I am fortunate to be the “aunt” to many of my friends’ kids. It’s a gift in my life and it’s so wonderful to be a witness to all their different life stages.
I totally love getting on the floor and playing dolls or LEGOS or whatever their thing is at the time.
I love catching their sporting events and piano recitals.
And I really love to find out what they are listening to–what artists are speaking to them, what songs are on repeat, what music from their parents resonates with them–and checking it out myself.
There are lots of current favorites I first heard about through these conversations–Billie Eilish, Smino, Khalid–but I’m always happy to find we have a lot of the same current artists loading up our playlists. I have always been a pop music junkie, and Spotify and other streaming services makes finding the top tracks pretty simple.
On the flip side, it’s a lot harder today to plug into music from other generations. A family doesn’t have to hear each other’s music if they don’t want to–even radiating out of closed bedroom doors–as listening through headphones seems to be most teenagers’ go-to for their music experiences.
I had to know my parents music and they had to know mine. But that’s not so true anymore.
However–based on conversations with my friends’ teenage kids–they are still as musically curious and adventurous as most teenagers have been in the past. It’s just overwhelming with so much music in front of them and very little introduction from trusted sources to know what’s worth a listen.
In these talks, I’m taken by songs I think everyone knows that are unfamiliar. Or styles that seem to be fading in relevance like guitar rock or experimental pop.
So I decided to put together a playlist of the songs that really opened up the world of indie rock and dance music for me during the time I was discovering this music, too to share with one of my friend’s kids.
A little backstory on why this era of music is so important to me:
I was always just a pop and R&B girl with doses of radio friendly-rap. I really sat out all the music of my teenage years like The Cure or The Smiths or basically anything from UK that wasn’t Top 40.
In college, I just didn’t get into Tori Amos or PJ Harvey or Bjork. I was listening to Mary J. Blige and TLC and Janet Jackson.
There were a few outliers for me that found their way into my CD collection like Everything But the Girl, Suzanne Vega and Hole. But mostly, it was the stuff you could find on the radio.
When I started my business in 2001 and began driving for hours and hours a day, I had all the CDs in the changer, all the things I loved that were familiar.
But then came iTunes and the bottle cap promotion which offered a free download with a code found on the inside of Pepsi products (which nearly lead to a soda addiction.) I was hooked and 2004 was the start of downloading and filling an iPod.
But I was still mostly downloading songs that I knew or the free iTunes download of the week. There was still limited discovery at this time. I had a subscription to Entertainment Weekly and would sometimes buy albums based on their recommendations, which is how I found The Streets, Original Pirate Material or The Postal Service, Give Up.
Then came Rhapsody in 2004. Rhapsody was was a precursor to Spotify, an online streaming music service. I had a subscription and used it almost exclusively off my desktop at work. You couldn’t download the songs at the time, so I would discover songs on there and then download them from iTunes. I was finding new music mostly from recommendations based on artists I was listening to the most. So they were still in the same family.
The final piece to discovering a whole new world of music for me came when I got a subscription to satellite radio in 2005. I had access to all kinds of new music, particularly BBC Radio 1 which led to an obsession with all things UK across all kinds of genres or US bands that took a minute to break in the US like Kings of Leon. But I also found a curated source for indie rock. I remember distinctly being up in Ashland after driving for over six hours and feeling like I couldn’t hear the same songs anymore so I started flipping through the channels. I landed on what is now XMU–the indie rock channel–and hearing I Turn My Camera On, Spoon followed by Twin Cinema, The New Pornographers. And that started my late in life journey into indie rock and dance of the 2000s. Now I had a starting point for discovering and checking out new music. And I used all the things to find more including music blogs and magazines and later podcasts like All Songs Considered.
Starting in 2004, I would make mixes of new songs I was discovering–mostly because of all the driving I was doing and my access through all these new sources. I would give them out to similarly interested friends who didn’t have the time to go through all the music like I was doing. Many of the tracks on this list would have been on those CDs I was burning about five times a year.
So the period of 2000-2009 is really when I became obsessed with finding new artists and discovering new sounds, like I was making up for lost time.
And in talking to folks about creating this list–I found that while I was diving in headfirst into new music–many of my friends were losing touch with the scene.
Starting new jobs and families will do that to you, especially if you don’t have hours to fill behind the steering wheel.
Not only did my friends’ kids not know this music, many of their parents don’t either.
Which is why I’m sharing the playlist to you.
It’s impossible to have a relationship with all this music. In putting my list together, I shared early drafts with friends, particularly ones I knew were into different music than I was during that time. Admittedly, I was never much into Wilco or other more country-leaning rock outfits, so they filled in those gaps while I was very into UK dance tracks they missed. So there are some songs on the list that are also new to me.
Knowing what song to put on the list for each artist sometimes posed a challenge. Do you pick their biggest hit–like Seven Nation Army–for White Stripes, or go with the song that introduced you to them? I generally went with the latter. And in most cases is–it’s the song that introduced them to me, specifically.
And some bands were really 90s bands that found a second wave in the 00s so the songs they are most associated with are from prior to the start of the list. That’s cool. You can go check out their back catalog!
The list was designed to start conversation, bring out artists I missed or introduce artists you missed and just take a sonic walk down memory lane.
As an obsessive music fan–it’s all equally important to me.
And if you have a teenage kid curious about what was happening musically while they were chilling with The Suite Life of Zack and Cody or Yo Gabba Gabba–pass along the link.
Hope this list brings new favorites your way or reminds you of good times you had forgotten! And I’d love to hear your feedback on missing tracks or cases for alternative song choices.
The great thing about a playlist is it can always change!