Music: A Year in Review


You knew this was coming. Since I reviewed my music of the year last year, why not keep the tradition going?

If there’s anything the end of the year (and this time around, decade) has taught me, it’s that people like to look back. Sometimes it’s for nostalgic purposes, other times it’s simply to look at how far they’ve come. This year, it’s been a bit of both for me.

I discovered a lot of great new music this year. I also revisited some of my old favorites (again, that whole nostalgia thing.) I saw one of my favorite bands (Panic! at the Disco! I added the second exclamation point) in concert but also experienced some other awesome live music events. I even participated in some great live music events, which is even better.

Like I’ve said before, music is one of the ways we cope with big feelings. Just like any year, this year brought some big feelings for me, so there were specific songs I turned to during different seasons.

And guess what? I’m ready to do it all over again next year.

2019 – A Musical Year in Review

January: Movement – Hozier
Move like gray skies, move like a bird of paradise. 

I’ve been a fan of Hozier’s ethereal vocals for awhile (ever since I heard “Work Song” on Pandora in high school, which really dates me, doesn’t it?) and this year he blessed us with a new album, which was mostly killer and very little filler (you may recall I dedicated a blog post to “No Plan.”) In late 2018, he released a single to hype us up for his big comeback after several years of relative radio silence. And lemme tell ya. It’s become a fast favorite of mine. It was my most-listened song of 2019 and for good reason. Hozier uses his weird, almost churchy sound to great effect in this song, a song about finding delight in watching his partner move (and how she moves him.) It doesn’t have any really heavy themes beyond that and was a great easy listen to “move” me into my new year (haha yes very clever.)

February: You Go Down Smooth – Lake Street Dive
Would it be true to say you go to my head?

February was weird. I live in the Midwest, and there was SO. MUCH. SNOW. I missed a literal week of work because of it and then got launched into one of the most difficult months work-wise right afterward. I was v stressed in February (did I mention I lost power? Don’t recommend.) I listened to a lot of pumped-up jams to keep my spirits up (ABBA is an honorable mention.) Lake Street Dive has a lot of soulful, almost Motown-style bops, but “You Go Down Smooth” is my absolute favorite. It’s also a great one to scream along to in the car if you’re looking for recommendations.

March: Water – Ra Ra Riot
So I crawled out of the back door, took off all these tight clothes, jumped into the water. 

In March, I struggled with my self-image. I was in a play that month, so I felt highly visible, and I admit I wanted people to see me and perceive me well. But I kept getting bogged down by doubts – am I good enough? Am I cool enough? Am I worthy enough? I’ve listened to “Water” for a long time, but it hits harder when you’re struggling with self-image. To me, “Water” meant taking off your disguise (your tight clothes) and just hanging loose, so to speak. Be yourself and jump in. (That’s a hard thing for an enneagram three to do, believe me.)

April: Emperor’s New Clothes – Panic! At the Disco
I’m taking back the crown. 

I saw Panic! in February of last year in the middle of a snowstorm. It was definitely worth it. They performed “Emperor’s New Clothes,” which I really didn’t like until I saw them perform it live (was it because Brendan Urie took his shirt off? I can neither confirm nor deny.) It quickly became an unskippable for me – the driving drum rhythm paired with Urie’s wild vocals make for a great pump-up song. And in April, I was feeling pretty pumped up, for the most part. I experienced equal measures of ups and downs, but I was ready to take back the crown.

May: Natural – Imagine Dragons
You gotta be so cold to make it in this world. 

Yo, but May was ROUGH. Stuff happened that I absolutely did not expect to happen, and within the course of a few days, my whole life changed. And it wasn’t too comfy. I had a lot of big emotions I didn’t know what to do with, so I confess I kind of…buried them. I listened to “Natural” a lot because it helped me bury those ugly emotions. I didn’t have time for them, let alone the capacity to deal with their ramifications. But eventually, I did have to face them and work through them, but it took a hot minute.

June: Be – Hozier
Be as you’ve always been. 

I worked through them in June. Sort of. Hozier came in clutch with some chill beats to help me. “Be” is a very emotionally (and you might argue, politically) charged song, but at the heart of the song is a man imploring his lover to stay the same even in this constantly-changing world. And during this time, I had a tribe of people that I was afraid of losing. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t lose any of them.) I also didn’t want to lose myself, either. Thankfully, I didn’t, despite all the anger and bitterness I was feeling. June began the process of picking myself back up.

