30 Songs for 30 Years and Then, Some More

I’ve had the privilege of living 30 ecstatic/excruciating years, now.

So I created a playlist that documents splices of this unimaginable life I’ve been given the chance to lead. It feels revelatory, almost too much. And yet, necessary.

Some of the songs were direct influencers at the time, some of them are merely representational, an embodiment of that year. Some of them also speak to the year itself, the world outside me, what music was doing with itself. The songs also had to be configured into a listenable playlist—which I’m hoping I did seamlessly.

I’ve been making mixes for about 17 years. The process is often long, arduous, joyful and unbelievably absorbing. I become happily obsessive and focused as I listen to individual songs and the combinations of songs over and over and over again. It’s heady and libidinous. It’s a pleasurable bender without any bad consequences.

I usually center my mixes around complex themes or events, relationship dynamics or major turning points within them, places and times or the essence of them…psychological states or seasons…(not to mention the playlists made simply for exploration of music itself).

However, creating a playlist with a timeline of my life as the theme…well, that created a few interesting challenges. Firstly, musical transitions. How could I make Radiohead transition into Yann Tierson? And also, discrimination posed a problem: how could I evoke the blessedness and the terror of being a child, a teen, an adult? How could I possibly choose one song over another? How could I create a playlist that meant everything I wanted it to mean to me and yet also make it listenable to someone who wanted to pick it up and give it a go? And yet somehow, after weeks and weeks and hours upon hours, it was created. Looking at it now, I really have no idea how I did it.

I’ve made mixes for people I love, want to love, used to love- but never myself.

This year, I thought I would make one for the only person who will definitely be with me until I die, and maybe even afterwards. Go all Whitmanian, and whatnot.

Is this a playlist? A letter? A retrospective sonic essay chronicling my stabs at being alive?
I think it’s all of these things.


Pre-Natal + >1:
(I had a really great opening line here but it was so great I decided to save it for a poem.)
Life // Ludovico Einaudi
I was born. That’s all I know.


Age 2 and >2:
Babe I’m Gonna Leave You // Led Zeppelin
“But now, I’ve got to go away.”



Age 3:
Summer // Vivaldi
“The cuckoo begins to sing and at once/ join in the turtle doves and the goldfinch…there is thunder and lightning in the sky”


Age 4:
Glósóli // Sigur Rós
Joyful and fearless and with a passion for picking up snakes and a developing on-and-off-again relationship with scrambled eggs.


Age 5:
Let’s Dance // David Bowie
My childhood home shook with dancing.
“If you say run, I’ll run with you//If you say hide, we’ll hide//Because my love for you//Would break my heart in two”



Age 6:
Fake Palindromes // Andrew Bird



Age 7:
Sickbed // Rainer Maria
“My eyes are becoming…yellow curtains”


Age 8:
Waltz #2 (XO) // Elliot Smith
“XO, Mom”



Age 9:
Dreams // Cranberries
“I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain it must sometimes make a kind of singing” – Robert Hass


Age 10:
No Rain // Blind Melon
“You know I’d like to keep my cheeks dry today”


Age 11:
Horses/ Land of Thousand Dances/ La Mer(de) // Patti Smith
I thought that the pantheon of crosses and uniforms and nuns was indiscriminately out for blood (mostly).
I can now say that (mostly) I was right. Still, I put my backpack on my shoulder, stayed a good little soldier.

“When suddenly Johnny gets the feeling he’s being surrounded by// horses, horses, horses, horses// coming in, in all directions// white. shining. silver. studs with their nose in flames:// He saw horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses…”


Age 12:
Cornflake Girl // Tori Amos
The savage fire pit of being intimately near not-girlhood.

“Rabbit, where’d you put the keys, girl?”



Age 13:
Summertime (Doin’ Time) // Sublime
Oh Hello, Adolescence. Nice to meet you too…I think?


Age 14:
Fear // Sarah McLachlan
There were full lakes and empty beaches and new poems and old songs. I discover yoga. I am deeply loved.


Age 14a:
Sunny Came Home // Shawn Colvin
I admire pyromaniacs but know well enough to keep my distance.


Age 15:
Every Shining Time You Arrive // Sunny Day Real Estate
Boys and Emo.



Age 15a:
Where is my mind? // Pixies
I have a balcony and I know how to use it. When my parents find out, they freak, but eh, not so much.


Age 16:
High Life // Counting Crows
I fall. Fucking hard. In love.
And then.
And then I leave the country via a 747. It was a long time, before. Before I came home.

“Waiting here for you, wanting to tell you // how I get my endings and my beginnings mixed up too (how I line my sky with all the silver I can use).”


Age 16a:
Falling at Your Feet // Daniel Lanois Feat. Bono
I watch Southern Hemisphere rain drip from metal roofs and smoke Lucky Strikes.



Age 16b:
Like a Friend // Pulp
This is just the beginning.


Age 17:
Smells Like Teen Spirit // Nirvana
My first Nirvana album is the VH1 unplugged cassette. I fall asleep and wake up to it unendingly. And yet, SLTS still wins age 17.


Age 17a:
Allah Hoo // Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
God is everywhere I look and also in places I can’t see.
“You were there, you are there and you will be there…”



Age 18:
This Mess We’re In // PJ Harvey Feat. Thom Yorke
My city comes crashing down.


Age 18a:
Zero // Smashing Pumpkins
I drive a black pick-up.



