What a feeling.
That phrase has been with me in a lot of different ways in the run-up to this year’s birthday. Things have been particularly emotional and delicate lately, in the best and worst ways possible. Emotions themselves have gotten more complex, as has the physical journey of living inside this here body of mine. The practice and concept of feeling takes up a lot of my space and I’m grateful for that and for it.
A few weeks ago, on Christmas Eve, I found myself temporarily stranded at a communal charging station outside of Gate 51 at Reagan National Airport, looking for a way to pass the time due to a missed connection. I wanted to get a head start on this year’s birthday theme so I pulled up an empty note and started playing around with some ideas. Here we are, six weeks later, and not a single one of them made the cut.
Last year I told you how 28 fit me like a favorite sweater. How it was the first age that ever felt right when I approached it. And that remained true for all 12 glorious months. For once, I felt like my mind and my body were in complete alignment.
29, on the other hand, is truly a whole new experience. It’s the first time where my age feels older than I’m ready to be. Yet another new and complex feeling to weave into my web of all the others.
The past few years I’ve had so much to say, and the year before that I was tired. I seem to live life within cycles of three. The witching number. Periods of rest, and then growth, and then change. 29 marks the start of new rest and I can tell that it’s needed. Needed in the blood and the bones and the heart and the mind, the spine and the feet and the hands and the toes. Needed in the breaths drawn in pushed out and in and out and in slow out.
Life at 29 has become more rhythmic, somewhat musical. I don’t know if you can tell or not.
There are songs that hold sensory memories, in the ways that they’ve taken up your space and time and the ways that you’ve taken up theirs. We bundle up moments and feelings, we wrap them in tunes, add a lyrical bow, and sometimes they stay like that, with us forever. Sometimes we share but often we don’t, and no two get wrapped up quite the same.
In my eyes, music (in all of its many different experiences) is one of the more intimate expressions a person can share with another. Intimate, defined as an adjective, defined as closely acquainted, familiar. Familiar, another adjective, defined as well known from long or close association. Close, another, a short distance away or apart in space or time.
Today, you and I, friend, right here on this webpage, we are close.
What follows is a list of 29 songs, tunes, jams, and bops, not necessarily all favorites but packed to the brim full of senses and each with their own threads of feeling, composed and carried over the years of my life, and here to herald the rest.
Listen along if you please.
Layla (Acoustic) by Eric Clapton
Like a fool, I fell in love with you
You turned my whole world upside-down
This is my favorite song of all time and it has been ever since I first heard it, which must have been in the womb. This unplugged version was recorded a year and a tiny smidge (a week) before I was born, so something in the universe must have known it was time to call me down. I knew all of the lyrics long before I knew who Eric Clapton was. Reminds me of comfort and seeing if I can spot this one.
Kokomo by The Beach Boys
That dreamy look in your eye, give me a tropical contact high
Way down in Kokomo
This song first came into my life via a cover by The Muppets on an old VHS (perhaps My Muppet Valentine?). It’s the first song on a three song playlist called “Fridays in Kokomo After Midnight” that I put on to find joy in those early mornings when I wake up without any. Reminds me of an old box of cassette tapes in my grandfather’s work car and the smells of gasoline and paint thinner.
Honorable mention to “Don’t Bring Me Down” by Electric Light Orchestra, for getting the people going.
Crocodile Rock by Elton John
I never knew me a better time and I guess I never will
This was my preferred selection on my aunt’s electric keyboard, which featured an index of popular songs and light up keys that would teach you how to play them. Did I ever learn to play anything? No. Did I enjoy typing in this song’s code and dancing to the red key light show? Absolutely. Reminds me of scrunchies and playing in basements.
Honorable mention to “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues,” for being my actual favorite EJ song.
Forever Young by Rod Stewart
But whatever road you choose, I’m right behind you win or lose
This carries with it all of the bitter and the sweet. Reminds me of the homeland and lost dreams.
Honorable mention to “Young Turks,” for making me fall in love with radio stations.
Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root
I would like to reach out my hand
This song has always felt like an ode to being a young girl not sure about much of anything at all. It was the first time I found comfort in the patterns of music, without realizing that I had. We need more songs you’re meant to mumble to. Reminds me of Matilda and lying in sunshine.
Run-Around by Blues Traveler
But I know no matter what the waitress brings I shall drink in and always be full
This is one of those songs you never intend to learn every word to but somehow becomes hard coded in your body. Here lies the start of my harmonica infatuation. Reminds me of the 90s and riding in the car with my mom.
Honorable mentions to “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows and “Roll to Me” by Del Amitri, for keeping me company on moody adolescent days at the King’s Park swing set.