July: Honeybee – The Head and the Heart
Look around, we made a garden of the love we found. 

Oh, July. A wildly fun and whirlwind month. I reconnected with friends who I realized weren’t going anywhere. I had my Someone by my side to lean on (“Honeybee” is OUR song. No one else’s, y’all.) And things finally began to fall into place. I started to make a garden of all of the good things in my life, and I did my best to take care of them. The Head and the Heart’s sound has changed drastically since their debut in 2011 and they’ve evolved into a slightly more electronic feel. It adds to the pep and positivity of “Honeybee,” but their latest album features more reflective pieces like “Running Through Hell” and “Back’s Against the Wall,” which were also some staples of the summer.

August: This Year’s Love – David Gray
This year’s love had better last. Heaven knows it’s high time. 

In August, I started over. I moved into a new apartment – the first time in my life living alone. I applied for new jobs. I traveled to new places. I finished my first freelance job. I finally felt like I could breathe, at least for a while. I felt loved and supported, and I prayed that it wasn’t fleeting – that the people around me would stay. 2019 brought us a great new TV series called The Umbrella Academy, based on the graphic novels by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way. It featured some absolute bops (They Might Be Giants! Tiffany! My Chemical Romance, obviously!) along with a very somber piano piece by David Gray. I was captivated by the keys and the almost slow-dance effect of the song. The song became my prayer – the love I’ve been surprised by this year had better last.

September: Soothsayer – Of Monsters and Men
The mind is a riddle you cannot solve.

In September, I did a lot of soul-searching. I was starting off a new chapter and trying to find other aspects of my life that I wanted to change. I found a few. More than a few. “Soothsayer” by Of Monsters and Men is off of their 2019 album “Fever Dream” which in all honesty took me some time to get used to. I didn’t really like the synthy vibes at first listen, but I immediately took to “Soothsayer” (that guitar hook, tho.) It’s the sort of sound you’d find in the late eighties, but repurposed for modern introspection. And my heart was ready for that as the year slowly came to a close.

October: Kin – Penny and Sparrow
Let ’em know the house got damned again. 

October is a great time of year. The air gets chillier, the leaves change, and it’s just good to be alive. “Kin” has a very chilly fall vibe to it. It also talks about how a relationship (with friend, family, or lover) can be torn asunder easily. In October, I made a big decision. It was time for something to change in my life, so I made a change and got a different job. Things in that old job were getting, as Penny and Sparrow says, “problematic.” Also, the chill guitar hook in this folk-infused song is also pretty dang infectious.

November: The Making Of – The Bohicas
The future’s littered with prizes.

November went by in a whirlwind of insanity. I started a new job and felt super overwhelmed by trying to learn my new position as well as social obligations that the holidays bring (oh, and I got sick which is always fun to do.) I kept my eyes on the future and what I was trying to achieve. “The Making Of” is a chugging anthem by a one-album wonder, The Bohicas, which asks the person they’re interested in if they would consider falling in love with them (after some pretty aggressive pursuing, tbh.) I was pursuing something of my own – a future that I could see myself thriving in.

December: Choke – OneRepublic
I’ll keep a message of you if you call and choke on the memory. 

I’ve loved and lost in 2019. And I’ve revisited. A lot. I saw a counselor this year and had to relive some past experiences. Interactions and situations brought up ugly thoughts I hadn’t thought in a long time – thoughts that I was an impostor, that I was truly unlovable, that there was something deeply wrong with me. Some of this revisiting made me “choke,” hence me revisiting a favorite of mine by OneRepublic. There’s something almost gospel-y about “Choke,” complete with a choir. It’s a very raw look at what happens when you say goodbye to something or someone. I’m leaving 2019 in 2019, but if I ever have to revisit it, I might just choke a little on the memory, for better or worse.

Honorable Mentions of the Year:
Hurricane by Panic! at the Disco; Fire on Fire by Sam Smith; Voulez-Vous by ABBA; I Think We’re Alone Now by Tiffany; Dancing in the Moonlight by Toploader; Mirror Box by Silverstein; Jumpstarted by Jukebox the Ghost; What a Catch, Donnie by Fall Out Boy

Listen to all of these and more below!


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