Songs that make me feel feelings

by zoeibarker

One of my favorite quotes about music is from Jim DeRogatis

“How do those of us who love music interact with it in real life? We sit on the couch and blast the stuff on the stereo, trying to convince each other that the music we love is something that our friends need in their lives too.”

Sometimes when you love a song and you show it to someone else they’ll think it’s OK but they won’t get it in the way that you do. Music is personal. Sharing music with others puts you in a vulnerable position – especially when you’re judgmental and you’ve disliked songs others have shared with you before. But there are also times when you hear something that a friend shows you and you end up liking it too and you form a bond because of it.

And that’s why we share music – because the risk is worth the reward.

So here I am sharing music, as I’ve done a million times before. This time it’s a collection of songs that make me feel feelings. They’re not necessarily my favorite songs, but they evoke emotion. Most songs make me feel, but these make me feel feelings. You know those songs that give you goose bumps or take you somewhere else? These are mine.

Links are direct to Spotify and Youtube. Enjoy my TV references and overuse of the word honestly.

“Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” The White Stripes [Spotify / Youtube]

One of my most vivid music-related memories was when this song came out. I think I heard it on the radio (WKQX/Q101 in its prime) and I remember I was standing in my room, my speakers turned almost all the way up and I heard the feedback screech and the first chord and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. Something about the sound and how loud it is and how raw the recording is struck me deep in my soul. I had never loved a song as much as I loved this one. It was the first time in my life that I had an immediate and powerful emotional reaction to a song. It caught me by surprise – I got to listen to it for the first time without any expectations. To this day I get that same elation from my gut to the top of my head – a blissful swelling in my heart. This is also why I chose to walk down the aisle to this song. Everyone thought I was crazy, but on my wedding day, as I was walking towards the love of my life, I got to hear my favorite song and feel every possible positive feeling. To me it’s what love feels like.

“Do You Feel It?” Chaos Chaos [Spotify / YouTube]

This is a more recent discovery for me and it’s all because of a cartoon. I’m not kidding. One of the most emotional moments I’ve experienced in a TV show is when this song is playing at the end of season 2 episode 3 of Rick & Morty. It gets me every time. Do yourself a favor and watch that episode. Actually watch the whole series – it’s fantastic. There’s something special about the simplicity of the piano and the beat and how it builds. Maybe it’s only good after seeing that episode, but I really like this song. It makes me feel sad and happy all at once.

“Needle in the Hay”  [Spotify / YouTubeand “Between the Bars”  [Spotify / YouTubeElliot Smith

I’ll be honest – I was not into Elliot Smith when I first heard him. I think I was just in the wrong time in my life to appreciate him, but later, after watching The Royal Tenenbaums a bunch (that scene with Luke Wilson in the bathroom, ugh) I started to get it. After I started to like Needle in the Hay, I sought out more of Elliot Smith’s music. Of course he was already dead by then. But both of these songs are treasures. When you need a good cry, these songs on some headphones are the best thing. Also another Rick and Morty reference: this song is a perfect part of a joke in one of my favorite moments from the Tiny Rick episode. For those who don’t know: Rick is Summer and Morty’s grandpa and he’s a scientist and in this episode he has transmitted his consciousness into a younger version of his body and they call him Tiny Rick. He has a blast connecting with his grandkids but his teenager brain doesn’t think about consequences, so he doesn’t want to leave the younger body, but Morty and Summer know that he has to go back to his old man body, otherwise he’ll die. Summer uses Between the Bars to get Tiny Rick to stop wanting to be a teenager – it’s a perfect scene (watch it here!).

“Modern World” Wolf Parade [Spotify / YouTube]

This whole album by Wolf Parade was on repeat on my iPod Micro (light blue chrome – hell yeah) when I was in late high school. Specifically, I think it was the summer between junior and senior year that I listened to it a lot. I can pinpoint exactly what I love so much about this song: the bridge. It makes the hairs on my arms stand up (it’s around 1:23). I always turn it up at that point and can’t help singing along. It reminds me of carefree summers, driving around downtown Wheaton with my friends, going to get coffee and loiter around in the sunshine. A short and sweet little nugget of a song.

“My Last Hostage”  [Spotify / YouTubeand “Muscle Cars”  [Spotify / YouTubeThe Life and Times 

Whenever I’ve written about The Life and Times, I always reference My Last Hostage as being the track that got me hooked on them. It’s true. The crashy symbols, the dreamy vocals, the overall shoegaze-y feel. I love it. It’s catchy and unique. It took me longer to get into Muscle Cars, because honestly, I don’t like slow songs very much (ha! what is this playlist?). Once I saw it live though, it took on a whole other place in my world. If you get the chance to see The Life and Times live, do it. These songs will shake you down to your bones.

“Trailer Trash” Modest Mouse [Spotify / YouTube]

Listening to Modest Mouse takes me back to a specific point in time – when I was around 17 years old. A lot happened that year. I was starting to figure out who I thought I was. I began defecting from a lot of my past tastes. Discovering Modest Mouse through my friends and my job at the time was a turning point in my teenage identity phase (lol that was short lived). Even though they’re not on my day-to-day rotation anymore I still have a lot of nostalgia for Modest Mouse. It was hard to pick just one Modest Mouse song, but this one was usually at the top of my track order. It’s long, but worth every minute.

“Welcome Home, Son” Radical Face [Spotify / YouTube]

This is a song that I feel like would be on most people’s version of this list. I remember when it came out thinking that it was really special. I remember what the MySpace page looked like and everything. It didn’t take long for it to get old and the sound to become common, but I remember the first time I heard it build and fall – I was completely swept up in it. If I close my eyes when I listen to this song, I imagine myself riding in a car with the windows down on a sunny day passing by a forested area on a windy road. Today, Radical Face falls in the realm of “hipster nonsense” (thanks, Liz Lemon) but back then it was fresh and I was into it.

