10 for 12 (A Soundtrack)
My friend Kurt asked me to write about the 10 songs that best represent the last 12 months of my life.
Each week I’ve been choosing a question to write about. Last week was an exception as Ever Get Home was featured and there were a couple announcements. This week we’re back and trying it on a Wednesday. Paid subscribers have been asking questions in the chat. You can join them there and in the comments, plus you’ll have access to all of the writing, as some posts are just for folks who pay. Your support allows me to continue to make writing a priority.
“If you had to pick 10 songs for the soundtrack to the last year of your life, May 2022 to May 2023, which songs would you pick and why?”
I really like this question! I’m going to approach these in chronological order, starting with what life looked like a year ago and what songs were speaking to me at that time. I’ll work my way forward from there.
Crow by Bear’s Den
I was sad a year ago. I tend to say situationship because I’m not sure what to call it. She was more than a friend because we started off romantic, but less than a girlfriend because we weren’t committed. Things just sort of faded to friendship, which has been a pattern in recent years. But we talked all the time and she was definitely the person I was closest to last year. I was actually coming to a place of wanting to commit and really try on a romantic level when she told me she had started dating someone. Things changed overnight and we went from talking a ton to not at all.
This song is about letting go. The singer is looking back and honoring the person, remembering the good, and also just acknowledging that he doesn’t know how to move on.
“A stranger who I learned to love, a friend when really no one was”
A House in Nebraska by Ethel Cain
Same relationship I just touched on, same idea of struggling to let go. It’s interesting that the song touches on Nebraska because we spent a couple days together in Omaha. She was there visiting her family and I had been in Chicago for a speaking event. I ended up changing my ticket to go see her. It was freezing but we had a sweet couple days. She had work to do during the day, so I would take her little dog out. She was so surprised by how much her dog liked me, and hearing this made me happy. We went to a place called Nite Owl that my friend Chris had taken me to years before. The movie Purple Rain was on behind the bar when I went with Chris, and I remember thinking that was so cool. Point Break was playing when I went back with her. We kept joking about our awesome Omaha date in which I took her to dinner and then got sucked into a movie from the 90’s.
“And I still call home that house in Nebraska.”
No Hard Feelings by Manchester Orchestra (The Avett Brothers cover)
Letting go has been a major theme in recent years. Romantic relationships, the organization I started and spent 15 years with, and friendships too. This song has been a comfort, especially in times of conflict. It’s been a friend and something like a North Star, a goal for how I’d like to live.
“When the jealousy fades away
And it’s ash and dust for cash and lust
It’s just hallelujah
And the love in thought
And the love in the words
Love in the songs they sing in the church
And no hard feelings”
Pluto by Jake Wesley Rogers
Discovering the music of Jake Wesley Rogers reminded me of one of my favorite parts when it comes to being a fan. I love sharing things I believe in, things that move me and feel true. I got to see Jake in concert a couple months back at The Social in Orlando. I’ve been to a lot of good shows. This one felt important. Jake’s performance was powerful, joyous, vulnerable, heartbreaking in moments, and funny too. I loved it so much. Beyond the talent and the voice, Jake’s honesty stands out. It’s beautiful to watch him be himself. I hope he is still making music 10 and 20 years from now, and I hope the audience continues to grow. Jake Wesley Rogers is a star who makes me smile and gives me permission to be human. I’ll be cheering as he shines.
“Maybe at the end of the day
You and me are both the same
We just wanna be loved”
Weird Goodbyes by The National (featuring Bon Iver)
I’ve spent a ton of time with this one and while I promise the reasons go deeper than drum sounds, I do simply love the beat. Letting go shows up again, different scenes that paint a picture of how strange and hard goodbye can be.
“Move forward now, there's nothin' to do
Can't turn around, I can't follow you
Your coat's in my car, I guess you forgot
It's crazy the things we let go of”
I Like America & America Likes Me by The 1975
This song never stood out until I saw the band’s recent live performance from Madison Square Garden in New York. It reminds me of the author’s note to Blue Like Jazz, Don saying he didn’t care for jazz music until he watched someone play the saxophone for several minutes with their eyes closed. He said sometimes we have to watch a person love something before we can understand. I had heard the song previously but seeing Matt Healy perform with so much passion made me hear it in a new way. I believed him and the moment stayed with me for weeks. A case can be made that I was inspired to start writing again.
“Am I a liar?
Oh will this help me lay down?
Kids down’t want rifles, they want Supreme
No gun required
Oh will this help me lay down?
We’re scared of dying, it’s fine
What’s a fiver?
Being young in the city
Belief and saying something”
Persevere by Gang of Youths
A recent trip to Emerald Isle, North Carolina brought me back to this song. I don’t know exactly what I was looking for in returning to the place where I was born. It’s probably fair to say that I was looking for answers, trying to find some missing piece. I ended up finding my parents, despite the fact that they were 678 miles away in Florida. We live a couple miles apart but this trip brought us closer together. My mom & dad lost a baby boy a few years before I was born. Returning 46 years later allowed me to learn more of their story, and to meet them in their grief.
“‘Cos nothing tuned me in
to absurdity as fast
as a gravestone with the name
of a baby that has passed
I used to want to be important
Now I just want to be alive and without fear
You got to persevere”
True Blue by boygenius
I touched on this one in my recent Ted Lasso post, but if we’re talking about songs that represent the last 12 months, it has to be included. I’ve been thinking a ton about connection. Because it’s the best thing I get to witness and experience in the small-group conversations I’ve been leading since last fall. I’m fascinated by how connection happens and also by how vital it is. This song sums up so much of what I’ve come to believe.
“And it feels good to be known so well”
When It Don’t Come Easy by Patty Griffin
I had to include the song that inspired the title of this Substack. Every other song on the list is from recent years, but this one has been around for close to two decades. I actually hadn’t listened to “When It Don’t Come Easy” in a while, maybe a year or more, until I played it for my friend Jess Janz a couple months ago. We listened together and I was struck by how much the song still resonated, even though so much time had passed since the season I first heard it.
“I don’t know nothing except change will come
Year after year what we do is undone
Time gets moving from a crawl to a run
I wonder if we’re gonna ever get home”
Once Upon A Poolside by The National
Lately I’ve been missing romantic love. I don’t have recent memories of a committed relationship so there’s been a lot of nostalgia. For the most part it hasn’t been about missing people from my past. I’ve been missing the feeling of sharing life with someone, having a best friend and a partner. I miss the passion and excitement too, the feeling of being in awe of another person.
“I’ll follow you everywhere while you work the room
I don’t know how you do it, tangerine perfume”
Here are all ten songs in one place as a Spotify playlist.
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Upcoming Events: Ever Get Home founding members are invited to join me for a special Zoom this Friday at 8pm eastern. I also have several small-group conversations coming up in the weeks ahead, including one focused on confidence next Wednesday 5/17.
Thank you for putting these songs together on Spotify for us. I will be listening tomorrow while I work.