When you load up Spotify, a great big chunk of the time you can’t think what to play, right? You default back to your old favourites, those albums and songs you played on repeat when you first discovered you could make them yours.
This isn’t about guilty pleasures; it’s about those songs you’ll still be listening to when you’re old and in your rocking chair. So, enter Teenage Kicks – a playlist series that sees bands running through the music they listened to in their formative years.
Next up, Best Ex.
Death Cab for Cutie – Photobooth
This song has always felt like a perfect representation of suburban summers. Even now, when I listen, I’m brought back to sticky summer nights, the sound of cicadas, and wet grass stuck to my bare feet. I remember listening to this and imagining what it would be like to have a summer fling – or to even just have someone to lose in any sense. As an adult, I think it holds up. There’s a certain bittersweetness here that I love.
Neutral Milk Hotel – Two-Headed Boy
History has never been my strong point, and it makes almost no sense that my teenage self would absolutely become obsessed with a concept album about WWII. This song just really hit me hard. I think it has something to do with how it highlights the fragility of bodily autonomy. The characters are presumably forced to disrobe for a Nazi medical examination. And they’re just expected to get on with it. To accept it. Because what else can you do? Humankind just has to endure in the wake of the horrible things people do.
Bright Eyes – Lover I Don’t Have To Love
I don’t know what part of my teenage self truly believed I related to these lyrics despite the fact that I had never even kissed a boy. I guess I just felt an indescribable angst without an obvious cure, and I’ve always been attracted to songs about an anti-hero. The funny thing is that I never actually heard the studio version until recently. Back in the days of Napster, I could only find a live recording, and that version sounded so spectacularly desperate and sad. Regardless, the older I get, the more meaning I, unfortunately, find here.
The Weakerthans – This Is a Fire Door Never Leave Open
The lyrics, “You breathe in 40 years of failing to describe a feeling”, absolutely ring true. This song means so much to me – a songwriter who is never short on words – that I can’t find the words to accurately describe it. John K Samson just nails the bittersweet experience of adulthood. When your coming of age is behind you, but there’s still so much room to grow. The song is so perfect that I almost don’t feel like writing songs anymore because what’s the point? They’ll never be this.
The Mountain Goats – The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton
I know this song is comedic, but when I first heard it, I was a budding singer-songwriter stuck in a hometown that didn’t appreciate the arts. I was in the marching band, and my teacher told me that I would never be a professional musician because I just wasn’t good enough. I never dreamed that I’d see myself on MTV or have an album on a Billboard chart. But I used to listen to this song and remind myself that even the smallest, most average stories, deserve to be told.
Rilo Kiley – A Better Son/Daughter
I was always an anxious kid. At eight years old, I remember having knots in my chest about nuclear war and the melting ice caps. I still am afraid of those things, and the older I get, the more I put on that list. This song always resonated with me because it’s about the extreme highs and lows of living with anxiety. Some days, you spend the whole day in bed, convinced you’re going to die. Other days, the world seems really beautiful.
Beulah – If We Can Land a Man on the Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart
A quirky indie rock song with a horn section? I’m sold. Sometimes you just need something upbeat and fun to sing along to. Especially when you’re the kind of teenager listening to Bright Eyes on repeat.
Arcade Fire – Windowsill
Remember those fears I mentioned before – melting ice caps, war? This song has unfortunately aged a little too well, but this album has always been a comfort to me. When I first started touring, I used to listen to it on our overnight drives. By the time this song came on, I’d always be at least mostly asleep. I admit it’s kind of weird to fall asleep to a song about the world slowly devolving, but I’m now an adult who falls asleep reading the news. And I wonder why I have an issue with anxiety.
Taken from the July 2023 issue of Upset. Best Ex’s single ‘Tell Your Friends’ is out now.