You Get What You Give by New Radicals
But when the night is falling, you cannot find the light
You feel your dreams are dying, hold tight
This song marks what I consider to be my musical awakening. It was the first time I can remember actually registering the lyrics for what was being said, and they made me feel like someone out there had my back even if I didn’t know who. Reminds me of Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed and a blue jewel tone boombox.
Honorable mention to “Mother We Just Can’t Get Enough,” for teaching me the beauty of shout-singing at the top of your lungs.
When You Were Young by The Killers
Can we climb this mountain? I don’t know
Higher now than ever before, I know we can make it if we take it slow
Let’s take it easy, easy now, watch it go
This is my favorite band of all time. They’ve been with me for every high and low and all that’s in between. I used to listen to this song when I actually was young, wondering about what could possibly have started turning. Reminds me of safety nets and sitting on the back of the couch.
Honorable mention to “A Dustland Fairytale,” for remaining a cherished lullaby across all of the ages and stages.
Let Go by Frou Frou
So let go, so let go, and jump in, oh well whatcha waiting for?
It’s alright, cause there’s beauty in the breakdown
This song is probably my lifetime most played. It was so creatively inspiring and brought me so much escapism when I was younger that I used to put it on repeat and pull all nighters to write and write and write. Reminds me of how my parents wouldn’t let me have a MySpace to talk to the kids I went to school with so I spent my youth years on message boards making friends with people from all around the world instead.
Any Man of Mine by Shania Twain
You gotta shimmy, shake, make the earth quake
This has taught me how about three things I was absolutely positive. First, my grandfather loved Shania Twain. Second, there was a part of him that saw no issue whatsoever in letting his 13 year old granddaughter start getting behind the bar to sling drinks with him. And third, that dancing along to this song will always be non-negotiable. Reminds me of rope swings and plastic pitchers.
Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds
Love’s strange, so real in the dark
This song has been in my life for all this time and I’m only just now learning that Simple Minds is a Scottish band. The Breakfast Club was my introduction to John Hughes and the kick-off for my long love affair with 80s pop culture. Spin magazine called this “a romanic and melancholy dance track” and I couldn’t have put it better myself. Reminds me of Fast Times and internalization.
Honorable mention to “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, for making it to the top of the charts on Punter’s jukebox (may you rest in peace forever).
Call On Me by Eric Prydz
Call on me, call on me
This music video. We here at Tales of Cass owe Eric Prydz a lot. Reminds me of college and Steve Winwood.
All Around Me by Flyleaf
My hands float up above me, and you whisper you love me
This was on a mixed CD I made of popular alternative tracks that I found on LimeWire to force myself into liking the genre after discovering my 8th grade crush was into Breaking Benjamin. It was the first album I remember listening to and learning in full, and Lacey Sturm brought a much needed angsty, feminine presence to my teens. Reminds me of the sound of changing CDs and the refuge that was my high school bedroom.
Honorable mention to Angels & Airwaves and Thirty Seconds To Mars, for turning my daydreams epic.
Faint by Linkin Park
I am a little bit insecure, a little unconfident
Cause you don’t understand, I do what I can, but sometimes I don’t make sense
This is my second favorite band of all time. As a young Cass, they were singing all of these emotions back at me that I hadn’t yet learned how to process, but that I could somehow find camaraderie in. Fast forward to an older Cass and I’ve found in them so much more. Reminds me of my beloved 95.5 WBRU.
Honorable mention to “The Little Things Give You Away,” for being what it is.
Dig by Incubus
If I turn into another, dig me up from under what is covering the better part of me
Sing this song, remind me that we’ll always have each other, when everything else is gone
This is the most romantic song of all time. I used to be obsessed with a fan-made contemporary dance video I came across one day on YouTube but I’m pretty sure it’s been removed from the internet and I just want you all to know that I will remember it until my dying day. Reminds me of the future.
Honorable mention to “Everlong (Acoustic)” by the Foo Fighters, for that lovin’ feelin’.
X&Y by Coldplay
When something is broken and you try to fix it, trying to repair it any way you can
This is my sneaky way of getting an entire album onto this list. Reminds me of summers in New Jersey and never running out of things to talk about.
Honorable mentions to “Strawberry Swing” and “Talk,” for getting me into the sounds of guitars.
Name by The Goo Goo Dolls
A tired song keeps playing on a tired radio
This is one of those songs you don’t realize means a lot to you, because you don’t hear it all that often, but when you do it slams you back into a bunch of sensory associations and then all of a sudden you’re getting real emotional on I-90 and almost miss your exit, you know? Reminds me of driving around with the windows down in my little blue bug boy.
In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel
Love, I get so lost sometimes
Days pass, and this emptiness fills my heart
This is one of those songs you do realize means a lot to you, even if you don’t hear it all that often, and when you do you get warm in the chest and then all of a sudden you’re getting real emotional on I-90 and almost miss your exit, you know? Reminds me of hot coffee and John Cusack.
