Let’s just get this out of the way right now: I’m amazed I stuck with this long enough to get through the A’s, which is more a comment about my shitty follow-through than anything else. It’s certainty farther than I got the last time I tried this. (In the interest of thorough documentation, my best attempt since my first alphabetical run-through was making it to “Beyond the Sea” in December 2017.)
I can already confidently say that while it takes much longer to get through one letter when I’m not just passively playing music as background noise, it is also infinitely more rewarding to proactively listen to songs I have neither heard nor even thought about in years. There’s something to be said about meditative, methodical consideration over rapid consumption, I guess.
Two things have jumped out at me so far as significant aspects of this project, both centered on rediscovery. One, I am in the throes of one helluva musical renaissance; two, it is absolutely unreal how palpably music animates memories. I have thought about people and places I’ve not given a second thought let alone a first one in veritable eons; I have been untangling feelings I was content to leave as actively unacknowledged heaps in the past in ways that might actually be uncharacteristically healthy. I tend to think of life before college as happening to someone else; getting to connect those long-ago moments with the flashes of foreshadowing I now have the hindsight to recognize has been downright cinematic. And surreal.
For all the things I didn’t know to expect, though, rediscovering entire albums and artists has been the most pleasant surprise. I didn’t realize how many of either were reduced to one favorite song when there’s been so much more waiting for me to finally enjoy it all. “All the Wars” has me by the earballs and I can’t stop listening to it AND its album, which is a weird switch from Sugar claiming its place as my go-to Aloha craving since college. “As Lovers Go” reminded me that even rapidly evolving Dashboard Confessional has a special place in my emo-kid indie-rock heart, and it is still so compulsively singable. Hush Sound’s “The Artist” and “As You Cry” led me back to a band I had undeservedly forgotten about and treated me to three absolutely amazing and exactly-what-I-want albums chock-full of utterly addicting songs I am so happy to get stuck in my head, especially “Break the Sky,” which I just cannot get enough of; Gaslight Anthem has enjoyed a similar resurgence of long-forgotten love, the residual melancholy it always drops on me an acceptable consequence of indulging that I am more than fine welcoming back to my morose little heart.
Other songs jumped out at me as reminders of music I never imagined I’d stop loving, not be able to share with the most important people in my life or ever be able to hear again. The Get Up Kids’ “All That I Know” was one of the more painful jabs that harkened back to some bad decisions and all the unintentionally though fundamentally mean things I’ve done to someone who deserved so much better; Tracy Bonham’s “All Thumbs” rocked me back to the rebound relationship that became a combination of a two-year hangover and personal penance.
Ben Folds’ “Ascent of Stan” probably deserved a little more attention, too, but dwelling too long on a song like that is how entire anticapitalist manifestos are written in 16 frenzied hours, and I already worry enough about how I’ll eventually find the alert threshold for the NSA agent assigned to monitoring my digital peregrinations. Meanwhile, most everything from George Harrison merits ardent adulation, and the only reason “All Things Must Pass” escaped its own bloviating entry here is because I think “Anytime” was a better vehicle for examining my thoughts on death (and also partly because I was saving all my George love for when “Awaiting on You All” cropped up).
There were plenty of tunes that got their second chance to cozy up in my brainmeats rent-free, too: “Ain’t No Time,” “All Hail Bright Futures,” “Amen,” “Another Day of Hunting” and “Are You & Me Gonna Happen” are standouts there. (There were so goddamn many of these that I finally made a playlist about it.) And being treated to long-time favorites early on made for oases of unbridled joy and a well-exercised repeat button that I especially loved. Appearances from “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse,” “Ain’t Wasting Time No More,” and the aforementioned “Anytime” were delightful visits from dearly loved old friends, some I’ve kept close and others I didn’t realize how much I’d missed.
Honestly, though, it’s just been nice to pick up where I left off in the alphabet when I want to have one less decision to make and I don’t know what I want to listen to. And getting a little more variety in my listening habits when a song reminds me of a long-forgotten album has given my go-tos both a break and a chance for me to miss them, while also welcoming all-new favorites to the herd. Giving myself the time and space to enjoy whatever paths and penchants pop up along the way has been crucial in truly enjoying the process.
Now. Who wants some quick stats?
Total: 653 songs
First song: “A” by Cartel (Song No. 1)
Last song: “Ayahuasca at Dawn” by Aloha (Song No. 653)
Shortest song: “Amazing Glimmer” by Pernice Brothers (27 seconds)
Longest song: “Atom Heart Mother: Father’s Shout / Breast Milky / Mother Fore / Funky Dung / Mind Your Throats Please / Remergence” by Pink Floyd (23:44 min.)
Most recurring song: Tie with six versions each: “Ants Marching” by Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds and Dave Matthews Band; “All Along the Watchtower” by Dave Matthews Band and Jimi Hendrix
Most time spent on one song: “All Along the Watchtower” by Dave Matthews Band and Jimi Hendrix (six songs @ 45.8 min.)
Number of songs not on Spotify: 34
Total playing time: 1.7 days