2014 in songs

warm water” that you played through a portable speaker in the basket of your two-year-old bicycle, your last summer in montreal. volume turned way up, riding with two of your best friends — to work with the sun rising at your back, coffee in one hand, or to the bar at night, racing to beat the rain. you pretended you were in “now & then,” embodying every cliche: carefree, sun-kissed, singing at the top of your lungs without knowing the words. you played it at the park in the heat, in your stuffy apartment, on your computer at work, in the studio, and in the early morning when the three of you came home, sticky with sweat and laughter, from a night of partying under seventeen moons.

from nowhere (ame remix)” that you heard at a music festival, standing at the top of concrete steps, drinking warm beer. it played and you were dancing, the sun was relentless and you were sweating but you didn’t stop. it was how it was meant to be heard, over the speakers, loud, louder, loud infinitum, vocals carrying across the water where a solitary sailboat rocked lazily on the river. you said something about guilty pleasures, about a good house vocal, and everyone agreed. you tilted your head up, eyes closed, like they do in the movies. the next time it played, you were lying in the grass at a crumbling backyard bar called the old miami and it was so hot you could barely move. your lipstick melted off and you were all smoking cigarettes that stuck to your fingers in the heat and you knew it was one of those unforgettable days.

something special” that your friend sent to you in a facebook message last year. you played it for the first time straight off your computer, plugged in to rickety speakers with a broken sub but it was okay because the story was all there, anyway. you were distracted, but then the piano came in and literally changed your life. you’ve gathered this song up, hoarding it selfishly like it belongs to you, refusing to share it with just anybody. you still listen to it when you need a moment of solitude or respite, you listen to it when you’re hurting or scared, you listen to it when you’re writing because it makes you remember.

unite” that you play every year on december 15th, the day your friend died. he wasn’t your best friend or even a close friend, but he was a friend and his death has changed you in ways you don’t understand. you play it from youtube, simply, stoney-faced but with tears in your eyes, head bowed like in prayer. you’re not praying, though. you think about him and the things he said and the conversation you had a week before he died when he told you this was one of his favourite songs. maybe you’re looking for a sign. you’re not sure, so instead you just listen.

panther” that your best friend sent you the winter that you moved to berlin. you’ve been far away forever — never in the same city, and the song made you think of her and how she never gets mad. she’s your opposite in so many ways but she knows you better than anyone else. you listened to it for the first time sitting at your desk, drinking coffee, so when you hear it now, it feels like waking up. you sang it in the shower. you danced to it alone in your room. you listened to it walking home one night, when you were angry and it was dark. now you’re not sure who it makes you think of.

born 2 die” that they played on vintage speakers in your friend’s living room, your last weekend in montreal. you were in the kitchen when they called you from the other room, knowing this one was your favourite, the one that makes you smile and dance and sing along. you all gathered in the living room, shuffling around, laughing uncontrollably at how shaggy the carpet was, the one they would all fall asleep on later. you heard it for the first time in a far away hotel room in a haze of drink and smoke and techno, but you kept it because it was so funny at the time. you listened to the album a hundred times on a roadtrip with two of your friends, and you all complained the next time someone played it, but none of you turned it off.

a case of you” that you’ve always known but that you heard sung live last year. it’s changed and now you can never hear it the same way. you listen to it when you feel overcome with emotion, and you wonder what it would be like to be so madly in love with someone that you write a song a like this one. you sing along because it’s beautiful but you can’t keep up with the way it tumbles, trips. you hear each word as if they mean something, and most of the time, they really do.

losing control” that you heard at a music festival. you were up close to the front, you’d been dancing for hours but something in his set revived you, energized you. he was singing, voice distorted through machines, heaving out of monitors and hammering through the concrete floor. you can remember your friends confirming with one another that this was the track, but it took you a moment before you recognized it. when you finally did, you turned around, and everyone had the same look on their faces. not just your friends, but everyone. you gave everything you had to the dancefloor; it was an hour you’d be talking about for the rest of the weekend.

open” that you listened to on a rock at the edge of a lake in the summer. it was evening already and your hair was still drying and you were wearing your warmest clothes: big sweaters, wool socks, wrapped in two scarves. everything smelled like pine and wood and bonfire smoke and you could hear everyone in the distance, laughing, talking, joking. you were alone for a moment. you’d spent the day drinking too sweet cider, driving around in your friend’s speedboat, laughing so much that your face hurt. they’d pulled the boat up to a cliff and you swam over, climbing up the rock face, skinning your knees and without thinking you leapt over the edge, into the water. you couldn’t turn the song off for weeks.

perfect ruin” that you listened to on repeat for weeks in autumn, when the weather was cold and the sky was grey. you went to the concert in the basement of a church in berlin and you stood in the front row, alone, crying not because you were sad but because it was so beautiful. just his voice and the piano. you were moved. you took a long train ride to friend’s house and you couldn’t stop talking about the song, and you laughed even though it wasn’t funny. somehow it made you feel close to everything you were far away from.

two weeks” that you heard live at a small venue in the mile end. you had spent the past hour drinking and smoking on dirty steps of a depanneur with your closest friends, and everything glowed by the time you got in. you were all drunk, shrieking, stumbling in an attempt to sway along to the song’s lilt. her voice was urgent and you were all hypnotized, it was sexuality personified. when you saw her again in berlin you were grinning ear-to-ear, half because the music made you think about kissing boys in dark clubs, and half because you were thinking of that night on the dirty steps and how it felt like nothing would ever change, until it did.

blue” that you heard on a bridge in kreuzberg, played by a girl and a boy — two guitars and an amp. it was getting colder, but the sun was still out. people stopped to listen, tossed coins in a guitar case propped open by a cardboard sign. you were smiling and so was everyone else. it was one of the first moments you knew you were alone in berlin and that was okay. the lyrics made you nostalgic for your memories of home, and for things you had never even experienced. you felt so many things, and one of them was happy. you listened, and counted all the things in your life that were blue. blue, blue, blue.

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