I asked Claire, my best friend from high school, and Jenna, my roommate, to share the songs they listened to this year. This is a celebration of stuff that made us feel things, and of youth and of being girl-women and of friendship and of being the same and of being different. There are repeats! I made a list myself, too, of my five favorite songs that came out this year, in chronological order.
“Seventeen” – Sharon Van Etten, Remind Me Tomorrow
January, at school, it was snowing. Sat on the edge of the landing in K-Ville, my body was stuck there, invested in the argument, in the hurt feeling, drawing out the end like a bad divorce that destroys everything in sweet sloth. I couldn’t leave, and it’s not like I’m the kind of person to leave anyway. Didn’t know whether to sit or stand. Ass felt cold either way. Cutoff mid-sentence, he left and I was alone. Walking out of there, I played “Seventeen” and didn’t cry and that was how I was going to remember this song, and feeling off the rails, and probably falling in love (I’m being dramatic!) with someone who wasn’t in love with me. Yes! It’s true. “Seventeen” is the screw-y feeling of realizing you actually liked the person you used to be.
“Bags” – Clairo, Immunity
June, in California. Drove down the highway listening to “Bags.” I felt trapped, and the song felt, immediately, like a memory. It sounded old even though it was new, made by a pretty girl who got famous off the internet. That summer I tried to find ways to self-medicate with art and isolation and thought that feeling better was just a matter of attitude and action, and I wanted something familiar, and this song felt familiar. Danielle Haim is on drums, Rostam (of Vampire Weekend fame) is on production. Clairo’s gotten much better in the last few years, which means I didn’t have particularly high hopes for her. But we’re the same age and she grew up when I grew up and I know things that she knows, and that’s likable, and she’s likable. I dyed my hair orange because of her. I was just trying to find ways to feel less sad, and I’m big on being nice to things that have helped you, and to loving things that love you back (a song is an echo), even if they hurt your feelings sometimes. “Bags” was a really good way to romanticize my feelings! It was masochism!
“Blood Is Blue” – Billie Marten, Feeding Seahorses by Hand
July, same summer, same drive. My favorite lyric that summer was from this song. Billie sings it like she’s singing about a nap in a garden: “I’m a slaughtered pig and I’m happy to die.” I love her voice and what the words are. It reminds me of chicken and waffles. Like the sweetness of the waffle with the fried chicken and the maple syrup and the hot sauce. Sweet and savory is most stimulating, gustatorily, if you’re not the type to get grossed out by that sort of thing. Billie also reminds me of Cigarettes After Sex, because their songs are always about some graphic sex thing and he sings it like he’s spinning cotton candy in heaven or something. “Blood Is Blue” sounds like a dream but it’s actually about self-sacrifice, and that is peak femininity.
“Human” – Molly Sarlé, Karaoke Angel
September, at school, but now it’s senior year. The beginning I always sing out loud, like I’m actually trying to sound good sort of singing: “He’s got long skinny legs and holes in his pants.” I found a boy who matched this lyric, and so imposed the lyric onto the boy, even though I could never imagine him with holes in his pants, but he did have long skinny legs and I figured that part was harder to imagine realistically, without having a living model, with legs attached to rest-of-body attached to personality attached to soul. The song and the person started blending together, and now that I’m thinking about it I’m not sure which came first. I didn’t like any of the other songs on her album, not because I didn’t like them but because I never really listened to them, I only heard them. There is a difference,
“Body” – Julia Jacklin, Crushing
November, at school, getting cold, reading a lot about religion. Waiting for my professor outside of my favorite lunch place. She’s late and I’m trying to show up to things on time now, even though I hate waiting. Listened to music to feel okay about the waiting, and had been listening to “Body” for a week straight. Haunting: “I remembered early days, When you took my camera, turned to me, 23, naked on your bed looking straight at ya.” The song is slow and the bass is strong and I feel like I’m an outlaw cowboy getting seduced by a woman who’s smart and also super hot. Julia Jacklin is powerful, and soft, and whenever it happens, it’ll hurt. Don’t know why this song reminds me of Emily Ratajkowski, except I totally do know why, I just feel the need to preface the fact I like Em Rata. I also like Kim Kardashian. Yep. Just imagine a naked woman on your bed, staring at you in silence, at like, noontime with the blinds up on the first floor of a motel or something. Drives me insane. This song is hot, and Julia Jacklin is hot.
