2016 in music.

As before, I did a playlisty thing. I never was a playlisty person, but the older I get the more I come to love memories evoked by music. Is that a side effect of getting old? Maybe I need to find more concrete triggers for memories these days. I do notice that I forget things I used to know.

Whatever. Anyway. 2016.

cracks in the floor of heaven // oh honey (sincerely yours ep)

I discovered Oh Honey at the end of 2015, and as often happens when you discover an artist whose music you really like, you kind of blow through everything and get caught up in the flashier hits first. That’s what happened to me. I didn’t really find this one until January was already a couple weeks gone. I love it. Subtle and sweet and introspective. I’m going to sing it to my children.

my love // 3rd & union (3rd & union)

I do not apologize for how much of 2016 will be love songs, and angsty/long-distance love songs at that. This is just nice. As I’ve said before, I like songs that feel like they’re taking me somewhere. Plus I have a bit of an inherent weakness for pretentious indie guitar vibes.

i tried going west // mary chapin carpenter (ashes and roses)

Mary Chapin Carpenter is still the best, and my long journey of loving her music is elsewhere on this blog. This album is my favorite of hers from this century, mostly for the sake of this song, but also for the more relaxed, swingy, introspective guitar-y vibe. (I’m sensing a trend here.) Plus this song is just rousing and lovely.

preludes op. 28, no. 24 in d minor // frederic chopin (essential chopin)

I’ve missed the piano a lot this year. I don’t listen to it too often, cause it makes me miss it more. But there’s nothing so nice as Chopin, and I can’t wait to get home and learn more of his work.

the longer the waiting (the sweeter the kiss) // anna ternheim feat. david ferguson (the night visitor)

Long-distance love song #1. This one reminds me a lot of the many rereadings I did of Carry On, Mr. Bowditch as a kid. And also a bit of ‘Danny Boy,’ though that’s not a romantic love song. Still, this one does sound rather like the Irish songs I played over and over again in high school. Lilting and sweet.

i was just thinking // teitur (poetry & airplanes)

LDLS #2. I find this song to be rather in the vibe of Ed Sheeran, but I like it better than I like most of Ed Sheeran’s work. It gets stuck in my head a lot. “I think about long-distance rates instead of kissing you babe, I’m a singer without a song.”

open season // the high highs (open season)


run // george strait (the road less traveled)

I first heard this song from my sister Kristen a long time ago. I don’t even remember when. But it’s just plain pretty (I’m a bit picky about my country music, but you don’t turn up your nose at the King). LDLS #3. Perhaps the most poignant. It makes me want to run, oceans be damned.

watching the storm // u137 (dreamer on the run)

I discovered this song on the Deep Focus playlist. I like it so much I can’t actually focus on homework when it comes on. Nice going, Spotify. I saved the whole album – I like to listen to it while I write.

inget lockar mig som du // barbados (inget lockar mig som du)

Nothing tempts me like you. Or rather, nothing tempts me like dancy, joyful Swedish pop. Probably gonna try to introduce this one at camp this summer.

next to you // pe∧cekeeper (next to you)

Another love song. Not quite long-distance. Definitely a little bit angsty. Definitely wishing I was next to you.

emmylou // first aid kit (the lion’s roar)

I actually really like this whole album, and this song is probably the song I like best. First Aid Kit are kind of weird, in my kind of way. This is another song that feels like it’s taking me somewhere.

e det fel på mej // linda bengtzing (karusell samling)

I went to Stockholm in April, and there was definitely more dancy, joyful, slightly ridiculous Swedish pop. I had forgotten that this song existed, that its lyrics include a line about unloading the dishwasher, and that I had done a dance to it for an evening program at camp long ago. Oops. (Note from future Red: This one isn’t available on American Spotify, so it’s not on my playlist anymore. YouTube is your friend, if you really want to hear about men who can change oil.)

värsta schlagern // linda bengtzing & markoolio (karusell samling)

I used to not like this song (it’s a camp classic). Then I read the lyrics. It’s hilarious. And kinda beautiful. I can’t tell if it’s satire or not. I love it either way. (I wonder what that says about me.) I sing it in the shower a lot.

youth // troye sivan (blue neighborhood)

After spending way too much time on Tumblr this spring, I finally looked it up. It’s good. It’s fun to sing under your breath. It’s even more fun to think about the spending of your young adorable adventurous years with somebody who will also grow old with you.

daniel’s joik // jon henry fjällgren (goeksegh)

Another thing I was exposed to at camp and rediscovered while in Sweden. Joiking is an interesting Sami thing. Not quite singing, but not quite yodeling either, it’s an art all its own, and heavily influenced by (if I remember correctly) both nature and emotion. This is just a really beautiful thing, especially when thinking about the great wilds of northern Sweden, which I have seen now.

house by the sea // moddi (set the house on fire)

