a guest mix from Courtney Allen

Next up in this here winter mix extravaganza is none other than one of my very good friends, Courtney Allen. She takes pretty pictures, she likes good beer and good bourbon and good music, and she is generally awesome and hilarious at all times. You should try and be her friend. She’s a good one.

My playlists have always been my comfort food. Whenever I’m having a bad week, don’t want to get out of bed, need to get a million things done at work, want to fall asleep without overthinking everything or need company on a long drive, I pull up my playlists. I can always find the perfect one.

Last year when I went through a rough breakup, one of my friends told me, in an attempt to be helpful, to not listen to any of my favorite songs. Supposedly this was to protect these songs, to keep them from getting ruined by whatever anger, sadness or regret that I would inevitably pour into them if I listened to them when I was at my most vulnerable.

But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Because at my very worst, the only thing that ever comforts me, is my iPod full of my favorite playlists. They’re always marked with a date or season, a time in my life when the songs affected me most. And when I come back to them months or years later, as I always do, they comfort me and make me feel secure.

I have a favorite fall playlist from 2010, full of Mumford and Sons, Mt. Desolation and The Temper Trap songs that I played nonstop the year I spent rainy days commuting to my internship in London. In the summer of 2012, my summer playlist was bolstered by all the new music I discovered at Sasquatch with Polica, Ben Howard and Feist offering respite to the humid days in the east coast heat.

My fall of 2013 playlist soundtracked my move to Colorado and was the perfect company for the long drive west, for after leaving Boston, it was the first time I owned my own car. It was when I discovered Willy Mason and fell in love with Andrew Belle’s Black Bear album. It soundtracked my visits to suburban strip malls just as often as it did the drive back from new trailheads in my new home of Colorado.

I always start my playlists with the few songs I can’t stop listening to. For 2015’s winter playlist it was The Barr Brothers’ Wolves, The Novel Ideas’ Montana, and Carly Rae Jepsen’s Your Type.

Then I build my playlist around these songs. I didn’t want to put Carly Rae Jepsen next to a depressing song about a could-be love, so I decided to start slow. Like a Sunday morning where you take your time to get out of bed and wake up, to drink coffee before you head out to actually get the stuff done that you committed yourself to getting done.

Occasionally my playlists center around a larger theme. I consider my heartbreak playlist from last fall one of my biggest accomplishments. “A real downer,” said Adam, which I’ve decided is a compliment coming from a guy whose specialty is sad bastard music. I have other themed playlists for mountain drives, big life changes or angry heartbreak (see my Spotify playlist, ‘Set His Motorcycle on Fire’). In college, I used to make my playlists a bit more accessible for friends who weren’t as into music as I was. They tended to alternate between sad, depressing indie folk songs and upbeat indie pop songs.

But more recently, I’ve defaulted to the broad idea that every playlist should be the music I’m obsessed with at this specific moment in time. Thus each playlist is a unique chronicle of my life in this one moment. I’m a different person with each passing month, but each playlist provides me with a glimpse into how I’ve changed, and who I’ve been all along.

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