Yup. That’s me with the headphones. I am happy to report that most days over the past year, you could still find me with headphones. Luckily for the city of Portland and humanity at large, I am also happy to report I now usually have pants on when I rock headphones. Usually. Sadly, a Donald Duck shirt hasn’t worked its way back into my wardrobe. Edgy, fashion choices notwithstanding the picture captures something deeply about who I am: I’ve always loved music.
A former record store employee and a sort of DJ for a hot minute, music has always been a constant. On a deeper less dance around your room in your diaper kind of way, music also provided an escape from a childhood and an early life that was complicated at best. Like any relationship, however, my love affair with music has been full of ups and downs. So tied in with drug use and my destruction, music wasn’t just an escape but sometimes an enabler. Then when I first got sober, music was my therapist tasked with making me crying or feel supported (thank you forever, Dolly Parton and Jenny Lewis). Even a few years into sobriety, I had a hard time going to concerts or clubs because it still felt triggering and like we needed to reinvent what we meant to one another. We hadn’t broken up but we were strained. Like 2011 Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel. But I’m happy to report that 2018 saw my relationship with music back in full bloom and we’ve never been happier.
I kicked off 2019 by renewing my Spotify and that was the game changer. With a long commute, I needed something to fill the void. Spotify not only scratched that itch, it reawakened the music lover in me. I wasn’t only just returning to old favorite artist but searching out new ones. Thank god for whatever mind reading analytics that control Spotify because I was able to discover tons of amazing artists. I basically anything that sounds like 1980’s synth pop had sex with a candy store and birth some new weird Euro baby and guess what? Spotify has lots of artist that check that box! My work in the world of mental health and addiction is challenging at best so fizzy but thoughtful pop worked wonders after intense work days. The complete ear cupcakes that are the entire Kim Petras catalogue came just in time. Petras, for those who don’t know, is a world-famous German trans pop sensation who makes the catchiest songs in the galaxy. Ditto the respective confections for Troye Sivan and Arian Grande were just the sweet treats I needed. Added bonus? They even have a stellar duet with each other that has an amazing video!
But it wasn’t all bubblegum and unicorns in my headphones. Your boy likes it thoughtful and edgy too. Take for example, “Nobody” by Mitski. Maybe the smartest song to capture the isolation of our era with an unforgettable beat, the song is the rare pop beast that is emotionally intelligent and undeniably memorable. Someone on the internet off the cuff described it as the “Creep” by Radiohead for this generation and it’s hard to argue with that. It’s that good of a song. My favorite record of the year So Sad, So Sexy by Lyyke Li does the impossible: it takes the dark subjects of grief, loss and heartbreak and puts it to 90’s trap R&B. The record is a complete thought and one that feels timely.
Yet if I was to pick an artist whose work reflected my romance and return to music it would be Robyn. 8 years on the making, Honey by the Swedish is so lovingly crafted and deep, that it feels like she wrote it just for the listener. And in fact she did. Robyn has said in several interviews how she took her absence seriously and wanted to make a record for her fans. With Honey’s beautiful beats and thoughtful lyrics, it shows. One track in particular, “Because it’s in the Music” gets me on the deepest of levels. The track is all about hearing a song that takes you back to a person and moment that was devastating but how you need the song and love it anyway. Goddamn can I identify with that.
My work as a writer has always been deeply inspired by music and the sounds of 2018 pushed it to another level. Not only did music help me finish my book (an odd playlist of power ballads helped me cross the finish line when I was legit losing my shit) but it’s serving as the basis for my new project. A few years ago I wrote a play of monologues called “Your Heart is a Radio” all based on songs. It was structured like a mixtape. It was a solid idea and I’m still in love with that title but something was missing. That something was me and my personal connection music. Long story really short, with the help of my husband, that play is becoming an essay collection in 2019 and I couldn’t be more excited. But I’m equally excited to keep listening and to keep falling in love with music.
Below find my favorite songs and albums of 2018 and feel free to check out my full playlist of favorite songs of the year on Spotify! Also? Please tell me what you listened to and loved in 2018.