I didn’t notice how funny the album name is in comparison with the song until I typed it just now, but I really like this song. Yes, a lot of that is because of “behind everything that I do, I just want to come home and lie down beside you.” But a lot of it is also because I like images of the sea in art. And a house by the sea just smacks of a crazy meeting of wild nature and civilization. I love novels that take place by the sea. (I wonder if I should maybe still write the one I wanted to do when I was in high school.)

all the pretty girls // kaleo (all the pretty girls)

I got into the Far-North Folk playlist in the spring for studying. I noticed this one first because it begins, “All the pretty girls like Samuel; oh, he really doesn’t care.”

sleeping in paris // rosanne cash (the wheel)

I discovered Rosanne Cash at the age of 13 when stealing from my mother’s CD library. (Such is the story with many of my other musical interests.) Clicked play on this album one random day in May and was kind of zapped back to early 2009, when I hung out mostly on the floor of my bedroom, eating Christmas chocolates and reading Lucy Maud Montgomery and daydreaming about growing up.

love is all around // sonny curtis (sonny curtis)

Yes, it’s the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme. Yes, I love it. What?

twenty odd years (forgive me, love) // unnveig aas (love ep)

I really like atmosphericky folk these days, especially when studying. This one sticks out to me for the line “I’ve only been rambling for twenty odd years.” I’m twenty. Maybe I should make that the blog tagline.

was there nothing // asgeir (was there nothing)

I discovered this one on the Far-North Folk playlist, and at first it grabbed me because it gave me chills and made me think of Jon Snow. And now, several months later, it grabs me because it makes me think of the hours I spent delving deeper into A Song of Ice and Fire (which I really do love) while the sun rose at 3 a.m. outside…and it’s a good memory.

away // morten myklebust & susanne sundfør (morten myklebust)

More Far-North Folk goodness. I must say, though, the Far-North Folk playlist is better in the far north.

the stable song // gregory alan isakov (that sea, the gambler)

I LOVE THIS SONG. I’ve not done a lot of trying to actually learn songs in the last year or so. Digital everything doesn’t demand memory of you, so maybe that’s why my memory is failing. But I memorized this one the day I found it. Where did I find it? …on a Jon Snow & Sansa Stark fanmix on Tumblr. I would hide in shame, but I have none. Not about this. Not about a song this beautiful. (And frankly, it reminds me of some pretty pivotal moments from s06e03. Lying on a table covered in straw and all that.)

traveling alone // tift merritt (traveling alone)

I chose this one for obvious reasons. “You know I’ve always had a taste for traveling alone.” I like being alone. Not as much as I used to. But traveling alone is wonderful.

diamonds and rust // joan baez (classic joan baez)

Okay, this song is just plain beautiful, and I plan to learn it soon, but for now: AHH. Sweeping music and some of the loveliest, angstiest lyrics I ever did hear, and can Joan Baez sing or what?? I absolutely drool over it, cliches and all.

real love // clean bandit, jess glynne (i cry when i laugh)

I’ve really gotten into Jess Glynne’s music this year. I maintain that it is the best thing for being the only one awake late at night. I like “Real Love” because it makes me think of Sam. Obviously. “Suddenly all of the stupid love songs were about you.”

light of the seven // ramin djwadi (game of thrones season six soundtrack)

My new(ish) obsession with the entire Song of Ice and Fire universe is a big part of what has taken up my brain in 2016. Sitting in the basement at Stipendiegränd in Umeå every Monday night to watch the sixth season will probably be one of my best memories, if for no other reason than that it was good television, good company, good fun. We got it down to a science, the rearranging of the basement and plugging things in and setting up, and we all sort of had our spots (mine on the floor by the column so I could get up and leap away into the empty space to jump around when it got exciting). This track is from the finale, and it is some of the best, tensest, most expertly crafted music I have ever heard, and I want to learn to play it.

thank god i’m a country boy // john denver (setlist: the very best of john denver live)

My mom used to play this on the guitar when I was little, and in July it turned up on an Americana playlist for the Fourth, and I just like it. Life ain’t nothin’ but a funny, funny riddle.

kalsada // sam concepcion (bago)

CLV’s 2016 International Day song. I actually dreamed about teaching this dance at least a week after camp ended. Suffice it to say I heard it a lot. I think it’s joyous, and the dance isn’t half bad.

the parting glass // the wailin’ jennys (40 days)

I forgot all about this one. It’s one we sang a Swedish version of at camp this summer, but Miriam Bryant’s version is not to be found on Spotify. Emma, another counselor in my cabin and a longtime friend, brought the Swedish lyrics back to the cabin one night and said, “Hey, I know the harmony to this; do you want to sing it for the campers?” To which, naturally, I said, “YES!” And so we did. And it was magical, and the girls in the cabin loved it, and just…what a sweet, sad, sweet song this is. Look up Miriam Bryant on YouTube, too. The Swedish is beautiful.

