This post is gonna be a long one, folks. So strap in, because I’m talking a whole lot about what I’m listening to, the things I like. Let’s go!
To be honest, I don’t get a whole lot of time to listen to podcasts anymore. I don’t listen to them around the house, generally, so that means it’s commuting time that gets dedicated to listening to podcasts and, well, there’s not much commuting happening now. So we’re kind of limited. So it goes.
Outside of the ones that our site produces (support your pals!), the one that I’ve really gotten into is “Stuff You Missed In History Class.” And this is one that Steph turned me on to, and I can’t speak highly enough of it. Really, this is all we listened to on our drive up to Rochester last fall (which was something like 12 hours or so, there and back), and I didn’t get even a little sick of it. The content is, well, just what the titles suggests—each podcast is on a historical subject, be it a person or an event, that either doesn’t get talked much about in traditional history classes, or is something that has more to the story than what does get talked about. There’s a little bit of something for everybody, topics wise, and with the episodes all running under an hour long, they’re short enough to make sure they’re always engaging. I’ve always loved history and I just think this is really fun. So thanks to Steph, for getting me into it!
As far as listening goes, though, I’m a much bigger music person. I always have been, it’s always been a huge part of my life (really! before I got more seriously into Just Writing, I was gearing up to at least try to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter after college). Now it’s mostly listening that I’m doing, but whenever I can, I’ve got music playing.
I also really love making playlists, I’ve got a bunch of different ones going on in my Spotify library, for different vibes and occasions. And since the pandemic happened, I started putting together my “hockey is dead” playlist, which is essentially just a huge collection of songs I love, kind of my one stop shop for a good variety for my quarantine listening. We’ve got some new stuff, some old stuff, and, okay, maybe we don’t have all of the genres represented, but we’ve got a decent mix going on here. I’m linking the playlist below, if anyone wants to have a listen and learn all about my taste in music. And then I’m following my format from my “What I’m Watching” article and pulling out a handful of favorites and giving you a quick rundown on why I love them. Let’s get into it!
Years In The Making- Arkells
I think this might be the newest song I have on this playlist, or one of them. I kind of wanted to start with this one because it’s just a whole lot of fun. When this first came out, I think I had it stuck in my head for close to a week (granted, the fact that I also had it on pretty heavy rotation while I was driving, cooking, etc probably contributed to that), and normally that might be annoying, but this wasn’t the case this time around. And it hasn’t lost anything from that, either. It’s still just as fun and makes me want to dance just as much. It’s just a jam. Full stop.
I’ve got a bunch of other Arkells songs on here, because they’re one of my favorite bands and I just couldn’t stop myself from adding more “favorite songs” because, well, there are just too many. I’ve got “And Then Some” and “Crawling Through The Window” pulled out. They’re both love songs, in a way—the former in a more conventional sense, to a romantic interest, and the latter to the friends that hold you up when you need it most. And I really can’t speak highly enough of “And Then Some”—I’m not a super mushy person, but this one really never fails to pull on all of the heartstrings.
Easy Enough- State Champs
This one might be one of the more surprising songs/genres represented on this mix. Maybe? I don’t know. I’m not really sure why, to be honest, but I’ve been met with some surprise when people find out that I’m into pop-punk. *shrug*
All the same, this is a great song from a great record that came out when I was in high school, and I think it still really holds up. If you’re someone who likes music to get them really amped up when they’re working out or like... just driving to the grocery store, take this as my recommendation. It’s hard hitting, it’s crisp, and nothing about it feels like it’s trying too hard (that is, not borrowing too heavily from other bands or being too deeply enamored with the lyrical cliches of the genre). It might not be as polished as some of their newer material (which is also really worth a listen), but maybe that’s part of the charm, part of the reason it’s stood the test of time for me.
Hockey fans see also on the playlist: “Pretense” by Knuckle Puck. Because come on. It’s a fantastic band name and a nice bit of continuity. And also a great song. That’s a given.