“Say It” – Maggie Rogers, Heard It In A Past Life
Maggie called this song “the sparkly feeling of possibility” on Instagram. The opening line, “Standing in the open light/Within the swelter of the night/I found myself staring at you,” is the perfect mix of tortured woman and emotional tension. The subject of “Say It” is not so much Maggie’s crush as it is the revelation of being terribly attracted to someone she can’t have, and the self-gratifying, almost masochistic wallowing that goes hand-in-hand with it.
“Happy & Sad” – Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour
There’s something about Kacey’s enunciation that is so clean and crisp, with her hard R’s and slight Texan lilt, which all come through with the utmost clarity in “Happy & Sad.” Something so charming about straightforward and simple lyrics.
“Movement” – Hozier, Wasteland, Baby!
“Movement” has a very grandiose ending chorus that does well in contrast with the hushed beats of the verses, plus the clapping line still does it for me, even if others would contest it started and died with the Lumineers.
“cellophane” – FKA twigs, Magdalene
Twigs had been off the radar for a while, following her breakup with Robert Pattinson and fibroid surgeries. She was public about the latter, sharing how she’d taken up pole dancing as a way to reclaim her body. This all matters because the performance of “cellophane” is a culmination of this gathered mass of pain, almost like throwing her removed tumors out into the world. Her creation leaves me in awe of the myriad of human ways of healing.
“Want You In My Room” – Carly Rae Jepsen, Dedicated
Leave it to Carly to open up the summer with a banging dance number. “Want You In My Room” is such a fun song, and Carly full-on flirts with every single listener. You can’t not move! Plus the Daft Punk-esque “I want you in my room” replies enhance the 1AM-can’t sleep-too excited danceability of this song.
“Benzo” – Blood Orange, Angel’s Pulse
Blood Orange’s Angel’s Pulse ruined me slowly and then all at once. “Open the door, leave me with arms exposed, oh/Outside, I saw where I belong”, in particular, ruins me every time. The literal vulnerability (why arms??), with the major tonal descension, tears a heartstring.
“Money” – Leikeli47, Wash & Set
“Money” sets the Booksmart scene when Billie Lourd’s character rolls up to the high school in her full extravagant glory. Leikeli47’s got a great raspy and convincing voice, and she can spit some mad bars. (Also doubles as a bar-squat playlist header.)
“Door” – Caroline Polachek, Pang
“Door” feels like swimming through multiple dimensions, or the whir of a CD machine when you fast forward. Polachek and Danny L Harle are lyricists to be reckoned with, creating a last-person-on-earth sensation. No matter how many times you walk through the door, you end up exactly where you were.
My two resolutions for 2019 were to pick a favorite color and to fall in love. If anyone asks, purple. Alice asked me to pick songs, but I never do exactly what she tells me, so these are mostly albums.
“Kingston” – Faye Webster
This was one of my most played songs of 2019, but I think if Spotify gave us more precise analytics, it was mostly just the first 6 seconds.
“Maybe You’re The Reason”– The Japanese House, Good at Falling and “Hand Solo” – Marika Hackman, Any Human Friend
Amber Bain AKA The Japanese House and Marika Hackman ended their four year relationship in 2019, both subsequently releasing excellent break up music. Listen to these two songs and don’t pick sides.
Carly Rae Jepson, Dedicated and Emotion
I’ll admit that I was one of those people who missed out on the brilliance of Emotion when it first came out in 2015. I sorely regretted that mistake after Dedicated was released this year, and I spent 2019 making up for it, mostly with “Want You in My Room” and “Your Type.”
The Highwomen, The Highwomen
As a Texan, and someone who almost exclusively listens to female artists, this album felt like it was made for me. Crowded Table was the song that made me feel most at home this year, and “If She Ever Leaves Me” has Brandi Carlile singing a country song about a woman who loves another woman. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Weyes Blood, Titanic Rising
I saw Weyes Blood open for Kacey Musgraves with two of my best friends on one of the most magical nights of 2019. My favorite song off the album is Andromeda, which is, predictably, celestial, dreamy, spacey, galactic. Also, if you haven’t already heard it, Kacey does a cover of Neon Moon by Brooks and Dunn that will turn awkward high school slow dances into fond distant memories.
Caroline Polachek, Pang
I met Claire for the first time when she came to visit in October and she brought with her one of my favorite discoveries of the year: Caroline Polachek. Listen to “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings,” and then listen to the whole album.
FKA Twigs, MAGDALENE
This was the perfect work of art for my moody November. My personal favorite, “mary magdalene.”
MUNA, Saves the World
Number One Fan because sometimes you’ve gotta high five yourself for making it through, and then “It’s Gonna Be Okay, Baby,” because it is.