There’s something cathartic about lacing up an uncomfortable pair of Vans, throwing on a sweatshirt, and plugging earbuds into your smartphone. The later the hour, the better. Your senses become a cat’s cradle of alertness that is only interrupted by bouts of maudlin reflection. Outside, braving the cold, your cascading breath meets the neon sheen of stop lights in the distance. The city is alive, burning. You’re alone, infiltrating the reflections of inanimate objects. Hopping over broken sidewalks. Crossing streets and zigzagging through concrete medians. You’re rogue, complicit in your own spectral flight. All is right, sad, optimistic and enlivened by the patter and reverberation of your own steps.
The sound of a good song at night can stir thoughts, create pastoral memories of times passed, and emboss your mind with fear and discontent. Everything important, everything primal. Have a shot of whiskey, play “The Big Idea” by the Black Books, and hit your step goal. Gym day is great, don’t get me wrong, but racing, alone, across a darkened metro is a kaleidoscopic carousel of isolation and resolve. The electronic circulatory system of Kitty’s “Hoaxxx” is both naive and perceptive, giving way to the crashing waves of repressed reveries – it’s the kind of emotional malaise that can siphon the matter from your brain. Artifice and blood. A circuit board of self-referential angst that is specific to our generation.
For this article, I compiled a playlist of songs that are hardwired to feel psychologically intrusive and sonically devastating. These tracks refuse to be incurious – they exist to shake, stir, and unearth old images. Flip books with missing pages. Forgotten, arching wicks of loves lost. The usual maladies that shadowbox after the sun sets. Just listen to the eerie chants on Chela’s “Handful of Gold”, and you’ll hopscotch, confidently, into a fog of war; some lost sea.
The final song on this mix, though, is the real ghost in the room. Florist’s appraisal of self-worth is an emotional revelation. Something that hums and ticks in a sort of sun-flecked purgatory. What’s real? What do our interpretations mean? Discord and safety swirl in the pastel simplicity of these warm, confessional lyrics. It’s a perfect nighttime song: the chalk outline of hope, dressed in the spines of fallen leaves.