I’m not just being corny, picking this song out because of the name of it, I promise. This is a sad song, but it’s one that I find really lovely, and also really smart in how it’s composed, and how that composition works so hard to emphasize the affect the lyrics are trying to convey. This song is all about the story, in this case, a man who feels he’s drifting away from his wife and has an affair, and it’s really clean and precise storytelling, and for most of it, the instrumental is soft and subdued, and the vocals get your full attention. And then the bridge hits, and we switch to the wife’s perspective, and everything changes. The effect on the vocals change, they’re more raw, and sound like they’re breaking in from far away. We get our first three lines “she thought that love was gonna fight / she thought that love was gonna take her home / she thought that love was gonna save her,” and then a few extra beats of guitar to build a little anticipation, then the guitar drops out entirely, with the fourth line delivered alone: “but love just never showed.” And then the music comes back with force—guitar, swelling backing vocals, big drums—and it feels like it all hits you like a freight train. It’s hard not to feel affected by it. At least it is for me.
I could go on and on about this whole album, because it’s one of my top five favorites and I think it’s pretty close to perfect, but I’ll leave this with two quick notes on other songs you’ll find on the playlist:
I love a line in a song (or poem) that’s kind of like a zinger—not necessarily funny, but something tight and precise that cuts right through you—and the bridge of “American Secrets” has that. I remember the line “I’m still dancing alone with the way it was” hitting like a gut punch the first time I heard it, and years later, it hasn’t lost that effect.
This is sort of hard to describe, but one vibe I really appreciate is when you’re listening to a song through headphones in a quiet place and it feels immersive. I don’t know that every song does this, at least not for me. But “What I Know” is one that does. I think it’s how it builds up through the verses to the bridge, the crescendo is just so good. This is one that, for me, is almost impossible when it comes on not to stop and listen fully.
I’ll Always Be Around- Brighten
This is kind of a major throwback—I’ve loved this song since I was in high school and I think it came out a good few years before that. There’s something about this one, I think it might be the most soothing (to me, at least) song that I have in my personal library. I love Justin Richards’s voice, the harmonies on the chorus are really nice, and the way the same guitar riff carries us through the whole song—without feeling repetitive—gives it a nice even sort of feeling. It’s a little hard to describe, I think, but this has always been a song that, if I can feel myself getting worked up about something and feeling like I need to calm back down, I immediately put this on, and it helps. And maybe that sounds a little sentimental, but maybe it’s not a bad thing to be aware of and to have in the back pocket during a time like this.
Further Brighten listening: If you like country, “Whatever I Am” has a tinge of that, and is just really sweet.
Love It If We Made It- The 1975
Honestly, you could probably make a whole playlist on its own of songs that hit differently now that we’re all stuck in quarantine. That’s a project for another day, but if you were to undertake it, I think this song would be at the top of the list. I’ve talked already about songs that beg your attention, and this one definitely does that, but in a different way—I mean, how could it not with a first lyric “we’re fucking in a car, shooting heroine, saying controversial things just for the hell of it.” Honestly, I think my head snapped up the first time I heard it, there’s certainly a shock factor there. And this song is something of a strange mix—the lyrical content is handing you a list of all of the terrible things happening in the world, with the crux “modernity has failed us / and I’d love it if we made it,” but it’s wrapped up in a package with a chorus that kind of just makes you want to dance. It’s punchy, and it’s effective, and I think that’s a difficult balance to pull off, but they knock it out of the park on this one.
I’ve got a couple other 1975 songs on here, and it’s their first and third records which are particularly well represented, and I could do another post all on its own about why that’s the case. But for some further listening, “Robbers” and “Sincerity Is Scary” are also some personal favorites.
Rescued- Jack’s Mannequin
This one was an easy choice. The record this comes from, Everything In Transit, is my favorite of all time, still to this day, full stop, and this is my favorite song on it. This is one of my go to sunny day, driving around with the windows down listens, and a lot of this album reminds me of summer. This song, though, is the softer moment on an otherwise, if not sunny, at least upbeat album. And that’s a bit of contrast that I’ve always really appreciated. It’s a little sad, a little sweet, and there’s a bit of rawness there that drives both of those feelings home. Like “What I Know,” that I talked about a few sections ago, this is a song that always seems to stop me in my tracks and demands to be listened to, fully. I’ve loved this song for forever, and somehow it never fails to pull on the heartstrings a bit, as lame as that might sound. It makes me feel a little sentimental. Sue me.
