Ryan Adams wrote each of the nine songs on his album 29 to represent a different year of his 20s. It was his great exit album and tribute to a tousled and uncertain decade, one that is at the very least, self-defining. I am 29-years-old at this very moment, turning the big 3-0 in May. Lately, I’ve been hearing new songs that have been speaking to me, but not the mature me with a restaurant job and a student loan payment plan, but rather, the 19-year-old me. They are songs I see my weird, boot-cut jean, Kerouac-obsessed self truly identifying with. Be it their bubbly sound or angsty lyrics, I am taken back to the past me, a similar me, one on the cusp of something. Perhaps this is a perfect case of nostalgia or perhaps it is regression in pure form, but either way, in the following tunes you might recognize something of an old you, someone okay with it not figured out:
HAIM – “Falling” The Haim sisters take anachronism very seriously. With small touches of ’90s dance and major touches of ’80s pop, HAIM evokes the likes of Martika, Belinda Carlisle and T’Pau’s “Heart and Soul.” It’s difficult not to picture your teenage self upset at the 21 & over limitation of the HAIM show, but it’s quite easy getting your older sibling’s ID, excited at the fact that you have the address down and now only need to know their zodiac sign.
Javelin – “Light Out” Add a cello to any song and I’m there. Add a synthesized cello to any song and I’m totally still there. There’s a poignant moment in the cult classic film But I’m A Cheerleader, when Tattle Tale’s quiet “Glass Vase Cello Case” plays over a particularly intimate scene, the deep string sound creating the perfect tone. While “Light Out” is more Passion Pit than bedroom acoustic, it’s that simple addition of a cello that can turn any romantic moment from awkward to electric.
The Men – “Half Angel Half Light” For a semester in college, my friend Brian and I were DJs on our campus radio station, WGSU The Revolution. Our time slot was Tuesdays from 2PM-4PM, which we thought was awesome. We mainly stuck to the rules, playing what was required and popular, making sure to state the name of the radio station every four songs, playing PSAs for pet adoption. But there were times we could sneak our own CDs and songs onto the air, rebellious in our own way, hoping the whole world was listening at those moments. “Half Angel Half Light” is the sound of college radio and potentially, college radio DJs: a lo-fi sensibility with punches of defiant energy.
Foxygen – “San Francisco” Unsure of the origin (except that it’s a Paul Frank tee-shirt), the punk ethos of here are three chords, now start a band could work well with any genre and there’s definitely something wide-eyed about it. Cut to: Foxygen’s “San Francisco.” The chord changes are ostensibly simple-sounding and novice, the lyrics almost like that of a torch song. Just some kids, probably in their parent’s garage or basement, starting something.
Youth Lagoon – “Dropla” Besides the overly-appropriate (and somewhat bad) name of the band, Youth Lagoon makes some pretty commercial-ready music, his syrupy beats and flying vocals perfect for Bing or Volkswagen. But with “Dropla,” it’s the looping lyric of the chorus: you will never die / you will never die that sells the song for me. What better a mantra for the young?
Devendra Banhart – “Your Fine Petting Duck” Boy/girl vocals are undeniably cute. When The Postal Service’s Give Up album was released in 2003, “Nothing Better” was for sure a standout track. The call and response of Ben Gibbard and Jen Wood (super coincidentally of Tattle Tale) is easy on the ears but heavy on the heart, almost as if it was written for the stage. In “Your Fine Petting Duck,” there is the same call and response, similar warm beats — note the transition from shoe-shuffler to pop Krautdance — and although it is somewhat lyrically somber, the cute factor here will have you blushing in no time.
Frightened Rabbit – “The Woodpile” When you just need to get in the car and drive. Or, if you’re in a city, take a walk to a train or to a bus and to a body of water and find a bench and sit on it and check out the seagulls or whatever is contemplative. And you’ll probably be by yourself, which is perfect. “The Woodpile” is a great tune to lay over the rolling end credits of a television show, but like Netflix, there’s always something ready to begin in ten seconds. Nine. Eight. Seven.