It’s not an easy task to stay calm and centered, especially living in the middle of a city. I live in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, and like any city, it’s constantly full of sounds, commuters rushing to work every morning or the banging of construction workers building new apartment complexes somewhere nearby. It’s easy to get frazzled, but I’ve found my haven in my headphones.
I’ve had the same chill, mostly instrumental playlist for a few years now, and have continually added to it as I discover new songs that spark something in me, whether it’s a beautiful scene or a memory. Being a musician myself, I’m very aware of how the songs I listen to regularly affect how I’m feeling and the kind of music that comes out of me. My own music has been described as calming and clarifying, and I take that as a great compliment.
I’m decent at sticking to a workout routine. Not great, but not horrible, either. Before the pandemic, I had solid runs of months at a time of getting up and going to the gym, and on the days that I’d go, “Immunity” by Jon Hopkins is the song that got me there. The gym is four blocks east of my apartment, so I’d always be riding my bicycle into the sunrise on my way with this song playing. Even when I REALLY didn’t feel like going, once I hit play and put on my shoes, I had to complete the motion. The pace of the song kept me moving, one pedal at a time. I’d pass the construction sites all around me where the workers start before dawn and the cars rushing to the office buildings nearby. There aren’t any vocals in the song for a few minutes, and I could tell how fast I got there by where I was when the singing started. I’d pull up to the bike rack outside the front door, and by the time the song is finishing, I’m checked in and stepping into the weight room. Thirty years from now, this song will still remind me of this morning trek.
“A Sea Of Love” by Huerco S. became the namesake of my playlist when I discovered this artist. I love the slow creep of it. Either at the gym or marching through my day, this one reminds me to pay attention to internal rhythms, of how to be intentional with my energy and continually move forward with grace.
I first heard “Them” by Nils Frahm while I was on my rooftop with friends. I lived in this old apartment that was added on top of a house after it was fully built. That means I could walk up the slanted roof and onty my flat roof without a ladder, and I often went up there with my neighbors. One night, a few of us were up there around one in the morning and this song came on. It was an odd lull in the conversation, but it was perfect. We all dropped what we were saying and just listened as this song played. It’s like I could feel the music in my chest and stomach, and while it is a somber song, it was so beautiful, and I was reminded to embrace moments like these, where I forget my problems, my to-do lists, and my ambitions and just be with the people around me in the moment.
I recently discovered Corre thanks to a discover weekly playlist, which sometimes nails my taste. “A Spark, A Beginning” became the starting song for my run around downtown. It’s pensive, but something about it urges me to really focus on the end goal. When the music drops, I kick it up a notch.
The first time I heard “Regenerative Being” by Eluvium, I nearly started crying. There’s something incredibly healing about the swirling beginning, like I’m in a cocoon and am about to reemerge as something new. I’ve survived the hardship of what came before, and am at a new beginning. The operatic voice that comes in later really hits my heart, like it reminds me of the glory and beauty of being alive, even with the pain, and how we continually come back to life as something new.
“Angels” by Dark Sky made my playlist because there’s something tribal and ceremonial about this one that I love. I discovered Wim Hof and others like him a year or so ago, and they talk about breathwork as a means of processing emotions and unearthing our true selves. Somehow, this song is made for reconnecting with the primordial. When I hear it, I feel like I’m in a ceremonial dance around a bonfire and I can see the flashing faces of the other tribe members. We’re communing with something primal, something potent and fiery. There are drummers all around us and our hearts and our bodies can’t help but to fall into sync with the beat.
I live in the desert where the sun shines over 300 days a year. It’s so commonplace that I often long for a week or two of cloudy days. When we do have a rainy day, it’s that much more exotic and beautiful because it’s so rare. For one full Saturday, the sky was full of thick, dark clouds and it rained steadily. I spent the entire day with “Unseen Forces” by Justin Walter on repeat, bicycling around downtown Phoenix and filming how the rain transformed the city into this magical place. This song was the trickling stream cleansing my mind all day. I came home with soaking clothes and loved every minute of it.
The only song on my Sea of Love playlist with actual singing is “Bint El Khandaq” by Lost Souls Of Saturn and Mashrou' Leila. This is another discover weekly discovery that just transports me. I hear it and I feel like I’m in some ancient temple on the summer solstice. I don’t understand the language being sung, but I don’t need to. There’s something powerful and moving about this human voice that’s declaring its existence. Hearing this, I have thoughts like we are fundamental to the universe. We are as eternal as the cosmos, itself.
One of my favorite aspects of music is how powerful it is to color our experience. I may be on the train to work on an otherwise mundane day, but it’s so much more epic thanks to my continually evolving playlist. It’s as much a part of my life as any religious or spiritual practice. Every single day, it reminds me what I really am, who I really want to be and where I want to go.