It’s that time of year again—the time whenI put together a list of my favorite songs of the year. Two observations: (1) this was the year of the woman—lots of good female vocalists this year; (2) I tend to really like music that is slow and relaxing. I suppose that makes me a thoroughly lame adult now (sorry sixteen-year-old self, you were a person who hated this kind of stuff). The best explanation for this change, I think, is this: when I was sixteen, I thought my life was boring and I felt less bored when I listened to grunge era rock and roll. Now as a graduate student, I feel busier than ever, so I take comfort in tunes that slow things down. Well, whatever. The order by which they are arranged is incidental only to flow of the playlist—no rankings here.
1. Drive Darling [acoustic] by Boy. This one is for the long road trip my wife and I made from California to South Carolina. Very fitting for the new adventure.
2. A Pound of Flesh by Radical Face. Simply gorgeous. From an album chock full of melancholy storytelling. Favorite lyric: “Don’t you dare hold me back.”
3. Human by Daughter. For those who rightly or wrongly feel like wretches. Soothing and easy to identify with. Good beat too.
4. A Grief Observed by Heath McNease. The best songwriting I’ve heard in awhile. From an album reflecting on themes found in C.S. Lewis’ writing. Reflects the complexity of grief, which cries out to God in both rage and trust. Heard it after my wife’s step mom died.
5. Churchhill by Samantha Crain. Subtle touches everywhere in the arrangement.
6. Vou by Sophie Ellen. Makes everything stop.
7. Tourniquet by Hem. The perfect lullaby after a long day of driving (this year’s theme, I guess).
8. Sandy River Belle by April Verch. The clog dancing to banjo will make you want to be from Appalachia.
9. Second Child, Restless Child by the Oh Hellos. A barn-burner (at least for this rather sedate playlist).
10. Lion Heart by Emily Wolfe. I like the “ca-ca-ca-cause” part at 1:42. Favorite lyric: “They gocha on a leash with the pseudo-science.”
11. Falling Bough by Kiev. Groovy.
12. Things Are Alright by Lauren O’Connell. Good for when you’re feeling blue.
13. Cornelia and Jane by Yo La Tengo. How could I not have a Yo La Tengo song on this list? Enough said.
14. Hard to Find by The National. In the midst of the dreamy-sounding melody I especially like the Violent Fems reference: “You can all just kiss of into the air.”
15. July by Boy. From the album of the year. Reminds me of all our California friends who came to our going-away party the summer before we moved to South Carolina. Miss those people.