1. "This Year" by The Mountain Goats
"At age 23 I abandoned the East Coast for San Francisco, a city I had never lived in nor visited before my plane touched down. Within six months the relationship I had moved west for had fallen apart and the job I had managed to get hired at had politely shown me the door. I spent the next year juggling three jobs: one at a bar, one as a 5 a.m. sushi chef, and one at a pirate store. I listened to 'This Year' by The Mountain Goats every morning and made it to 24."
2. "Cold War" by Janelle Monáe
"Janelle Monáe's 'Cold War' changed my entire trajectory. I had just gotten out of an intensely unhealthy relationship with a month's lease left, and I picked up everything and moved to New York. The stanza that starts with 'I'm trying to find my peace' carried me for a while, and the video has an incredible depiction of how thin the line is between laughing and crying (at one point she mouths 'I'm going to cry!' and then does). It'll always be a super-special song to me."
3. "Esquadros" by Adriana Calcanhotto
"I actually have tattooed a part of the lyrics: 'Eu ando pelo mundo,' which translates to 'I walk through the world.' The song is about seeing things and being in moments but at the same time not. A sense of not being from here nor there but still being present and seeing it all happen around you. I became obsessed with it after I hit a wall with everything I cared about some years ago, especially with a part that says (roughly): 'I walk through the world and my friends ... where are they? Where is my joy? My tiredness? My love, where are you? I woke up, there's nobody beside me.'"
4. "Outside" by Mariah Carey
"The song that changed my life would definitely be 'Outside' by Mariah Carey. It's essentially about feeling different from everyone else and coming to terms with that. My favorite lyric goes, 'Ambiguous, without a sense of belonging to touch / Somewhere halfway, feeling there's no one completely the same.' In a way, this song prompted me to come out to my mother when I was 17 years old. One of the best decisions of my life. Oh, and the song is featured on her album titled Butterfly, ironically."
5. "Coin-Operated Boy" by The Dresden Dolls
"In high school, I discovered Amanda Palmer/The Dresden Dolls and became obsessed. I had never seen someone like Amanda or heard 'cabaret punk' before, and I loved how the music could be so contained and structured and then have these sudden moments of vulnerability. I loved the theatricality and the brutal honesty. I related to her/her music a lot in high school and she helped me own my own weirdness, to which I'm still grateful for to this day."
6. "East of Ginger Trees" by Seals and Crofts
"My dad once wrote me a letter when I was at a crossroads and quoted its 'Be lions roaring in the forests of knowledge / Whales swimming in the oceans of life' lyric (which is, in turn, taken from Baha'i scripture). Generally a good way of approaching life and its challenges."
7. "Everybody Knows" by John Legend
"When my boyfriend of three-plus years broke up with me, I never wanted to (or planned on) leaving my college dorm room. One night my friends finally convinced me to go with them to see John Legend, who was performing and speaking on campus. He sang, 'Everybody Knows' and the lyrics really hit me — in that moment, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I played it on repeat for the next few weeks, and it still means a lot to me every time I listen."
8. "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" came out right around the time of my first kiss. And guess what, she didn't love me! But Bonnie's hard truths in this song are important for anyone experiencing heartbreak...no matter how old they are.
9. "Gone, Gone, Gone" by Phillip Phillips
"Phillip Phillips' 'Gone, Gone, Gone' hits home every time. It's the song I told my sister is 'our' song. It's not a love song in the generic sense — it's one that completely encompasses everything you feel for anyone you love/care about. I play it on repeat, especially when missing my family (we're super tight), and if I'm going through any kind of emotional, heart-tearing situation. My sister, Kristina, and I share it with each other especially when we know the other is having a bad day. She sent me a video of it popping up on the radio not too far back, just to let me know she was thinking of me. It's kind of like our pick-me-up when we can't be there for each other in person."
10. "Ya Hey" by Vampire Weekend
"Don't know why but this song has just got me. The lyrics 'Oh sweet thing, Zion doesn't love you / Babylon don't love you, but you love everything' really connects the feeling that I've had that you aren't going to ever be as loved as you want to be by others who you don't love you or like you back, but fuck it you might as well try anyway because you've got nothing else. And 'All the cameras and flies, all the paranoid styles / All the tension and fear of a secret career' reflects that secret ambition you've had your whole life to be something but you can't admit yourself to tell others about it at all, even if it isn't that special. The song probably means something completely different to Ezra [Koenig] and other fans, but for me it's so different. I just first listened to it when my life was a bit backward and a mess and needed direction. There's now not a day when I don't listen to it. It literally changed everything. I actually want a tattoo of 'Ya Hey' but I can't for two reasons: 1. My mum would flip (even though I'm 25). 2. I fear my mates going 'Why have you got "Hey Ya" from Outkast backward on your inner arm??!!'"
11. "Morning Has Broken" by Eleanor Farjeon
"'Morning Has Broken' by Eleanor Farjeon, as sung by Cat Stevens. It's a song I grew up with, but it never fails to be meaningful to me. It's a reminder that every day is an opportunity for something new and different, that every day is something special to be celebrated even through hard times."
12. "Stay With Me" by Sam Smith
"Recently, my world has been completely rocked by 'Stay With Me' by Sam Smith. The choir, his angelic voice, I cry every time. It's the perfect song for a good cry to be honest."
13. "Edge of the Ocean" by Ivy
"It's a song I found in high school and there's just something about its vibe that can always either calm me down and help me remember that tomorrow is another day and everything will always turn out OK in the end."
14. "...And Justice for All" by Metallica
"I was about 12 years old — ever since then I was hooked on metal. Still am. Still looking for another 'And Justice for All,' probably will never find it."
15. "Only Skin" by Joanna Newsom
"Her whole Ys album, really, but particularly that song. Usually, when I listen to music when I'm going through a tough time, I can't listen to it when I'm happy but this is somehow different. It quiets my mind and makes me feel really human, as cheesy as that sounds. It's basically turned into a best friend I can listen to anytime, making me feel whatever I'm feeling even more strongly. Also, lyrically, it's brilliant."
16. "Phantom Part II" by Justice
"I was walking through the streets of China and it was frigid cold and something about the up-tempo electro made me start dancing and made realize I had to return to Australia to try to make it work with my ex. I moved my life back because of banging electro."
17. "Imagine" by John Lennon
"I was very young when I first heard the song; I always loved it for its melody. But when I was older and finally understood the lyrics, something changed in me. It's like my own personal anthem."