I’ll turn 28 on Monday, which means it’s time for another birthday playlist. This will be the third year I’ve made an official playlist to celebrate my birthday, and I’ve honestly been thinking for months about what theme I should have. For my 26th birthday, I chose a song for every letter of the alphabet. Last year, I chose 27 songs that reminded me of literature I love. This year, I realized that I chose songs I wanted to be on the playlist and tried to find a theme to match. So instead of a strict theme, what I created is a chronology of the songs I’ve loved listening to this year.
Most of these songs are on albums released within the past year, and most of my favorite bands appear as usual (Arcade Fire, Muse, Mumford & Sons, and The Gaslight Anthem all make an appearance, with some new favorites). And the list is in chronological order, from the songs I obsessed over on my last birthday to the duo I’m currently obsessed with right now.
So…for the third straight year, here’s my birthday playlist (and here’s the link to the complete YouTube playlist). This is what the 28th year of my life sounded like:
1) “Abraham’s Daughter,” Arcade Fire, from The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond
Two days before my birthday last year, I drove to Shelby, NC, where some scenes from The Hunger Games were filmed. I spent the first part of the summer listening to this album on repeat. This song was the sole reason I bought the album in the first place, and it’s my favorite track.
2) “Kingdom Come,” The Civil Wars, from The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond
My first introduction to The Civil Wars (who’ll make another appearance). I listened to this song on repeat almost as much as the previous song. This song captured the tone of the film so very well.
3) “Man On Fire,” Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, from Here
Before I bought this album, all I knew about ES&MZ was that they had toured with Mumford & Sons, which was enough to convince me of their worth. I actually downloaded the album after a great review in Entertainment Weekly, and I listened to it for weeks last summer. This was the first single from the album.
4) “Poison & Wine,” The Civil Wars, from Barton Hollow
Well, I also listened to a lot of this band in addition to Edward Sharpe. This song is my favorite from the album; it’s haunting and sad and beautiful.
5) “Dear Believer,” Edward Shape & the Magnetic Zeros, from Here
I loved “Man on Fire” first, but I love this song even more. I remember the moment I really listened to the lyrics for the first time. I stopped what I was doing, started the song over, and realized this is one of the most honest songs about faith I’ve ever heard. The repeated line “Maybe reaching for heaven is what I’m on earth to do” is golden.
6) “Survival,” Muse, from The 2nd Law
This was the theme song for the London 2012 Olympics, and the first we heard from their new album. We Muse fans had been waiting for years!
7) “Extreme Ways (Bourne’s Legacy),” Moby, from The Bourne Legacy soundtrack
With Jeremy Renner taking over the Bourne franchise from Matt Damon, we also got a new remix of Moby’s “Extreme Ways,” a song that I never grow tired of. In fact, this is my alarm clock every morning, too. Also, I love Jeremy Renner. Any song that makes me think about him is obviously a song I will love.
8) “In My Heart,” Moby, from 18
As much as I love “Extreme Ways,” though, this is my favorite Moby song, and sometimes, I wonder if this isn’t my favorite song of all-time, ever. The world just seems right when I listen to this song, and I spent many long nights grading while listening to this song on repeat. It keeps me sane and hopeful.
9) “Octopus,” Bloc Party, from Four
Another album I’d been waiting a long time for. Bloc Party had not released an album in four years and had even parted ways for awhile. I didn’t connect with this album quite like I had with previous albums, but I certainly like it, and it keeps me awake late at night, too.
10) “Madness,” Muse, from The 2nd Law
Even though “Survival” was a song that defined the summer, this album didn’t actually arrive until October. And, boy, was it worth the wait. Previous to the release, Muse received a lot of criticism for releasing a dubstep-influenced album. This is not the first album I would recommend to someone who has never listened to Muse, but for longtime fans, it’s very nearly perfect, I think. And “Madness” is one of the most addictive songs I’ve ever heard.
11) “I Will Wait,” Mumford & Sons, from Babel
This was the album I’d been waiting for the most out of all of the excellent albums released last fall. And it’s glorious. At this stage in my life, Mumford & Sons is the voice in my head, the one that I need to hear constantly.
12) “Hopeless Wanderer,” Mumford & Sons, from Babel
The first song on the album on which I hit “repeat.” This song seems like the definition of my 20s.
13) “Handwritten,” The Gaslight Anthem, from Handwritten
I love The Gaslight Anthem because they love music, and they’re nostalgic and hopeful. Brian Fallon pours his whole heart onto the page, and this song is fantastic.
