When I Discovered My Favorite Songs Aren’t My Favorite Songs…

While I was on a road trip with my girlfriend this summer, I bravely ceded control of my iPod. Flipping through my playlists to find one she liked, she asked me if I wanted to listen to my Top 25 Most Played playlist–a playlist automatically assembled by iTunes and which I had no idea existed. What followed was a surprising series of mini-revelations as to what my favorite songs actually were.

I think that sometimes one gets so caught up in popular and critical opinion that it’s easy to fall in love with the idea of a song more than the song itself, or that you may love one song on an album so much you forget the songs around it that you listen to just as much. So color me surprised when, looking at my music library sorted by plays, The Decemberists didn’t crack the top ten. Nor did The National, or Arcade Fire, or many other bands that I love more than Rufus Wainwright, whose “Poses” is the 6th most played track on my iPod. And my two “favorite” Modest Mouse songs, “3rd Planet” and “Night on the Sun”? They weren’t there either. Looking at “Gravity Rides Everything” sitting atop the list, I realized that “Wow, that actually might be my favorite song.” It’s a strange bit of cognitive dissonance that results from this, triggering the realization that beliefs don’t always match actions. I may claim that “PDA” is my favorite Interpol song, but the facts disagree–and such was my experience with other bands.

With perhaps one exception, I didn’t anticipate any of these songs to be here–and yet they are. They’re the favorite songs that hide in plain sight; the unsung heroes; the crushes that you never notice until someone points it outThe end result is that the next time I’m asked what my favorite songs are, I may have to see if perception matches reality.

Next time you need a playlist to listen to, peruse your Top 25; maybe you’ll be just as surprised as I was.

In the meantime, here’s what I was surprised about: my top 10 most played songs.

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The Decemberists Nail their Set at the Ryman

The Decemberists tear into opening song “A Singer Addresses His Audience”


Let it be known that when I last saw the Decemberists back in 2011, I successfully predicted that their first song would be “Apology Song” off their debut EP 5 Songs. Thus, when I predicted that they’d begin this show with the very appropriate “A Singer Addresses His Audience,” the Decemberists didn’t let me down and I am now two-for-two on my predictions. The Decemberists have never let me down: they’ve pumped out quality album after quality album, excellent live show after excellent live show. And Monday night, led by charismatic frontman Colin Meloy, was no different, even if Meloy and Co. had to struggle against an at times apathetic crowd at Ryman Auditorium.

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Sufjan Stevens Dials it Back for the Intimate ‘Carrie & Lowell’

Sufjan Stevens has never been afraid to bear his heart to an audience. Even at his most thematic and theatrical–2005’s masterpiece Illinois–he wasn’t shy about including a line like “I cried myself to sleep last night” as the centerpiece of a song before asking the listener to question “are you writing from the heart?” But while Illinois buried its confessional nature amidst richly arranged baroque pop playgrounds, Carrie & Lowell is a thoroughly intimate affair; all you’ll find here are fluttering guitars, double-tracked vocals delivered with a whisper, and haunting synthesizer elegies bookending the album’s brisk tracks. It is an album that is simple and anguished to its very core.

Sufjan's seventh album is inspired by his mother and step-father
Sufjan’s seventh album is inspired by his mother and step-father

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Better With Age: 4 Albums to Consider

Like a fine wine or high-quality bourbon, some albums just seem to get better and better–some get better with multiple listens, some get better because they were too ahead of their time, and some get better because they exist completely outside of time. Here are a few albums that, if you haven’t heard them in a while, should be given another few listens.

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