Snapshots of life through music

When Jeff and I started dating, we talked a lot about music, as many do in a budding relationship. We'd share artists with each other and talk about what we listen to in different contexts. He sent me Zero7, I introduced him to The Staves. We bonded over a shared respect for each other's taste.

Yeah, I kept screenshots of our swoony conversations. What of it?

Yeah, I kept screenshots of our swoony conversations. What of it?

I didn't mention that my best friend and I were both obsessed with Nicki Minaj. I also didn't tell him about that one month where I couldn't stop listening to Hilary Duff's new album. Seriously - during one week, my ONLY "recently listened to" artist on Spotify was Hilary Duff. 

It was a rough time in my life, okay? 

Right after divorce, I found that every song sounded like a love song. A simple lyric would send me into uncontrollable sobs. It was a problem. I turned to what my friend called 'anthems' - decidedly safe songs that weren't about love or breakups or pain. Or if they were about pain, the lyrics weren't too raw. They were sophomoric glee in music form.

Stuff like Hilary Duff's album, Taylor Swift's 1989, Nicki Minaj's Pinkprint. Mixed with nostalgic tracks from way-pre-married life, songs that are so bad they're enjoyable like Mandy Moore's Candy and Jessica Simpson's With You (I loved that song in middle school). I compiled them all (except the T Swizzle ones, because she's not on Spotify) into a playlist I called "I'm appropriately ashamed of this playlist."

I think we all take a bit of pride in our tastes. Any clout that I could earn with a careful curation of music will be destroyed if you look at that playlist. Just know: it's not what I usually listen to.

That's what I listen to when everything hurts.


Tracking my healing through music

I've always found immense power in music. I use it to change my mood, to focus, to celebrate, to destress. It sets the tone of a dinner, it helps me power through a lethargic workday, it makes a commute way more fun.

After my ex left, I drowned my thoughts with Spotify. I listened to music all day, every day. I couldn't stand silence.

At that time, I had a habit of creating monthly or quarterly playlists. I'd sometimes carry over songs, usually all-time favorites like Cosmo Sheldrake's Solar (the lyrics are a William Blake poem) and Evergreen by Broods. Most of the songs and artists, however, would be unique.

Looking back on those playlists is a fascinating replica of my healing process.

December 2014: Broken

This is one of my all-time favorite playlists - it truly feels like a snapshot in time.

I listened to Wolf Gang with sadness - my ex and I discovered them a few years prior and loved their music. We'd sing their songs on road trips. I couldn't let go of those moments. 

The same was true of Ben Howard. I can't listen to Old Pine without crying, even now.

I binge-listened to AM, the 2013 release by the Arctic Monkeys. Snap Out Of It was a song that I'd angrily blare in my little convertible, pissed at my ex and that one Tinder guy. R U Mine? was the same.

Speaking of that one Tinder guy - his influence is all over my December 2014 playlist. He introduced me to Purity Ring, Beats Antique, and Crystal Castles. His taste is impeccable. 

Q1 2015: avoidance

This is quite a small playlist. I curated a few songs that didn't couldn't me of my ex. I knew he'd never heard of these artists and would probably not seek them out on his own.

Some of these turned into all-time favorites. I still love Not Going Home (really anything by Great Good Fine OK) and Uma by Panama Wedding. They'd definitely make the ranks in a "Taylor Loves These" playlist.

Also noticeably absent: any influence of the Tinder guy, peppered in my December tunes. I was pissed at everything. Though a third party could never guess my anger from this little collection of tunes, it's painfully obvious to me.

Q2 2015: Confusion

I'm calling this "confusion" because, today, I legitimately don't like some of the music on this playlist. I think SOHN is meh and I find myself skipping over Banks songs whenever they come on shuffle.

Wolf Gang re-appears here, this time not out of teary nostalgia but because I legitimately love their music. Same with Cosmo Sheldrake, Broods, Arctic Monkeys. I started to re-claim my own tastes and separate them from my ex.

I started adding in new influences in Q2 - Brendan introduced me to ODESZA. Another friend pointed me in the direction of Glass Animals. Those were steps forward... but then I looked at my ex's recent listens and grabbed Best Coast and Electric Guest. That's also where I found SOHN. Two steps forward, one step backward.

Summer 2015: Friends

Let's be honest: most of this playlist was influenced by people I love (though, at the time, Jeff was a crush and not yet a love).

Chloe and I listened to Ryn Weaver on the daily. I kept trying to get her into Tame Impala, but was met with ambivalence.

Jeff pointed me to DJ Shadow and Jamiroquai. Ratatat was suddenly not an association with my ex, but the songs Jeff and I would listen to in his GTI, driving to dinner.

Megan makes an appearance, too - she sent me Dillon Francis' Get Low as a joke. Doubt she thought I'd actually like it. I do. I really do.

August 2015: Bye Felicia

There is no trace of my old life in this playlist. I love Wolf Gang, but it reminds me of old Taylor. The Taylor who had a townhouse and a husband and a puppy and a convertible.

HOLYCHILD, Conner Youngblood, Phantogram and AURORA feel like the more current version of myself. Do yourself a favor and listen to all four immediately.

This playlist feels like independence, defiance, and moving on.

I guess I should admit that Chloe found HOLYCHILD first.

Fall 2015: Modern Taylor

This one feels the most "me." 

I found The 1975 (Love Me is a fave) and DWNTWN. I continued my love for Conner Youngblood. Man, I love that music. This playlist is full of the stuff I listen to today.

Of course, my friends' influences are all over it. Brendan and I listened to Big Grams obsessively for a while. Amanda and I went to a Lord Huron concert together. Chloe wouldn't stop talking about CHVRCHES' new songs.

This one, along with the very first "era" playlist I created, is my favorite. Fitting to begin and end on high notes.

I no longer create playlists based on eras, in part because my emotions don't change as completely as time goes on. I'm no longer in a turbulent process of getting through trauma. In 2014 and early 2015, my entire being was turbulent. The music I listened to reflected that.

Today, music is more circumstantial. I listen to one set of tunes while I work and a completely different playlist when I'm walking home or hanging out in my apartment. If I drove, ever, that'd be when I'd turn to these former eras. I love a bit of nostalgia when I drive.

It feels great to listen to these songs and feel no pain. I remember the pain I felt in December 2014, but it's only a memory.

That's progress.

Header image: Corey Blaz via Unsplash

Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email, or read more from the blog.