With Spotify Wrapped rapidly approaching, our editorial staff decided to share some of our top tracks and favorite finds of late. From Indie to Pop, our collective playlist has no shortage of repeat-worthy songs for you to explore!
While taking classes online during the pandemic, I took a road trip through Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona with my good friend Alex Noga ’23. Every morning, we began our drive with “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson. It’s a quick, 2 minute, 38 second piece, and the lyrics seemed to perfectly sum up our journey: “We’re the best of friends, insisting that the world keep turning our way. And our way is on the road again.” Waking up early and driving from national park to national park with some funky Willie Nelson banjo in the background is a memory that will stick with me forever. As a Texan, my love for Willie Nelson runs deep.
—Ethan Samuels ’23
One of my most-listened to songs from this past year is “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman. I like to ask people — by Instagram story poll or in conversation — whether they have a word for the idea of moving forward, building momentum out of something, or the strain needed to start change in some way. I care about this idea because it sums up what I love about my rural hometown of 300 people in eastern California — it’s the way that people have this desire to change the place for the better and move it forward through community.
I’ve spent this year writing a lot about my home and trying to figure out what words I can use to best and most authentically describe its complexity, and the closest I’ve ever come is listening to Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” The song has no determined resolution or destination. It’s simply about the motion forward, driving fast, driving towards something, although that something might be undefined. I think that’s what makes the song more hopeful than it is sad, which is why I love it.
—Caelen McQuilkin ’23
Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” has always been one of my favorites, so when she released a ten minute version of it on “Red (Taylor’s Version)” I was super excited. While ten minutes may seem too long for one song, I can’t get enough of it; its melody never gets tiresome and the lyrics are touching. The accompanying music video has beautiful imagery of falling leaves and heartache, and gives its viewers a sense of the nostalgia that Taylor feels as she reflects on one of her past relationships.
—Tana DeLalio ’24
I’ll admit; I’m kind of a fake fan — I first heard Ricky Montgomery’s “Life Without a Hook” on TikTok around Summer 2020. As soon as I listened to it though, I fell in love. While I will admit that the actual song is merely very good, the bridge — “She’s a, she’s a lady and I am just a line without a--” is possibly the best musical progression I’ve heard. For anyone reading this, I 100% recommend listening to “Montgomery Ricky” by Ricky Montgomery — and I especially recommend listening to “Mr. Loverman,” “My Heart is Buried in Venice,” “Out Like a Light,” and “Snow.”
—Tapti Sen ’25
Discovered by Pharrell Williams at an NYU master class in 2016, Maggie Rogers’ breakout song “Alaska” launched her rise to fame. “Alaska” made its debut on her album “We Love Summer 2016” and again in her then-new album “Heard It In a Past Life,” which evokes a degree of purity among listeners. The lyrics describe an individual seeking new beginnings with an initiative to reinvent themselves in light of newfound healing. While the song was released almost six years ago, it still makes its way into the single digits of my Spotify wrapped every year because of its message of self-discovery and rebirth.
—Brianne LaBare ’25
I really enjoy “telepatíá” by Kali Uchis. When I scroll through my Spotify, I find that it is the only song I press almost undoubtedly. Also, it’s really good and Uchis is such a good singer. I don’t know Spanish but I still vibe to the song.
—Alex Brandfonbrener ’23
“Holding On” by Tirzah. December 2020. It was during one of the days right before my 21st birthday. I was sad and lonely in quarantine. I was mindlessly watching some Youtube video and a Burberry ad started playing with “Holding On” in the back. Tirzah’s familiar sleepiness in her voice triggered my memory of me first downloading this song back in high school during a time when I also sad and lonely. It had been buried in my “liked songs” since. After that night, I could not stop revisiting this song throughout this year. The hazy synth, almost uncanny, seems to signal a new beginning as Tirzah asks “But what’s keeping me from holding on?” over and over again
—Skye Wu ’23
I’m almost certain that Car Seat Headrest’s “Deadlines (Thoughtful)” will end up near the top of my Spotify Wrapped this year. “Deadlines (Thoughtful)” opens with ninety or so seconds of a brilliant synth-driven section — which starts unsteady and stuttering but layers one synth line on top of another, rapidly gaining momentum towards a swirling conclusion. Just as this section reaches maximum velocity, it cuts out. The rhythm section carries on alone into the first verse, and the song begins taking on a more traditional structure. The song’s “can’t get connected/can’t stay connected” chorus simply but effectively channels a large section of the isolating 2021 experience, while the music behind the lyrics keeps the song constantly enjoyable.
—Theo Hamilton ’23
You can never go wrong with 90s alt-rock. At least that’s what I’ve always thought. And while Pavement is known for rejecting typical music industry sensibilities — their songs are played on poorly tuned instruments and sung with a smirk — “Gold Soundz” is as close as the band comes to authenticity. Musically, it’s an up-beat, moderately paced song, an easy head-bopper. Yet the lyrics add an insistent wistfulness: the narrator cryptically longs for a lost love, yearning to “go back” in time. As a result, “Gold Soundz” is an ear-friendly, nostalgia-tinged listen that will make you think of good times past — and hopefully those still to come.
—Liam Archacki ’24
This past year has been defined by personal transition for me: I’ve gone to college, moved physically and mentally far away from my friends in Jersey, and restarted life so completely that I don’t even know if I can call my childhood house my “home” anymore. In that vein, I have a playlist called “restart” full of songs that I’ve discovered and that my friends have recommended since coming to school. Of those songs, 100 gecs’ “reanimation” of Linkin Park’s “One Step Closer” has been my happy place.
The first time I heard the song I burst out laughing, and sections like the sudden transition into a death metal growl and the squirrelly rendition of “just like before” bring a smile to my face every time. The sheer ridiculousness of the song just makes me so happy. “One Step Closer” was a song of my childhood — I had a father who, for some reason, became a massive Linkin Park fan by the time I hit high school. So 100 gecs’ reanimation is familiar as much as it is strange, and the twisting around of the (admittedly not amazing) song I’m so familiar with might reflect my own twisting around as my year has become defined by my college experience. Or I just think it’s fun.
—Dustin Copeland ’25
This school year has so far been marked for me by a distinct feeling of pre-nostalgia—knowing that the routines, people and spaces that have become standard to my daily life will look different in less than a year’s time. “Cold War” by Cautious Clay has been a safe zone as that specter of change looms large. It’s not so much the particularities of the song itself — though the lyrics and the music are top-notch. Rather, I came upon the song at the beginning of my first semester at Amherst and had it on repeat for much of that fall. Listening to it again reminds me of all of those first-semester associations — the novelty of this campus, the excitement of change. It allows me not only to lean into the pre-nostalgia but also reminds me that change happens often — and there’s something oddly stabilizing about that.
—Rebecca Picciotto ’22
For almost two years now, it feels as if I’ve been living in a state of constant disorientation. Things appear out of place at every turn, and I’m often left wondering whether what I’m perceiving is really real. But I suspect that I’m not alone in interfacing with this surreality, and Magdalena Bay’s “Hysterical Us” is a perfect indication of that. Off of their new album, “Mercurial World,” the song embarks on a perpetual spiral of reality-questioning that leaves listeners inescapably enthralled. The hook, in particular, uniquely captures the age of paranoia that we’ve entered: “Hysterical us / Checking the locks again / Remember when we could sleep? Are we alone? / Are we in love again? / What do you want from me?” A parable for our contemporary condition, and a fun one at that.
—Ryan Yu ’22