Each year, I build a playlist that chronicles the songs that capture my attention. Real earworms. As time goes on, this list helps me sort out where I’ve been throughout the year. Prior to 2019, I did this seasonally, which certainly had similar benefits, but I like the big annual list these days.
So far, in 2023, I’ve added three songs.
- “Rattled by the Rush” by Pavement. I’m reading the 2022 Best American Essays, edited by Alexander Chee, and one of the finest offerings in this collection is “Baby Yeah” by the late Anthony Vaesna So. It’s a sad personal essay, foregrounded by the author’s death not long after he wrote it, but it’s also a terrific example of memoir. Anthony threads his love of Pavement into his own emotional response to a good friend’s suicide. As I was reading the piece, I put Slanted and Enchanted on and then began moving around Pavement’s discography. I’ve always liked them, but I’ve perhaps never given them the time needed to appreciate their spirit. In 2019, I was driving to Pittsburgh with a friend to see Phish, and he told me that of course I’d love Pavement and all of Stephen Malkmus’ solo stuff; Malkmus is a genius wordsmith, he told me. “Rattled by the Rush” is probably not the band’s song, but it caught me off-guard at the right moment. In each of these annual lists, the first song added at the top of the year ends up being a highly visible, oft-listened-to anthem as the year rolls onward.
- “Charleston Girl” by Tyler Childers. I was talking with my cousin at a recent holiday party about Billy Strings (and about getting tickets to Billy Strings), and he pointed me toward Tyler Childers (and to the similar headache of getting tickets to Tyler Childers). He specifically mentioned Live on Red Barn Radio, so I went home and checked it out. Listen: The live album is fantastic. This song, in particular, has gotten stuck in my head. I’m not drinking now, at least for the month of January, so it’s desperate yearning for some far-off sobriety is relatable. But it’s the banjo melody that does it for me.
- “Feed the Tree” by Belly. “The single Feed The Tree was released on this date 30 years ago…..” So tweeted @bellytheband on Jan. 11. Some local jam band guy I follow on Twitter RT’d the notice and wrote something along the lines of this being the “perfect” alternative song from that early-90s era. Well, I pay attention when someone says something like that. I don’t know much about Belly, to be honest, but this is a great song. Every piece of the band works well together; Tanya Donelly’s vocals are dreamy, Gail Greenwood’s bass is mysterious and lurking, Thomas Gorman’s guitar lifts the mood and Chris Gorman’s drums stitch the pattern into place.