally should’ve worn a jacket.
Anyway, I was doing all this and Sirens came on my iPod shuffle. It managed to do the trick, and thus has cemented itself in the rotation. If I were to guess, everybody has a Sirens.
5. Pressure – Nadia Ali, Starkillers, & Alex Kenji
When embarking on any sort of career path, failure is always an option. Not that anyone’s seeking to actively fail, it’s simply the very real alternative that most of us have and will experience on some level.
Pressure seems to activate that reality, and motivates against it.
6. Kavinsky – Nightcall
Drive is an excellent movie. If you disagree with my very firm, non-nuanced opinion, you are totally wrong, and you probably deserve to be cuttingly insulted by complete strangers who know nothing of your life circumstance.
Everyone has a aspirational movie soundtrack. Find yours, and find the song that represents the pinnacle.
7. Magic – B.o.B. ft. Rivers Cuomo
Fun, light, uptempo. Perfect for when you’re about to hit a wall, and need to power through for another fifteen minutes.
8. Peace Train – Cat Stevens
Playlists are often powerful because of juxtaposition. Much like a well thought out meal, each song has the ability to inform or complement other songs.
Playing Cat Stevens on repeat after things that definitely aren’t Cat Stevens is like pairing fine wine with Cheez-Its. (It’s excellent).
9. You’re Not The One – Sky Ferreira
You’re Not The One is about not being totally over your ex, despite being fully aware that the ex has moved on. You can argue that the same sentiment applies in career fields; maybe you’ve spent a few years really going for something you thought you were gonna devote your life to, only to eventually realize that the track isn’t for you.
(Which makes this great to listen to when swirling with self-doubt, unsure as to why you’ve devoted the last five years writing a novel no one’s gonna read.)
10. Momentum – Dimitri Vegas, Regi, Like Mike
You need momentum, and this helps convince you that you’re building some. Gotta appreciate the assist.