14) “Thrift Shop,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, from The Heist
I could write pages on this song. But I’ll just say this–at the end of the fall semester, one of my students gave an excellent presentation on why people should shop at thrift stores. I hadn’t heard this song at the time, so I didn’t realize that my student (and his classmates) had referenced the song throughout the presentation. When I did hear it, I was sad that I’d missed months of listening to it because it’s incredible. On the surface, it’s fun and ridiculous, and underneath that, it’s a critique of hiphop culture that’s gutsy. I love these guys so much.
15) “Follow Me,” Muse, from The 2nd Law
My favorite track from the new album. It’s a soaring, anthemic song about love, and I cannot get enough of it.
16) “Ho Hey,” The Lumineers, from their self-titled album
I first heard this song because my friends Jane & Walter played it for their last dance at their wedding in November. I bought the album shortly thereafter, and when I competed in a pop-culture quiz bowl tournament in December, I was the only person in the tournament to answer this question correctly. Winning.
17) “Little Talks,” Of Monsters and Men, from My Head is an Animal
I heard this song once over Christmas break, but never heard the announcement about the band. After that first time, I couldn’t stop thinking about this song. And on the morning of New Year’s Day, as I was driving home around 3 a.m., I finally heard the song a second time. As soon as I got home, I searched for the lyrics, downloaded the album, and thought my heart might burst from how glorious this song is. This album is INCREDIBLE. I’m so happy to live in a world in which Of Monster and Men make such great music. This song, for me, will always feel like a new year.
18) “Wagon Wheel,” Old Crow Medicine Show, from O.C.M.S.
Darius Rucker released a cover of this song, and I saw a lot of people on Twitter complaining about how the original was so much better. After a suggestion from a former student, I listened to the song again for the first time in years and remembered how great it was. And then I just kept on listening.
19) “Stubborn Love,” The Lumineers, from their self-titled album
My favorite song from the album: “Keep your head up / Keep your love.”
20) “Lakehouse,” Of Monsters and Men, from My Head is an Animal
I was so obsessed with “Little Talks” that I didn’t realize the beauty in all the other songs on the album for awhile. This song was a sort-of sleeper agent. After several weeks, I was struck by how beautiful it is.
21) “Keepsake,” The Gaslight Anthem, from Handwritten
My favorite track from the new album. The guitars and drums match Brian Fallon’s voice so perfectly.
22) “We Did It When We Were Young,” The Gaslight Anthem, from American Slang
I saw TGA live in March, and after that show, I slid this 2010 album in my car’s stereo and didn’t take it out for weeks. This song is slow, melancholy, nostalgic, powerful.
23) “Don’t You Worry Child,” Swedish House Mafia feat. John Martin, from Don’t You Worry Child EP
When I finally managed to listen to something besides TGA (sometime around mid-April), I realized Swedish dance music is awesome (and, once more, a great soundtrack for late-night grading).
24) “Radioactive,” Imagine Dragons, from Night Visions
I wish this song had existed when I was writing my thesis. Thematically, it’s perfectly dystopian. I also wish the rest of the album were as good as this song, but instead, they just sort of sound like a blend of Coldplay and OneRepublic with a big drum. (Disclaimer: I actually like both of those bands…I just don’t need a duplicate.)
25) “Sail,” AWOLNATION, from Megalithic Symphony
This song makes me want to run a marathon or punch someone in the face. It’s that good.
26) “Vipassana [Ryan Lewis Remix],” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, from VS. Redux
I love hiphop. I never though I could love it this much, though. This is the first track from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ 2010 EP. This is a song about faith (not so much Christian faith, but faith nonetheless), and Macklemore’s lyrics are real and heartfelt. And he’s an incredible rapper. And he’s hot. (If you’ve read this far, you deserve my honest opinion, right?)
27) “Otherside (feat. Fences) [Ryan Lewis remix],” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, from VS. Redux
Macklemore’s biggest hit previous to “Thrift Shop.” It’s a song about his addiction to drugs and alcohol and his decision to become sober. Crazy good stuff.
28) “Can’t Hold Us,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, from The Heist
The video for this song premiered on YouTube in April. This is the song that convinced me to download The Heist, which then convinced me to download everything else that Macklemore has ever done, with or without Ryan Lewis. I sing this aloud in my car. I hear this song in my dreams. I talk about this whole album with anyone who will listen to me. I have a feeling this will be the song that defines my summer, the album I listen to on repeat for many more months. If this is the theme of my next year, it will be a good one indeed.
ONWARD TO 29!