There’s music that you love, and then there’s music that you can’t disentangle from the rich and complex makeup of your being, I’m going to run through 20 songs, some great and some not so great, that have accrued meaning for me as I’ve grown up and reached some version of adulthood.
May need to be updated relatively soon.
My First Favourite Song
I was introduced to Arcade Fire through my dad through the radio and instantly knew this was one of the most special sounds I’d ever heard. Although it’s not necessarily even my favourite Arcade Fire song anymore, “Intervention” is a spectacular klaxon of intent from the Canadian band: organ and triangle and themes of war and religion. It’s a pretty perfect rock song. If you can even call it rock….
The First Single I Bought
No shame here, this song is a major banger. Written for Matthew Vaughn’s Stardust, it came right on the heels of the four-man era of Take That’s comeback album Beautiful World and has cover art mimicking that album’s visual marketing. There’s a weird pun on a Stardust character’s name (“Yvainne”) and a lyric (“If An-gels cry”). Sensational cheesy brilliance.
When I Found My Favourite Band As A Pre-Teen
In the lead up to the release of the first Twilight film in 2008 it became obvious that its soundtrack was going to be pretty terrific. Paramore’s original track, the main single off the soundtrack, was like nothing I’d heard before. It had this amazing new element… angst. I heard it blared at the film’s London premiere when I stalked the red carpet (I did not have a ticket) and a year later I saw Paramore play it live at a Dublin concert. They were my favourite band at the age when your favourite band means everything, and I’ll always love their first three albums — and Decode.
The Song That Reminds Me Of School
I still contest that “Counting Stars” is one of the outstanding pop songs of the last decade, and I knew as much the second a guy in my school played it loudly from his phone on the bus back from a trip to the National Ploughing Championships (non-Irish readers may need to give that a Google). Everything that kills OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder really does make him feel alive. I associate this song with my school days, and with the final season of Breaking Bad, weirdly.
The Song That Got Me Through My Leaving Cert Exams
Somehow, by some anomaly, I became a guy who obsessively listened to U2 while I was doing my leaving cert. It was a brief relationship but they still hold a place in my heart. This underrated track in particular I associate with a particular day in May 2016 when it was incredibly humid and I was stuck inside studying but eager to escape to the beach.
The Moving Away From Home Song
A year after finishing school my family moved from Galway to Sligo and in the weeks when I was packing up my stuff and saying goodbye to the area I grew up in, I got really really into this incredible song, which had just come out. It was resonant then and it still is now. I am imploring Lorde to release new music this year.
The “I’m 17 And I Want To Live My Life” Song
Sadly Taylor Swift did not perform this when I saw her in concert a few years later (it was still a great time) but her best song — in my opinion — really struck me when it came out, as I sat bored in my room waiting to be done with school and underagedness so I could get outside and have a good time (that took a bit longer to really happen, to be honest). The best people in life are free!
The Getting Me Through College Song
This is but an example of The War On Drugs’ music which has truly been a musical lifesaver over the past few years of my life. But this is my favourite song of theirs, and the first that really blew my mind, so it makes the list. Absolutely certain to calm me down no matter the circumstances and provided much catharsis during some difficult days of realising my adulthood.
The Surviving A Horrible Job Song
I discovered this song just as I was starting a really grim job in Dublin city stopping people on the street to do market research, which really really took a lot out of me. So I listened to “Queens of the Breakers” about a thousand times a day for three weeks. It’s still unbeaten as my №1 Spotify track of all time.
The Walking Around In The Dark Reflecting On Things Song
“Swallowtail” is too intense and delicate to listen to under most circumstances, so I save it for when I really need to take in a moment; to let time slow down and take in my surroundings, and consider my thoughts. It’s an incredible song, saved for very special reflective occasions, usually in pitch black at night outside my parents’ rural home.
The Song For When I’m Missing Someone A Lot
Snow Patrol have a lot of songs that move me close to tears but this has the best lyrics about distance and escape. Not much else I can say, other than I put it over an Instagram Story I posted when I picked up my best friend from the airport after he spent a semester in America. It’s that kinda goofy, ‘airport reunion’ song.
The “I Can’t Believe A Girl In College Likes Me” Song
Dutch-Ghanian Nana Adjoa has yet to break out of my very specific musical orbit it seems, but this song is marvellously written and arranged and came to me at a perfect moment in my first year of college, heading away on a super exciting trip, which it continues to remind me of. Oh how I miss having surprises in my life.
The Romance of Summer ’18 Song
Years & Years’ second album is one of the most sensually arresting records I’ve ever heard, a triumph of longing and lust, and was the soundtrack to a significant period of young adult discovery for me. This track in particular absolutely slaps, especially the literal slap in the song when Olly Alexander sings “Just be a man and take my sympathy for granted” and the beat drops. Oof, spectacular.
The ‘Getting Ghosted But Accepting Your Fate’ Song
Another Arcade Fire entry here, as we reach the sole standout of their not-so-great album “Reflektor”, a six-minute meditation on being an annoying little boy who can’t communicate. At least, that’s my reading of it, and it reminds me not to be a whiney asshole when the instinct arises.
The ‘It’s Sunday In Dublin And I’m Gonna Walk Around By Myself’ Song
First heard in the trailer for Paul Dano’s Wildlife, this is an eerie remix of a great UNKLE song, and is a track I’ll always associate with wandering around Stoneybatter on a wintry Sunday in 2018 wasting time before seeing a film when all my friends are busy. Now I have more friends to meet but there’s no films to see. A worthy trade?
The Lockdown Song
A terrific remix of a song I already liked, heard on Normal People, this became my most-listened to song going on vaguely panicked country walks during the initial COVID lockdown of Spring 2020. A kinda spooky but up-tempo track.
The Election Motivation Song
Nowadays this song creeps me out because I associate it with their weird just-before-lockdown period, but the official single for 2020’s Sonic The Hedgehog is a banger that I played loads when I was campaigning for Students’ Union. I’ve never heard someone say they dislike it, but it never really broke out for obvious reasons (there being an animated hedgehog on the artwork, for one).
The ‘We’re Not On Speaking Terms’ Song
A song that popped up on my Discover Weekly just when I needed it. I’ll just let the song do the work here, I have nothing to add.
The Song I Could Listen To Forever
“Love on the Weekend” is one of the cheesiest songs I’ve ever heard and yet it’s my go-to if, for example, I wake up feeling anxious, or I need to quickly pick something to listen to on my bike, or I get the aux in a group setting. It’s short, it’s inoffensive, it’s really sweet and it has pretty album art. I won’t hear any complaints.
The Best Song
It hasn’t been on my rotation as much lately, but if pushed for an answer I will tell you that “Wichita Lineman” written by Jimmy Webb is the best song every written. I met Webb in 2016 after a concert and he was a delight. The late Glen Campbell obviously sings the best version but there’s a number of beautiful covers you’ll find if you dig around. It’s just remarkable. The closest competitor for this title is probably Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run”.