Sabotage by The Beastie Boys
Cause what you see you might not get
This will forever evoke the desire to live long and prosper. Reminds me of captain’s logs and staying up way past my bedtime.
Fader by The Temper Trap
And I pledge my self allegiance to a better night’s sleep at home
This song brings back a visceral memory of listening to it on the way home from freshman orientation. Reminds me of riding the MBTA red line at golden hour and dancing in the kitchen (go ahead and try not dancing to this song, I dare you).
Midnight City by M83
The city is my church, it wraps me in blinding twilight
This backs more daydreams than any other song I’ve listened to, and they’re mostly imaginings of driving fast cars. Reminds me of freshman dorm hall runways and iTunes Top 25.
Honorable mention to “Shell Suite,” for also bringing the vibes.
Stockholm Syndrome by One Direction
Who’s this man that’s holding your hand and talking ’bout your eyes?
Used to sing about being free but now he’s changed his mind
This song ruined my life. I could write a full dissertation on what One Direction means to me, but I’ll try to keep it short and sweet, just like my dear boy Louis (sorry, Tommo). This band represents a full decade of best friendship and here’s to many more. Reminds me of red, white, and blue drinks at Toby Keith’s and walks through the Fens with my twin soul to get to the movie theatre.
Honorable mention to “A.M.” and also to every song One Direction and its related solo artists have ever released, for the sheer range of emotions they elicit.
Somebody New by Joywave
I don’t wanna ever wake up next to somebody new
This was an earworm the likes of which I don’t really understand either, but I vividly remember how it dragged me into a whole new wave of alternative music. Over the past two years I’ve realized that Joywave is actually one of my favorite bands, so… I’ve got that to reckon with. Just in time for a new album release, which I’m already thinking is going to displace “How Do You Feel Now?” as all of our favorite. That’s right. You’re in this with me now. Reminds me of tequila and sweaty selfies after they opened for The Killers.
Honorable mention to “Traveling at the Speed of Light,” for bringing me some semblance of closure.
Meet Me In The Woods by Lord Huron
How long, baby, have I been away?
Oh, it feels like ages though you say it’s only days
This inspired an entire book idea from the moment I first heard it in the front seat of a dear friend’s car, the one idea I consider my eventual magnum opus when I’ve lived enough life to write it. Reminds me of long bus rides to New York and fears of darkness far deeper than night.
The Chain by Fleetwood Mac
And if you don’t love me now, you will never love me again
This one really pulls me down the memory rabbit hole. While a lot of kids I went to school with grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac from their parents, I was pretty late to the party. Reminds me of my uncles rewinding performances from Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello.
Honorable mention to “Little Lies,” for being the ethereally preferred Fleetwood song in this house.
The Sound by The 1975
It’s not about reciprocation, it’s just all about me
A sycophantic, prophetic, Socratic junkie wannabe
This song made me finally start giving lyrics the attention they deserve. I don’t know what it is about Matt Healy’s songwriting, but the man embodies lyricism. This music video lives in my every other waking thought. Reminds me of pulses and poetry.
Honorable mention to “Love It If We Made It,” for capturing these horrid and awful times with a heavy heap of hope.
Run by Foo Fighters
Wake up, run for your life with me
This is the second most romantic song of all time. Not only does “Concrete and Gold” as a phrase really resonate with me metaphysically (right?), but that album also represents its own little era of my life. It gave me a reason to finally see the Foos in concert, and in their starter home of Seattle at that. Reminds me of air drumming in my bed in the dark and a faded Dave Grohl on the dashboard.
Honorable mention to Pearl Jam, for being the Foo Fighters’ twin pillar in teaching me rock and roll.
Notion by Tash Sultana
A thousand words pour out my mouth
Distance over depth is proven unannounced
This is the kind of song I refer to (usually in my own head but now also to you) as a deep soul sound. It’s legitimately impossible for me to describe it any other way. Reminds me of late nights drinking wine on my kitchen counter and long phone calls from the backs of taxis.
Hitchin by Mellah
Hitchin on a ride to the disco, waiting for the good time, cherry pie, kiss the girls and make ’em
This was, and I’m not exaggerating when I say this, the anthem to my 28th year of life. I vividly remember coming across it one morning in early 2021, shortly after my birthday, while listening to a tried and true source for “new” “indie.” Reminds me of wanting to spin in circles forever and snowflakes that look like glitter.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of memories or favorite tunes, and for those who know me, I’m sure I’ve missed something out that you expected to see, so don’t hesitate to share with the class.
Over the past 6 years I’ve had thoughts, I’ve had wants, I’ve had delays. I’ve learned lessons and commemorated places and practiced patience. It’s been increasingly difficult for me to think of new ways to reflect, despite having an entire year to do it, which is why this is the penultimate birthday post. In 2023, we say enough.
What a feeling.