to make you feel my love // mick mcauley & winifred horan (serenade)

In a natural progression, this one I love because I struggled with similar themes: how do I prove that I love you when I am literally never around to do it?

nothing without love // nate ruess (grand romantic)

AHHH. Who doesn’t love grand sweeping shouty melodies that make you realize just how small you are?

i was made for loving you // tori kelly ft. ed sheeran (unbreakable smile)

After a little time, after settling back in to my life here in the dusty mountainous corner of Idaho I love so much, some very reassuring things happened. I’d been holding on to the idea that my connection with my dearest other half was something special for more than a year, and when we stay up too late talking and I actually start to cry because it’s late and I’m oh-so-glad to be where I am, I realize what I was made for – and what all those long-distance love songs were trying to remind me of.

you make it easy // the well pennies (the well pennies ep)

Continuing on that theme, do you know how sometimes you love someone and they love you and all is well and good in the world, and then you just notice what a solid, sweet, good person they are? Yeah. That.

hurricane // the likes of us (time traveler)

So naturally, you liken them, and the sweeping, rocking impact they have on you all the time, to big weather events, and you tell them that they rained on the drought in your soul and made grow what was threatening to die in there, and you can’t help but love them for it.

like real people do // hozier (hozier)

This one came on some indie or acoustic goodness playlist I was listening to, and good lord do I love it. For 1. reminders of my real-life love 2. Jon & Sansa vibes 3. so many story-like possibilities.

let it go // colin & caroline (let it go)

This song gets stuck in my head a lot. But I love it. What a simple (and difficult – Michael Leunig) description of love. “You be you, and I’ll be me.”

the light // regina spektor (remember us to life)

I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. “You and your daddy both look like poets,” “I know the morning is wiser than the nighttime, I know that all of life just happens in between.” I LOVE I LOVE I LOVE. Songs that start stories in my head just make me happy.

great american novel // max jury (max jury)

Speaking of which…yup. Songs that start stories in my head. I so want to write about this song. The lyrics also include this line: “those were the sleepless nights learning to make love,” which I LOVE because I am both a nerd and a perv about people discovering sex in good healthy realistic ways. AHHH.

this year’s love // david gray (white ladder)

There will be a large swath of songs on this list which take me back to autumn afternoons in the library. This is one. It’s so sweet and cynical. “Don’t you know this life goes on?”

waves // ira wolf (honest)

This is another library song, but I love it for how simple and sweet and pure it is, and the imagery is jaw-drop beautiful.

a long time ago // first aid kit (stay gold)

I have to comb through First Aid Kit’s songs to find the ones I like, but this one is gorgeous, and “Only love, only love, even if it’s not enough” brings me to my knees. It might be the best part of the song.

almost lover // a fine frenzy (one cell in the sea)

Sam is not an almost lover, and it’s been a long time since I felt the emotions behind this song in my real life, but I am only the sum of all that I have been, and I feel it still. Goodbye, my almost lovers; so long, my luckless romances. Thank God that part of my life is behind me.

cleopatra // the lumineers (cleopatra)

I don’t apologize for having gotten into Spotify’s Folk Pop playlist. This song is just fun. And angsty. I don’t know how it manages to do that, but it works oh so well. The line “It hardened like my heart did when you left town” is just so out of left field and so good. AH. LOVE.

automatic // castro (automatic)

Man do I love this song. I am a sucker for images of the sea, but also for images that convey the utter completed-ness of building good love. This song sounds like it should be played over both.

o vin, dissipe la tristesse // ambroise thomas + antonio de almeida (from thomas’ opera hamlet)

I took a class in the operatic legacy of Shakespeare this fall and I LOVED it. This is probably my favorite part of Thomas’ Hamlet that we studied. I sing the refrain a lot. Part of Thomas’ uniqueness was having his characters sing in contexts where it made sense to sing. This is a drinking song. It’s about letting alcohol wash away your sorrows. No, I don’t have a problem.

white winter hymnal // birdy (birdy, deluxe version)

This is my sole Christmas-representative song. Although I definitely spent hours playing through my mom’s carol books. I first heard this song on Pentatonix’ Christmas album (from 2014?). It’s sad and evocative and eerie and dark. And I like it. And I really want to learn it on the piano.

i will be found (lost at sea) // john mayer (paradise valley)

I like this one just cause it’s cute, and it gets stuck in my head a lot. I like saying I’m a little lost at sea, but you know, I’m only twenty-one. I am learning how to sail my ship, as Louisa May Alcott said. Someday all those high oceans will be mine.

white flag // joseph (white flag)

This song is my damn anthem. “I could surrender, but I’d just be pretending. I’d rather be dead than live a lie.”


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