MIXES: With A Little Help From My Bands

 

Whatever it is about the change of seasons in New York City from summer to fall that makes me feel especially nostalgic is something I hope I never lose. Maybe its the crunching leaves underneath my foot as I rush from my apartment to the subway and onward to class every day. Or maybe I’ve already consumed more pumpkin-flavored food and drink than one person should in such a short period of time.

Because of this overwhelming sense of nostalgia, when I’m presented with the idea of sharing the songs that have gotten me through tough moments in my life, I had the problem of having one too many songs to choose from. Music has always been a fluid element in my life; it weaves through the moments and people and feelings I encounter. The most meaningful musical moments weren’t always the ones that let me wallow or the ones that incited me towards action; they were the ones that allowed me to just exist in a singular moment and reflect. The songs that feel like a warm blanket on a cold day are always been the most comforting.
This collection I curated is ten songs that have done, and still do, just that.

 

“With a Little Help From My Friends” – Joe Cocker

I could’ve very easily gone with an Elvis Presley tune in place of this one. I wanted a song that reminded me of my grandpa, and Elvis had been a constant presence in our relationship. However, even more constant in hazy childhood memories from the dusty basement he spent all of his time in and the rickety blue pick-up truck that took me to and from elementary school is the sound of my grandpa mimicking Joe Cocker’s voice. It would echo through our house on Saturday afternoons while accompanied by the blaring noise of his stereo. When my grandpa passed, I listened to this song on repeat because it felt like I could still hear his voice. The soulful rasp of Cocker’s belt is warm and inviting as he wistfully answers the questions posed by the gospel choir backing him. His uncertainty comforts and eases to the point where I feel like I should respond, too.

 

“Silent All These Years” – Tori Amos

My mom played this song for me when I was still in the single-digit age bracket. I remember she played the track on our relic of a computer for me while my grandma cooked dinner in the kitchen. My mom was only 21 when I was born, so her taste consisted of 80s pop hits and angry 90s alt-girl singer-songwriters. I didn’t understand a single line of the song then, but I would put the track on repeat every time we were in her car before flipping to RadioDisney after the tenth, twentieth, thirtieth play. I’d spend my time dissecting the lyrics and wondering if she was saying “mermaid” or “moment.” But the title and chorus resonated with me outside of the mysteriousness of the context. Shy and always too scared to speak up, I knew what it was like to be silent for too long. And I was glad Tori Amos understood.

 

“True Colors” – Cyndi Lauper

Senior year of high school was filled with change and small steps towards maturation and growth. As we all prepared to move away from home and dive into adulthood, the most meaningful gift graduation gave me was the strengthening of important friendships in my life. Throughout the stress and anxiety of leaving my Midwestern hometown to live a big city life on the East coast, I learned to survive with and from my best friend Jonathan. I dedicated this song to him after he came out to me that year, and since then, we’ve adopted it as our theme song. Lauper’s vulnerable vocals are such a beautiful reflection of what it means to truly love another person for all that they are. Everyone should listen to this song when they’re feeling a bit lonely or missing a close friend; nothing serves as a better reminder of what it feels like to be loved by another.

 

“Hallelujah” – Jeff Buckley

Buckley’s cover of the Leonard Cohen hymnal sounds deceptively melancholy. The first time I heard it, the song drifted through the speakers in my mom’s car about a month into my freshmen year of high school. It was the first song to elicit tears from me. After repeated listens over the past six years, I’ve begun to better understand the underlying glory rather than the sadness. For some reason, I feel like I turn to this song during some of the most painful portions of my life — death, fights, stress, etc. Buckley’s range and the ease of his emotive capabilities have been able to express my sadness and recovery from all different kinds of pain better than I ever could.

 

“The Resolution” – Jack’s Mannequin

Andrew McMahon will always top my list of inspiring musicians. His battle with leukemia, subsequent recovery, and lyrical reflection of this battle have been moving to me since I first started listening to his band Jack’s Mannequin. Another song that defined Senior year of high school, “The Resolution” became my personal anthem to make it through the seemingly endless obstacles that separated me from having a sane year. What makes this song lack the cliche of other “inspirational” jams is its honest search for answers and clarity. It’s not about what happens when you’ve reached the end of the tunnel; it’s about figuring out the most effective way to navigate the tunnel first.

 

“Wicked Little Town” – Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Hedwig and the Angry Inch happens to be one of my favorite films, so the soundtrack holds a special place in my heart. The summer between senior year of high school and freshmen year of college, I watched the film at least once a week with my best friend and listened to the soundtrack almost every night. The chorus’ repeated message of “and if you’ve got no other choice/you know you can follow my voice/through the dark turns and noise/of this wicked little town” resonated at a time when I felt desperate to escape the confines of my small, directionless suburb. It was my own wicked little town, and the omnious lyrics of the song felt like a glimpse into my future if I stayed there.

“Landslide” – Fleetwood Mac

The perfection of this hit record lies in its universal appeal. My mom would sing along to the lyrics in her car whenever it played on the radio. I remember her always directing the lyrics of the chorus to me (“Well I’ve been afraid of changing/‘Cause I’ve built my life around you/But time makes you bolder/Children get older/I’m getting older too”). It felt like a lullaby when I was younger, but as I’ve grown up, the song has transformed into a musical embodiment of my growth into adulthood as I continuously speculate “can the child within my heart rise above?” My mom still sings that chorus to me.

“Chicago” – Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens’ outstanding track from the incredible album Illinois literally hits close to home. After moving to New York from the Chicago suburbs, I’ve adopted this track as my official homesickness jam. When Chicago and the people I love who are still there feel especially distant, I listen and remind myself just how much “all things grow, all things grow.” The idea of being in love with New York “in my mind, in my mind” feels especially pertinent in those moments when I just want to curl up on an old friend’s couch and be reminded of those high school inside jokes and all the mistakes we thought we had made.

“Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” – Elton John

Not many singer-songwriters can pluck at my heartstrings the way Elton John can. I had never heard this song until the spring semester of my freshmen year in college, and if there’s ever a situation when a song fell into my lap at the right time, it was this one. “My own seeds shall be sown in New York City” felt like a beckoning to me to never give up on what I came to the city to do. If the subtle inspiration wasn’t enough, Elton reminded me of the wonderful friendships I had formed in this city with his line “I thank the Lord for the people I have found. While “Chicago” draws me back to the past, “Mona Lisas and Matt Hatters” makes homesickness feel like a silly idea in the first place.

“Don’t Rain On My Parade” – Barbra Streisand

With all the stress, anxiety, and whirlwind of emotions life can throw at you, sometimes it’s worthwhile to remind yourself that you actually are the baddest bitch on your block and quite possibly the universe. My ever-growing adoration towards all things Streisand makes me incredibly biased towards any of the tunes she sings. However, this particular track from the classic film Funny Girl keeps me from forgetting during my more anxious moments that it’s never worthwhile to let the world get me down when life is just waiting for me to take a bite out of it.

Content by Brittany Spanos for AudioFemme

audiofemme//mix 1 from ohheybrittany on 8tracks Radio.

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