Age 19:
He War // Cat Power
We went to war, I almost get arrested for civil disobedience, and I picked up my forgotten obsession with the 2012 apocalypse I started at age 16.


Age 19a:
Optimistic // Radiohead
I discover Kid A and listen to it obsessively on discman during my first cross-country sojourn.
Haunted and ecstatic under massive stars in Utah with no tent, surrounded by sage grass: Optimism, this is how I find you.


Age 19b:
Comptine d’un autre été // Yann Tiersen
I sleep on a park bench in Paris.


Age 19c.
Pink Moon // Nick Drake
I study art history in Burgos. I dabble in watercolors and river-stone skipping. I am often alone.


Age 20:
Lost Cause // Beck
Beck’s break-up album couldn’t have come at a better time.


Age 20a:
Om Namah Shivah // Krishna Das
Heartbreak aside, I continue my quest to feel internal divinity and the energy that runs through all sentiment beings.


Age 20b:
We Used to Wait // Arcade Fire
My entire Alma Mater is made of brick and in winter I get forest snow inside my sneakers. I sneak into the dance building with a boom box and pound floors and pianos. I sneak into the print making lab and slap together mono prints. I love too much. I write about it.



Age 21:
The District Sleeps Alone Tonight // The Postal Service
Me and everyone I know are loved so deeply we are practically literature. Until we’re not.


Age 21a:
I Could Be There for You // Eisley
Loyalty and not loyalty.


Age 21b:
Boy With A Coin // Iron and Wine
“God made her eyes, for crying at birth, then left the ground, to circle the earth”


Age 22:
Maps // The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
I am always digging myself out of love and into books.


Age 22a:
Samson // Regina Spektor
I read the bible. The whole thing. I cut my hair.


Age 22b:
At the Hop // Devendra Banhart
Eat breakfast below and atop and inside of trees with people who may or may not stick around for 10 more years.


Age 23:
Anthems for a 17 year old girl // Broken Social Scene
Make mistakes and stuff.


Age 23a:
Tokyo // The Books
I wish I could permanently stick my face to an airplane’s window so I could see my life from a much clearer perspective.


Age 23b:
Dark Center of the Universe // Modest Mouse
Still learning.


Age 24:
A Good Man is Hard to Find // Sufjan Stevens
I credit Sufjan Stevens for my ability to attain graduation.


Age 24a:
How it Ends // Devotchka
I live in Bushwick in a sober house that doubles as an underground queer anti-folk venue. I paint the walls Moroccan blue as a backdrop for poems written in graphite pencil. I am miserable.



Age 24b:
Get me away from here, I’m dying //Belle and Sebastian
“Think of this way: you could either be successful or be us.”



Age 24c:
Wet & Rusting // Menomena
Second journey cross-country. I meet Airforce personnel and Hurricane Katrina refugees in the same campground.

“I hope that this shakin’ will help us awaken”


Age 24c:
Crosses // Jose Gonzalez
Moving South by South West there are crosses everywhere. My passenger: a blast of beauty to look at her, violently talented.

“Cast some light and you’ll be alright”



Age 25:
Doing the Wrong Thing // Kaki King
I surf all over New Zealand. Love is a wild thing that won’t be pinned down.


Age 25a:
Ernie // Fat Freddy’s Drop
Forever I am spoiled by unimaginable gifts.

“There’s nothing I’d rather do, then step out of the rush for you”


Age 25b:
Nantes // Beirut
“And I’ll gamble away my fright, and I’ll gamble away my time”


Age 25c:
Easy To Be Around // Diane Cluck
“You belong to no one, you are easy to be around. (We were two ’til we melted down.)”


Age 26:
Come Pick Me Up // Ryan Adams
The Buddha Says: If you think you’re enlightened, just go home.

“I wish you would, come pick me up, take me out, fuck me up, steal all my records”


Age 26a:
Re: Stacks // Bon Iver
Autumn surfing on K Road and “everything that happens is from now on…”


Age 26b:
Only Skin // Joanna Newsom
“And if the love of a woman or two, dear// couldn’t move you to such heights then all I can do//… is do// my darling right by you”



Age 26c:
Cosmic Love // Florence and the Machine
Unprecedented. Star Explosions.


Age 27:
This Tornado Loves You // Neko Case
This tornado loves you.


Age 27a:
Helplessness Blues // Fleet Foxes
“If I know only one thing// it’s that everything that I see// of the world outside is so inconceivable// often I barely can speak.”



Age 27b:
Amor Fati // Washed Out
The obsession with surf music is right around the corner.


Age 28:
IamUnderNoDisguise // School of Seven Bells
I am privileged to teach and live yoga. I read the Gita. I fall on my knees at the world’s precision/flaws.
“Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself.” – Bhagavad Gita


Age 28a:
On a Neck, On a Spit // Grizzly Bear
Each day I’m spending with him, now.


Age 28b:
This is what // Horse Feathers
I write poems in old civil war battlegrounds down South.


Age 28c:
Meheni Rachi // Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling & The Dharohar Project
“And I’ll spread out and fly away and give up all this stuff”


Age 29:
I’m on Fire // Bruce Springsteen
Every part of me is on fire.


Age 29a:
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings // Father John Misty
Retracing the expanse of my American back. Breakage. Resurrection.


Age 29b:
Hanging On (White Sea Mix) // Active Child
Ferry splash, subway ash: if I ever get published one day, it will partially because of this song:


Age 30:
Grace // Jeff Buckley
I heave myself towards a cauterizing fire that burns away the false self. May all that is not true fall away.