1. Elite Gymnastics | Minneapolis Belongs To You
Few Electronic songs make me as emotional as this track, from the brilliant RUIN album, does. The sonic landscape is simultaneously sinister and heavenly, like walking around Shibuya at night except you’re alone and high on Xanax. And the lyrics face head-on something I think about all too often; whether or not I will be remembered after I die. The lyrics When you're dead, the hardest hit will be the girls who aren't legal to drink, the months of grief they'll have to fight through so they can grow up to be just like you, hits hardest. Sometimes it scares me to think that I could someday be well-known or even famous, subjectively, for what I’m doing, because I don’t know my life is worth praising and influencing others. This song embodies that but in a way that comforts me. Like, oh, the World won’t stop for me when I’m gone. Being important is scary, but that may change.
2. Cocteau Twins | Cherry-Coloured Funk
On the other end, there’s this song where the lyrics don’t really mean anything to me at all, but Liz Fraser’s voice makes my heart soar. The high notes at the chorus get me every time. I also love that guitar tone, makes it sound like it’s bouncing around an ice cave, which is precisely the location I picture myself when I listen to this song.
3. The Microphones | The Moon
I love how sloppy and buzzy the guitars are, and the way that the entire song is really a confused, unmixed mess. It totally matches the theme of the lyrics; holding onto a memory that would be equally painful to try and flush out as it would be to continue letting it play in your mind. I have far too many of those. I’m waiting for the day I’ll have better memories, with people I love and care about now, to replace the ones that haunt me with how annoyingly beautiful they are. P.S. Phil Elverum is probably my soulmate.
4. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu | Tsukematsukeru
J-Pop, especially everything produced by Yasutaka Nakata (Perfume, Capsule, Meg, etc), is some kind of incomprehensible Magic. I love the Maximalism of this song in particular—the bagpipes, the xylophones, the cellos. REALLY fun to speed up 25% and dance to alone in your room. Not exactly a guilty pleasure, but I may be a little bit embarrassed if my headphones got pulled out of my laptop on the bus and this was playing.
5. Sigur Rós | Untitled #1 (Vaka)
If I could I would just make this a list of my top 10 Sigur Rós (Hoppípolla/Með Blóðnasir, Samskeyti, Glósóli, Hljómalind, Rembihnútur, Svo Hljótt, Ágætis Byrjun, Salka, Árá Batur, and this one—oops), but this one takes the cake for most emotionally heart-wrenching. I had been listening to it since I was maybe 7 and then in a High School film studies class I watched the Music Video for the first time, and it fucking destroyed me. The kid dies in the end! There’s no way that could’ve ended well. I thought about it for weeks. Just the way that Sigur Rós takes all these shimmering, major sounds—Jónsi’s falsetto, violins, bells—and then out of it comes this stark, hopeless dirge… I don’t know how they do it. It blows me away. The last radio mix I did, I mashed this song up with Drake’s Marvin’s Room and put a bit of dialogue from the Finnish cartoon The Moomins in the beginning, where Moomin’s best friend Snufkin is going south for the Winter and leaving him behind and Moomin is begging to come with him. It gave the song a whole new context for me, suddenly those Hopelandic lyrics had a hidden meaning.
6. Wilco | Impossible Germany
I’m not really into guitar solos at all, but I maintain that my two favorite solos of all time are from Daft Punk’s Digital Love (even though it’s technically keytar) and Impossible Germany, specifically the Live from Mobile, Alabama version. Besides the fact that this song is just super soulful and soothing, Nels Cline is an underrated experimental genius and his contribution to this track proves that ten times over. The lyrics are about Communication breakdown, mixed in this dangerous cocktail of Distance and Personal Aspiration where relationships can seem nearly impossible. I think a lot about what it would be like to give up on all of the possibility of touring and long studio sessions and, basically, have a public career as a musician, just so I can spend some uninterrupted time close to people I care about. What am I willing to throw away for Love?
7. Drake | Over My Dead Body
I know these lyrics by heart. I first heard this song driving into LAX at the beginning of Thanksgiving break 2011, to go to New York City. It was 5 am and the sky was on fire, the air smelled like jet fuel and french fries. A girl had kissed me for the first time just a week before, at my birthday party, and my world was, at least for the moment, illuminated. This song doesn’t have anything to do with Love, but I connected with it more than any other song on Take Care. All of the above elements cemented this image in my head and it's one of my favorite memories to return to.
8. Grouper | Clearing
Another travel song, this time I heard it first driving through the Death Valley at night on the Winter solstice. There’s really not all that much to say about this one. This is probably the best song I can think of to listen to while you lay down in the middle of the desert on a starry night and cup your hands around your eyes so you can pretend you’re floating in Space.
9. Grimes | REALiTi
As I type this, I’ve listened to this song 30 times in the past week. I’m just in awe of her presence, as a performer and a fellow human. The instrumental, kind of like the Elite Gymnastics one (unsuprisingly), perfectly straddles the line between Light and Joyful and Dark and crushingly lonely. Her voice is so genuine and I’m in love with all of it’s little quirks. I have to include it in this list because I’m sure it has lasting power for me. I’ve also danced to this song in my room a whole lot. It’s my favorite pastime.
10. Foxes In Fiction | Ontario Gothic
I listened to this song on repeat last August when I quit my Summer job, died my hair red, and spent the remainder of my money traveling all around Southern California going to DIY shows. I specifically remember walking through Pomona during a humid rainstorm with a handful of new friends during a festival at the local American Legion Hall. Simple moments like that call for simply beautiful songs.