1. Regina Spektor, “Samson”
I got the chance to see Regina Spektor in concert when I was in London last fall and she didn’t perform this song until the encore. I think a lot of people were worried she wasn’t going to do it, and so when she started playing it the entire theater roared with applause. She was a really great performer but I think she was pretty nervous. After messing up part of this song, she completely restarted and played the whole thing again, which I was totally fine with.2. Bruce Springsteen, “Lost in the Flood”
As odd as it may sound, this is my favorite Bruce Springsteen song – well, maybe it’s tied with “The River.” I used to listen to it on the cassette player in my brother’s ’94 Chevy Blazer when he picked me up from high school. It definitely wasn’t my favorite at first and it took me ages to actually pay attention to the lyrics and figure out what the song’s about, but the more we listened to it – we didn’t have very many cassettes – the more I started to love it. It’s gritty and moving and really beautiful.
3. “This American Life”
I’m not sure if non-music selections are allowed in this column, but this is one thing that is always on my iPod. I listen to podcasts when I run and “This American Life” is one of my favorites. Listening to Ira Glass telling me stories about magical chickens – check out the episode called “Poultry Slam 2008” – or hearing David Sedaris’ Christmas Special is almost as good as a real, live running buddy.
4. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Please Read The Letter”
I’ve realized that a lot of my favorite songs are from CDs that I’ve stolen from my parents. I don’t know what exactly the implications of that fact are, but I like to assume it means they have really good and youthful taste. No matter what, this song – and the entire album that it is from, “Raising Sand” – is excellent. Also, Alison Krauss may have one of the most perfect voices I have ever heard.
5. Simon and Garfunkel, “A Hazy Shade Of Winter”
This is my favorite song by Simon and Garfunkel, and a surprising – and disappointing – number of people haven’t heard it. Listen to it. And then listen to “At the Zoo.” It’ll make you smile. And yes, this is from another album that belongs to my parents.
6. Gogol Bordello, “Think Locally, F*** Globally”
Speaking of things that will make you smile, this song rocks. Actually, most things about Gogol Bordello rock. The band’s “mission” stated on their website is, “With acts of music, theatre, chaos and sorcery, Gogol Bordello confronts the jaded and irony-deseased.” Yes, it’s spelled like that. I’m not sure if the word is supposed to be “diseased” or “deceased,” but either way I’m all for it.
7. Lupe Fiasco, “Daydreamin'”
This is another song I was exposed to because of my brother. I’m pretty sure the lyrics don’t have much to do with my life as a Midwestern college student, but I can listen to this song over and over and for some reason have never gotten sick of it. If you’re interested in rap music that you may have to think about, definitely check out Lupe.
8. Jay-Z, “Encore”
I’m including this song on my list because it is actually on multiple playlists on my iPod and I listened to it before doing a half-marathon this summer. It was good pump up music and I’d like to think it helped me perform well. At the very least it helped me feel a little less terrified so I could actually run the race.
9. George Winston, “Joy”
I understand that it’s just barely October and may seem to some like it is way too early to be listening to Christmas music, but this album – “December, Piano Solos: 20th Anniversary Edition” – is so good that I begin listening to it as soon as the weather starts to get cold. It is the perfect soundtrack for when you’re feeling mellow and peaceful and you’d much rather take a nap than brave the elements to get to class. Plus, I think I have more Christmas music on my computer than any other single genre, so it felt wrong not to include at least one example.