Another one from Everything in Transit that appears on this playlist is “Miss Delaney,” and that’s one that definitely hits a little different during quarantine: “I don’t spend my nights searching for earthquakes / though it’s biblical how fucked my sleep can be.” And I’m just going to leave that one there.
warm blood (reimagined)- flor
I almost, almost picked out “hold on” by this band to highlight, because it might just be my favorite song (I think. That’s a really hard thing to pick). It’s really fun and dancey and somehow I never get tired of it, no matter how much I listen to it. That one’s on this playlist too, but I have a little more to say about the reimagined version of “warm blood.” There are a couple versions of this song floating around out there—the original, which came out on their first record, and then a remix with a bit more production happening, and then this stripped down version, which came out on the “reimagined” EP to follow up their second full length (got all that?). I think the stripped down arrangement really does this song justice—you get a little bit of extra sweetness and vulnerability with it, it almost feels more intimate. It’s just really lovely.
Awful Things- From Indian Lakes
This is probably one of the highest represented bands on this playlist. Just like was the case with the Arkells additions, once I got started, I couldn’t stop. There are a lot of good things happening here, and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a song quite like this one—Joey Vannucchi has such a lovely voice, and the way that the vocals on this track are somewhat muted, almost restrained, gives it a really cool effect. It’s soft, a little sad, and it’s easy to be drawn in by that.
There’s a directness in the lyrics here, too, that I think is particularly effective. And the last stanza just cuts right through me every time: “guess you’ve heard what I’m like now / just a body / you’re haunting our bedroom / and the hallway / I still hear your voice in my head / it’s saying awful things.”
Like I said, there’s a lot of From Indian Lakes on here, and just about all of their records are represented, and the cool thing about them is that they’ve tried out a lot of different sounds, so we get a good feeling of variety from them. Looking for something with a bit more bite? Try out “Anything.” Or maybe “No One Else” from their most recent record, which is more synthy. Something for everybody, folks.
And, at the risk of beating this joke into the ground, I’ll be brief here, but I want to add that I made this joke on my Instagram story (I think?) a few weeks ago that their song “Stay Outside” is a little questionable now. That’s all.
Someone You Loved- Lewis Capaldi
I know this is a popular song, so I imagine this isn’t a fresh recommendation for pretty much anybody, but I did want to still talk about it. It isn’t too often that I hear a new song and it absolutely stops me dead in my tracks, but this one did. It isn’t often that this happens, but I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard this—driving home from a Phantoms game, just starting up the big hill on the way out of Allentown, it was raining a little bit—and I remember turning the volume on my radio (which I don’t even listen to all that often) way up. What I really appreciate about this song, outside of the general rawness and emotion of the vocal quality, is how it builds. We build to this huge bridge that’s hard not to feel moved by, and then the backing music drops out and we just get the chorus vocals and chords on a piano, and that quiet feels even more stark. I don’t know how else to describe this one other than being a good “in my feelings” song, and I mean that in the best way. Sometimes you just need that, you know?
Night Shift- Lucy Dacus
I honestly don’t know what to say in the breakdown of this one, because this is just straight up a perfect song. I have to thank Charlie for introducing me to this one a couple of summers ago (I think?). This whole song is just an experience, I don’t really know how else to put it. It’s a breakup song, but it’s not all about feeling bad for yourself, which I do appreciate. The vocals are amazing, and the story and the feeling that comes through with the lyrics are poignant and precise. It all works perfectly.
I also just really appreciate a song that does exactly what you expect it to—for me there’s nothing more frustrating than a song that feels like it’s building in a particular way and then never hits that high point. This song, thankfully, doesn’t do that, it builds and builds until it veritably explodes at the close. It’s one of my favorite “sing this at full volume in the car” jams. I just can’t resist.
Two extremely quick honorable mentions:
-Body- Loud Luxury & Brando: I’m kind of the worst when it comes to radio/pop music, in that it always feels like I’m late to the party with it. But this is a jam, and it makes me feel a little sentimental because it was one that was always in the music rotation in the Wells Fargo Center before warmups, so I heard it a bunch when I was there working before games.
-Miss You Like Hell- Nightly: It just really felt right adding this to the “hockey is dead” playlist, a song with that title. It’s a little on the nose, but I’m feeling my feelings, okay?
Final note: With the help of my sister, we did indeed put together a small playlist of songs that hit different now that we’re all in quarantine. Some of them are a little on the nose, but we’ll live with it.