I’ve struggled with transition since I was five-years old, when I had to leave the protective nest of home to travel one mile to kindergarten. To me, the journey was huge.
In the past few months, my travels and leaps have been larger. This fall, I drove across the country, from a sublet in Oakland to my boyfriend’s house in West Philly.
The destination? A life of stability and permanence — 9-5 job, live-in partnership, and all of it just two and a half hours from my home town. I left the beach and artisan comfort food for a steady paycheck, seasons and, of course, a much stronger relationship.
But still, change isn’t easy. It’s hard to square things when literally every aspect of my life is different now than it was six months ago, so I’ve made a special playlist to help myself land. It’s not universal by any means. These are songs that are personally important. My playlists are like little autobiographies. My hope is that this list can lend you some resilience as you come down from travel, relationship fluctuations, or those stubborn unchangeable facts of life.
CHVRCHES — “Recover”
I think I subconsciously fell in love with this band because their electro-pop reminded me so much of desert sojourns I’ve taken to Southern California. To my surprise, they hail from Scotland. Proves how much I like to project.
Transitions are sticky; you’ll need a jam like this to jumpstart things a bit.
Fakuta — “Guerra con las Cosas”
This Chilean pop princess is destroying it in the Southern Cone. Every time I turn around she’s doing a new radio performance, releasing a much-hyped music video or winning a prize for amazing songwriting. The song title refers to feeling at war with everything, a common sentiment during those messy first months of a major change.
Beyoncé — “7/11”
This song is medicine. Thought up in some bruja’s dream in New Orleans, passed down in the prayers and candles Bey’s grandmothers lit, filtered through Houston heat, and delivered neatly to an iPod near you. Delivered in the vernacular of Beyoncé flow, written in the spirit of pure play. I can’t even tell you how often this track has ended a lover’s quarrel or just made me feel a bit lighter.
A Tribe Called Red — “Burn Your Village to the Ground”
I was so stoked when A Tribe Called Red released this track around Thanksgiving. This native DJ group mixes the painful with the ironic — like making music about the historical traumas of indigenous people while sporting Redskins jerseys.
In this cut, they sample Wednesday’s monologue from the 1990s Addams Family movie. In her summer camp Thanksgiving play, she makes fun of post-Reagan wasp culture — “My people will have pain and degradation, your people with have stick-shifts!” She tells horrified parents, “The Gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said do not trust the pilgrims. And for all these reasons, I’ve decided to scalp you, and burn your village to the ground.”
Jolie Holland — “Mexico City”
Let’s dial it back a little with some sadness, shall we? Jolie Holland is a musician’s musician. She crafts slow-creeping songs that require a few listens before you fully receive their grandeur. Her songs tell big stories but never come right out and explain anything. Instead, you feel the addiction, self-deception and boozy summer nights that form the psychic backdrop of her writing.
“I’m just back from Mexico City,” she croons, almost conversational. “I came back north to Texas, to rest my weary head.” It’s a song crafted in transition, about sweet in-between spaces.
Kendrick Lamar — “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”
Beautifully produced, West Coast hip hop. “I can feel the changes,” could serve as the beginning of a non-judgmental life mantra.
Javiera Mena — “La Joya”
Another Chilean, 1980s-inspired pop artist, because I just can’t stop. Javiera Mena is one of the only openly queer artists in Latin pop, and her bravery in coming out in the last few years will surely pave the way for others.
Joni Mitchell — “Down to You”
One of this master composer’s greatest musical works, IMHO. From the rise and fall of her piano, to the lyrics, “Everything comes and goes/ like my lovers and styles of clothes,” it’s a song that creates a lovely symmetry. I wanted to end this list on a reflective note, to remind you that it won’t always be easy, but it is of course, down to you.
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