“Unaccompanied Cello Suite” Bach (performed by Yo-Yo Ma) [Spotify / YouTube]

The unaccompanied cello suite is one of the best Bach pieces ever. That’s my opinion, but it’s also in a lot of commercials and TV shows and movies, so I think it’s a safe bet to say that with confidence. Anyway, I played the cello for a few years, so I love cello-forward pieces. There’s no way I could’ve ever played this song unless I took on a different personality and was able to concentrate long enough to put in the hours to master it, but it’s definitely one of my favorite pieces of music. It also corresponds to a pivotal scene in The West Wing (another one of my favorite TV shows) so that just adds to the feelings. I like to close my eyes when I listen to it to really get wrapped up in how beautiful it is.

“Where Is My Mind?” Pixies [Spotify / YouTube]

Another song that’s probably on everyone’s list. Overplayed by anyone who has seen Fight Club and covered by every band ever. But I can’t deny that it still makes me feel feelings, even after all the exposure. Makes me want to get out my flannel and converse and hang out in a garage. I imagine everyone has a specific memory tied to this song too.

“All They Ever Do is Talk” Earlimart [Spotify / YouTube]

This song was also a TV discovery for me (you’re seeing a theme here), this time from Veronica Mars. I’ve watched the series at least five times all the way through, but I didn’t vibe on this song until the one of the last times I went through it. It’s a short scene and the music makes it much more powerful and it reminds me of other shoegaze songs that I like. As soon as I found out what it was, I listened to it over and over and it grew to be one of my go-tos for this type of playlist. It goes into my “rainy day drone-y stuff” playlist too, but it’s certainly a feelings-heavy song.

“Audience No. 2” Autolux [Spotify / YouTube]

Usually I’d say my favorite Autolux song is Turnstyle Blues or Blanket, but this isn’t a list of my favorite Autolux songs, this is a list of songs that make me feel feelings. When I first heard this song, it was the single from their first album in eight years. Fantastic Planet changed my life in its own way, and Transit Transit as an album is good, but Audience No. 2 on its own affected me more than both combined. It was the end of the summer before my first year of college. As soon as I heard it I was overcome. I had just moved to Chicago and it was the first time in my life I was living on my own. I had two roommates from high school who -it shortly became apparent- did not have anywhere near the mindset I did in the real world. Pretty soon it was like we were on different planets. I hadn’t felt that alone before, and this song felt like what the inside of my head sounded like. Dark and dreary, reality sinking in. But along with the deep drums and solemn chords, “suddenly I’m alright” became my own little anthem. It was there for me through my independence-developing, non-fake emotional stage — and thank god that only lasted a few months. I was on my feet eventually and moved on, but this song reminds me of the times that I wasn’t.

“If I Could Write”  [Spotify / YouTubeand “Reflecting Light”  [Spotify / YouTubeSam Phillips

These two songs are only important to me because of my favorite show of all time: Gilmore Girls. Two key scenes happen during these songs. Technically three now, since the Netflix revival. In case you didn’t know, Sam Phillips is the creator of the famous “la la la la la” bits throughout Gilmore Girls. I’ve liked If I Could Write for a while, it’s a beautiful song, but the scene where Rory is leaving for Europe is just perfect for it. Female acoustic acts can get a little boring, but I love a good subtle revenge anthem and this borders on that. Reflecting Light is special — it’s the first song Lorelai and Luke dance to, but since seeing the revival it nearly makes me burst into tears. It’s silly to feel so strongly for a fictional world but Gilmore Girls got me through so much and it holds a special place in my heart. Both of these songs are big emotional gets for me, even if they’re not usually the kind of music I listen to.

“Bradenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major” Bach [Spotify / YouTube]

My favorite Brandenburg Concerto: mainly for its cello part and how jaunty it is! When I was learning to play the cello this was one of the pieces we played in the school orchestra, and I had a really hard time with a certain measure of it. My (very very patient) cello tutor tried her best to get me to be able to play it, but I struggled, so she took my printed sheet music and wrote “section fudge pie” across the top of that measure to make it less scary. She told me to practice it over and over until I got section fudge pie right. So I went home and played that measure over and over and over until my arms and head hurt, but eventually, I got it. I had never worked on anything that hard in my life. To this day that measure symbolizes determination to me — even though I ended up messing it up when we played it in the school concert (but I’m pretty sure no one noticed since I was like last chair) I knew I had mastered it on my own and that was enough. I’d like to get it tattooed on me some day.

“I Can’t Wait” Star and Micey [Spotify / YouTube]

There’s something about stomps and claps that make a song feel more alive. This one has both, and the chorus is super catchy. Disclaimer: I know this band personally, but they’re so fantastic, I can’t not include them. I know enough bands IRL to make another post about them – but this is the only one I’ll add here because they’re the only ones on Spotify and I don’t want to discredit myself by stacking my blog with endorsements 🙂  but honestly, this song is so full of life and all of the reasons people like music. It makes us happy. It’s fun. This song is pure fun.

“Birdhouse in Your Soul” They Might Be Giants [Spotify / YouTube]

This song is important to me because I was almost born to it! The album Flood had just come out and as my mom was preparing for my due date, she picked it to bring with her to the hospital. I don’t know if they actually did bring it but didn’t listen to it or if they forgot it, but I still feel very connected to it. Knowing this about Birdhouse in Your Soul makes me feel like it was written for me — which is impossible, but this list is about how things *feel*. Plus it’s an upper and that’s important in a playlist full of emotional tracks. It felt appropriate to end on a high note.