I got to thinking this week about everything that I’m thankful for. The list is pretty much endless, and it encompasses a lot of things, but I noticed that there are a lot of songs and albums and bands that I’m unendingly grateful for. My obvious next step, then, was to write new post (finally) about all the tracks that I hold dear to my heart and that deserve a bit of a shout out for that. Tis the season.
This is definitely not a conclusive list, mostly because I’m constantly consuming music or rediscovering songs that I was once obsessed with. This is an amalgamation of tracks that I’ve loved for years, songs that I’ve only recently discovered, and melodies that have been around for decades and adored by thousands of people. Not only does this list span years of music, it also spans lots of pivotal moments in my life and times when I desperately needed to call on the powers of these tracks. I cringe just thinking about how cheesy it is to say that I’m thankful for music, but I am. I suppose spending my childhood listening to ‘Thank You for the Music’ by ABBA had a profound effect on me.
1.‘Dog Days Are Over’ by Florence + The Machine
This song means the world to me. Just listening to the first bars brings me back to the times I’ve seen the band live, the collectiveness of the concert and the passion with which Florence directs the crowd, instructing us all to jump simultaneously, to clap our hands with abandon, and to lose ourselves in the joy. It reminds me of picking my sister up from school and driving down quiet roads singing (yelling, more like) the lyrics at the top of our lungs and feeling absolute freedom, nothing more or less. It reminds me of family sing-alongs, of dancing and clapping our hands and laughing incessantly. I’m thankful for the song, but I’m even more thankful for all of those moments and the sheer happiness they’ve brought me.
2.‘Come All Sufferers’ by Gabriel Bruce
Although this one’s a recent addition to my list of songs I could never live without, it’s also a powerful one. Gabriel Bruce legitimately makes magic in each and every track he puts out, and this one hits me hard. I love the build-up and the message and the lyrics, especially the line “Been taught to want/But never how to create.” The climax of the track, the call to action of it all, is powerful beyond belief, and I do feel like I heal a little every time I listen to it. This song is a proclamation of pain, but it’s also a reminder of the good that comes out of the bad and the collectiveness of human emotion. I’m so thankful that there are people on this earth who make art that reminds us that we can rise up out of the dark.
3.‘I Always Knew’ by The Vaccines
This is my favourite song in the entire world, hands down. I’ve never been in love with anything except a few cities and some bands – The Vaccines included – so I can’t really relate to the content, but this track, the emotion that drips off of it and the honesty that it’s filled with have always stood out to me. I think I adore it so much because of how vulnerable it is, and listening to it five hundred times over (this is not an exaggeration, if anything it’s an understatement) has drilled into me this idea that being vulnerable isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve only ever seen The Vaccines perform live once, but I’ll never forget the instant I heard the first chords of this track and the way in which my heart began to fill up with love and my soul started soaring with happiness. Songs can teach lessons and bring joy to the listener and can inspire a multitude actions and emotions, and I’m thankful that human beings have the ability create things with so much power.
4.‘Babelogue’ by Patti Smith
In all honesty I feel like I could write an entire post about this song alone. It has shaped me in ways that words can’t describe, and it has been a companion throughout the past few years of my artistic journey. The first time I ever heard this track, I was floored by the power that could exist within a woman, and by the sense you get when you listen to it that Patti is bearing everything and not letting an ounce of emotion goes to waste. The woman plows everything she has into her artistic ventures, and the track inspired me to do the exact same – to throw myself off the deep end, to write as if my life depended on it, to paint or draw just because I felt like I needed to. I’m thankful that I’ve found a sweet spot with my creativity, and that I found the push I needed to do it in this track and in Patti herself.
5.‘Hunting’ by The Darcys
I remember hearing this song for the first time and feeling like it was the only time I’d ever actually listened to art. I was used to admiring paintings and sculpture, taking in theatre productions and films, but this was something else. It sounded like art, but more than that, I could nearly feel the artistry that the song is so full of. It has a physicality to it, and that was something new to me and I loved how it felt – so much so that I can vividly remember countless high school bus rides spent listening to the track on repeat. The Darcys create incredibly masterful tracks, and this one is my absolute favourite. I’m so thankful that sonic works of art exist, and that some of them can be as beautiful as this one.
6.‘Father Electricity’ by Julian Casablanas + the Voidz
Tyranny was a huge album for me, and this track has always been one of my favourites – it’s overt political themes and lyrics that allude to the fractures in the system were everything that I wanted to hear as a teenager who was just starting to figure out what I thought about politics and how the world works. Listening to this track, I felt like Julian was rallying us all together, enlightening us a little bit and using his platform to speak out about what felt wrong to him. I hold Julian himself in high esteem, and to hear someone you look up to sing about things that you agree with and relate to was a big deal. I’m thankful that politics have become something that’s no longer out of place in works of art.
7.‘Ones Who Love You’ by Alvvays
This song is straight up magic. I’ve seen Alvvays live four times, and every time they play this I just let myself have a moment. I stand there in the middle of the crowd with my eyes closed and my body swaying back and forth awkwardly and I take it all in. It’s soft and airy but there’s so much meaning and feeling in it, and it’s another one of those tracks that reminds me how powerful honesty and emotion can be. I am beyond thankful for bands who can make the dead of winter feel like the height of summer.
8.‘Blank Generation’ by Richard Hell and the Voidoids
This has been my song for the past couple of years, and I can’t imagine a life where I am not obsessed with it. In my mind Richard Hell is Patti Smith’s male counterpart – he has the same unabashed creativity, the same dreams that can’t be crushed, the same effortless means of existence. All of those traits have been wildly inspirational for me, something to live by and aspire to. This song expresses dissatisfaction and boredom, which is something nobody can help but experience, but it also serves as a reminder that we can create incredible things out of even the worst feelings, and I’m forever thankful for that message.
9.‘I Can’t Win’ by The Strokes
I had my moment with The Strokes six or seven years ago, and the band has been with me ever since. The discovery of the group is almost a rite of passage for any music lover, and I remember spending days and days listening to Is This It and Room on Fire on repeat. ‘I Can’t Win’ has always been a standout for me, and, although it’s pretty pessimistic, I adore it. It’s simple and to the point and I like how truthful and candid the track is. I’m really thankful for my search to find my most authentic self and for the songs that are guiding me while I do it.
10.‘All The Sad Young Men’ by Spector
I heard this song in the spring of last year and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. To say I love it would be in understatement – I think it’s an undeniably incredible piece of music. In all honesty I think I’m just thankful for this song because I adore it so much. There’s no special story or memory attached to it, but it has become a companion and a song I go back to over and over again in the middle of the night when I’m up late because of an overactive imagination or an idea that came to me and that I had to get out before it disappeared. And really, that’s enough. So I’m thankful for songs that feel like best friends, and this one is definitely one of them.
And that’s a wrap. I could add about a thousand more tracks to this list, but these are the ones I hold close to my heart, that serve as reminders or inspiration or lessons. I love them all dearly, and I’m so glad that music is so eternal – I can’t imagine living in a world where songs as good as these ones didn’t exist.