10 Songs to Help Your Year Go Right

Congratulations! You made it to 2019!

Personally, 2018 was a fairly good year: the one in which I was accepted to Kenyon, graduated from high school and started college. But after a particularly rough last few months, I made it a priority to try my best to start fresh in the new year, and music has been a significant part of that. If you’re anything like me, music is essential to everyday life, from songs that pump you up more when things are going well, to those that help you through it when they’re not, to those for all the times in between.

Despite being a largely social activity, listening to music can also be incredibly personal: no matter what the artist may have originally intended, certain songs and lyrics can be taken to mean whatever you need them to mean at that point in your life. Here are just a few songs I’ve been listening to lately to both put the past year behind me, and motivate myself to start the new year/semester off in the best way possible.  

1. “Still” - Seinabo Sey

Key lyric: “I’ve been thinking about tomorrow, instead of drowning in the past.”

I had never heard of Seinabo Sey until I stumbled upon this song, but her incredible vocals paired with meaningful lyrics struck me instantly. “Still” is an emotional and empowering call to move on from the past and look forward to a brighter future.  


2. Falling - HAIM

Key lyric: “Don't stop, no, I'll never give up. And I'll never look back, just hold your head up. And if it gets rough, it's time to get rough”

At the beginning of an already stressful semester, this upbeat song by sister-group HAIM reminds me to push past any desire to give up, and encourages me to focus on what I want to achieve this year and in the future.  


3. Toe to Toe - Toh Kay

Key lyric: “I don’t care what you do with the little time everyone gets, as long as you do the math: choose a path that’ll never hurt anyone else. Although they’ve hurt you, make damn sure they’ve heard you.”

This acoustic cover of Streetlight Manifesto’s original by lead singer Tomas Kalnoky (Toh Kay) can be interpreted in a number of ways. For me, it’s multiple things at once: both an acknowledgement that, simply put, life isn’t easy, and a reminder to remain resilient despite those hardships. Ultimately, the song reminds me of the kind of person I hope to be this year and in the future: someone who strives to do the most they can to avoid hurting others, who is also able to channel their own past hurt into positive growth. To be better, for both myself and those around me. Also, it’s pretty beautiful.


4. Be Calm - Fun.

Key lyric: “Be calm. I know you feel like you are breaking down. I know that it gets so hard sometimes, be calm.”

Lead singer Nate Reuss wrote this song after moving to a new city, soon after starting a new band following the breakup of his previous group. It describes the sometimes bewildering feeling of beginning something new, with no sense of familiarity or comfort. The song is upbeat and fast-paced, but the lyrics are reassuring, and remind the listener to take a deep breath when things get overwhelming.



5. Changes - Langhorne Slim & The Law

Key lyric: “Things could be stranger but I don't know how. I'm going through changes now. Could spend a lifetime trying to figure it out, I'm going through changes now”

“Changes” is a beautiful song. Singer Sean Scolnick’s vocals paired with acoustic guitar make for a soothing reminder that the changes we undergo each year are not something to be anxious about, but rather an essential part of growing and learning from the past.


6. All Will Be Well - The Gabe Dixon Band

Key lyric: “All will be well, even after all the promises you've broken to yourself. All will be well, you can ask me how but only time will tell.”

“All Will Be Well” is wonderfully reassuring in its quiet insistence that, eventually, no matter what you’re going through, everything will be okay. The song also reminds us to forgive ourselves and let go of past failures. In my case, that usually means forgiving myself for taking a nap instead of getting ahead of reading. Thanks for helping me justify my bad habits, Gabe!



7. Alaska - Maggie Rogers

Key lyric: “Learned to talk and say whatever I wanted to. And I walked off you, and I walked off an old me”

This song by “folk-electronica” (which apparently exists) artist, Maggie Rogers, could easily be labeled as just another breakup song. But more broadly, the track seems to apply to any decision to move forward unencumbered by the past: whether that means moving on from a specific event or person, or simply deciding to make positive changes in yourself.


8. Heavy - Birdtalker

Key lyric: “Are you tired, are you weary of the hidden hate you've been holding? Did you lose that love or have you never had it? Are you feeling sad 'cause you did a bad thing? Leave what's heavy, what's heavy behind.”

“Heavy” perfectly speaks to the idea that anything that is unnecessary or holds you back (or, as the iconic Marie Kondo might say, that which does not “spark joy”) should be left behind as you move into the new year.


9. California Kids - Weezer

“It's gonna be alright. If you're on a sinking ship, the California kids will throw you a lifeline. And if you're up all night thinking about something you did, the California kids will show you the sunshine.”

Weezer is one of those bands that I’ve been listening to for as long as I can remember. Mostly because it always seemed to be playing in my kitchen growing up (thanks, Dad!). And while there are some differing opinions on their more recent work, I personally loved their “White Album” (2016), and especially the message behind “California Kids,” an upbeat, uplifting track that assures the listener they’re not alone.


10. Thank You - Bombadil

Key lyric: “Forget about the ones who let you down, but remember to stay gracious to the ones who stuck around.”

First of all, check out Bombadil. They’re great and seriously underappreciated. “Thank You” is a quiet, calming reminder to take stock of the positive things in your life. Having completed a semester at Kenyon, it especially leads me to reflect on the people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had so far. I know that I won’t necessarily always be close with all the people that I am now as a first-year, but “Thank You” reminds me that that’s okay, and to appreciate the time we spend together now, as well as look forward to the future.


So there we go. You can find all the songs listed, and many more, here. Happy listening, and good luck with your transition into the new semester and 2019!


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