Lately, the world has been conspiring against me in an effort to force me to maybe not relive, but at least confront my shit-show of an adolescence. This conspiracy (yeah, I’m more than comfortable labeling it as such) has manifested through a series of crazy random happenstances in which I find myself interacting with people from high school whom I haven’t seen in years. I suppose this kind of thing is expected if you go to a NYC prep school and never leave New York. But I don’t have many fond memories of my teenage years (read: almost none), so being forced to reconcile who I am now with who I was then has been a less than pleasant trip. Let me contextualize this for you: in my high school yearbook, I was voted “Most Impatient” and “Talks Most, Says Least.” I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Anyway, here are some songs I really dug during my mid to late teens.
Belle & Sebastian, “I’m A Cuckoo” from Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003)
I first heard this song at a vintage clothing store when I was in London with my high school’s theater company during Spring Break of my sophomore year. (Yeah, okay, some parts of high school were pretty awesome.) Belle & Sebastian was the first “cool” band I listened to and it definitely informed my burgeoning taste in music. (Basically, I stopped listening to Z100 and started scouring the Internet for indie pop.) Dear Catastrophe Waitress is still one of my all-time favorite albums.
Rilo Kiley, “A Better Son/Daughter” from The Execution of All Things (2002)
Rilo Kiley’s “A Better Son/Daughter” was the first song that made me stop and think, Holy shit, they’re talking about me. This song was a sonic cornerstone not only during my teens, but also well into my early twenties. At 29, I still listen to it when I’m having a particularly bad day. How can you not feel less alone after hearing Jenny Lewis affirming over some electric guitar riffs that, You’ll fight and you’ll make it through / You’ll fake it if you have to / And you’ll show up for work with a smile / You’ll be better you’ll be smarter / And more grown up and a better daughter / Or son and a real good friend / You’ll be awake and you’ll be alert / You’ll be positive though it hurts / And you’ll laugh and embrace all your friends / You’ll be a real good listener / You’ll be honest, you’ll be brave / You’ll be handsome, you’ll be beautiful / You’ll be happy. It’s funny that the items that were most important to me then (smarter, more grown up, better daughter, beautiful) are different from those that are important to me now (good friend, honest, brave, happy). Man, being a teenager sucks.
Aimee Mann, “Deathly” from Bachelor No. 2 or, the Last Remains of the Dodo (2000)
I don’t remember how or when I found out about Aimee Mann, but I immediately aurally inhaled her entire discography and shortly learned to play most of her songs on the guitar. I had trouble choosing an Aimee Mann track to include in this list, but I think this is the one I listened to the most. I’m pretty sure I thought this song was about unrequited love leading to heartbreak, and well, you already know that I only recently overcame my proclivity for that nonsense.
The Dandy Warhols, “We Used to Be Friends” from Welcome to the Monkey House (2003)
FYI: I knew about The Dandy Warhols before Rob Thomas chose this song for the opening credits of Veronica Mars, which premiered during my junior year of high school. (I know I keep saying it, and by doing so am implying otherwise, buttttt…I was super cool once upon a time.) For the record, I don’t begrudge Thomas this fact because Veronica Mars was an amazing television series that still blows my mind all these years later. Plus, there’s the added bonus of the show turning me on to some other really great music. By the way, though, how meta is my inclusion of “We Used to Be Friends” on this list? Are you in awe of my brilliance yet? That was a joke, but also something I would have probably said with absolute seriousness during my adolescence–do you think maybe that’s why I wasn’t well liked? (Please validate me before I go further down this rabbit-hole of insecurity that is basically retroactive teen angst. Make. It. Stop.)
Modest Mouse, “Float On” from Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004)
Bonus track! Fun fact: I pretended to love/religiously listen to Modest Mouse but really only ever knew this one song that everyone knows even though I totally bought tickets to see them play at SummerStage in Central Park between my junior and senior year. Can you say “poser”? (Also, holy run-on sentence, Batman!)