For this month’s playlist, Kindergarten contributors handpicked songs that make them feel the most nostalgic, ranging from childhood favorites to middle school anthems. Turn the volume up and travel through time with us!
“Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” by Arcade Fire
There are many songs I love that I remember my parents playing for me when I was a kid, but Sprawl II is probably the one that means the most to me. At the time, I remember mostly being captivated by the music video, and by Régine Chassagne dancing with suburban zombies, but the song’s synth-pop energy and opening line “they heard me singing and they told me to stop” also had a lot of power over me. Nowadays, I hardly ever listen to the song. It’s not because I hate it or anything, I love it, but because it reminds me of my long history with the song, and it makes me too emotional to properly enjoy it.
“99 Luftballons” by Nena:
This German new wave jam tells the story of nuclear destruction in the time of the Berlin Wall, and it makes me feel nostalgic for a time I didn’t experience. Not to say I would have wanted to live in the Cold War, but the song makes me think about what it would be like to live in a time so different and yet so similar to our own. The song also makes me feel nostalgic because it was used brilliantly in one of my favorite films, Grosse Pointe Blank. When I listen to it, there are all these layers that make it very nostalgic for me.
“Rock Star” by Hannah Montana
I remember hearing “Sometimes I walk a little faster / In the school hallway / Just to get next to you” and being like “Wowwww this is so relatable :o” shut up! I thought that was the peak of lyricism because Hannah Montana did not have to read young me like that. Of course, Miss Montana has so many classics but I really did want to be a rockstar because of her so I had to choose this one.
“Ordinary Girl” by Kate Alexa
The whole H2O soundtrack by Kate Alexa is always sitting in the back of my brain because it’s a flawless piece of work, but WHEW the theme song is amazing. Something about the music sends my happiness levels into orbit. It’s the “I’m Not Like Other Girls” anthem. This was a TV show opening that should never EVER be skipped.
“Like a G6” by Far East Movement
LEGENDARY, I TELL YOU! This and “Rocketeer.” That era of incorporating the word “swag” into your daily vocabulary unironically. Yeah, they really were A MOVEMENT! The power they held with this song. Apparently, they were the first Asian-American group to hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 because of this song. IT’S TOO GOOD! I miss the lip sync video days so badly. Why am I almost in tears thinking about this song? Oh God. I gotta go listen to it now.
“Anthem for the Year 2000” by Silverchair
The song reminds me of a new hope and a new beginning. I remember that on January 1, 2000, humankind around the world celebrated the beginning of the new millennium—which apparently was one year too early. But it doesn’t change the fact that the song still gives me a thrill and brings back all the memories of how clueless and traumatized I was.
I think the song was one of the exceptional teenage rebellion anthems and it has helped me through the most confusing period of my life. I was probably in my first or second year of junior high school where I was still grasping the fact that as a Chinese Indonesian, we were the target of the May 1998 riots of Indonesia. Later I knew that at least 1,000 people were killed and 87 women were raped, most of those of Chinese descent. During the tragedy, some of my friends at school moved away with their families overseas; while the others (including my family) locked up ourselves at home, praying for our lives. My father would have put a peci (Muslim hat) and sajadah (prayer mat) in front of our house to deny our identity as Chinese Indonesians, in hopes that we wouldn’t be a riot target. We never really talked about it later. So the song has been the most accurate representation of a new time when hopefully things will be different for us.
“D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L” by Panchiko
The bizarre internet mystery of Panchiko is the essence of adolescent nostalgia. In 2016, a cryptic album found in a thrift shop created by an obscure band named Panchiko was uploaded to the internet. Due to years of neglect, the album was plagued with disc rot which caused heavy fluttering distortions of the tracks. Nonetheless, the album became an internet cult favorite with an ongoing investigation of finding out who was “Panchiko”. It wasn’t until 2020 when a former member of the band anonymously revealed he and his friends had made the album back in 2000 as teens, but it wasn’t accepted by any record studio at the time. After numerous rejections, Panchiko disbanded with only 30 copies of D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L lost to time. However, by some fateful events, a copy had found its way to a local Oxfam shop then onto 4chan 16 years later. Although I can appreciate the sentimental origins of the original disc rot version, the mastered 2020 re-release captures the nostalgic feeling of past dreams.
“Merry-Go-Round” by Joe Hisaishi
On the last day of second grade, my class watched Ponyo before being dismissed for summer vacation. Ponyo’s fantastical atmosphere captivated me like no other film I saw before it. I remember excitedly telling my parents how much I loved the film during dinner that night and even found the Russian-dubbed version to watch at home. Since then, I deeply adore Ghibli Studio’s imaginative films. Hayao Miazaki’s genius truly captures a genuine childlike view of the world, and Joe Hisaishi’s beautiful scores play a major part in developing the films’ unique auras. “Merry-Go-Round”, the major theme of Howl’s Moving Castle, perfectly portrays the feeling of nostalgia, not for childhood memories, but for a past-life in which your soul feels at peace.
“Coffee” by BTS
This may as well be my long-awaited sappy thank-you letter to BTS. I discovered BTS as an awkward middle schooler when “Coffee” from their first EP O!RUL8,2? was recommended to me by Spotify. Back then, BTS was still a relatively unknown group in their debut year. It seems almost predestined I was able to find them before their immense popularity in the West. Each track of their early albums holds a vivid memory I relive each time I listen, and “Coffee”s perfume is the early spring morning dew on a sunrise walk to the school bus. Inevitably, as I’ve matured into a young adult, I’ve outgrown many things that used to bring me comfort in my childhood. Although I have outgrown BTS, I don’t necessarily see my outgrowth as “bad”. Rather, I discovered the members and their music when I was meant to. Now that I’ve become more confident with who I am(which I lacked before), I no longer need them as a pillar to support myself. Though, there’s always the bittersweet feeling of seeing an old friend whenever I revisit them.
“Make Out, Ca” by Byemilo
The third track on Byemilo’s 2018 masterpiece Summer Thunder will always bring me back to the end of high school and the months shortly after. From the opening lines about Strawberry Girl to the beat change about wishing to be more for someone, every word hits me in my chest. Make Out, Ca deeply resonates with me in trying to keep something alive that never was, dreading the day that the people that I love leave, and falling short of who someone needed me to be. I don’t know if I will ever listen back to this song and not be hit with the same feelings that I experienced at the end of my adolescence and transition into adulthood.
“Because I’m a Boy” by Makeout Videotape
(Note: This song isn’t on Spotify, click to listen)
It’s difficult to articulate just how this song makes me feel. It is as if it is both the beginning and end of something special. It is quite easy to get lost in the sea of songs about unrequited love, but this one stands out so much to me. It doesn’t even scratch two minutes long and many of the lyrics are the same, but it evokes such a strong reaction from me that I cannot get enough of it. Both the ethereal and summery sounding distorted guitar perfectly suits this song about swallowing your feelings and conforming to what is expected of you.
“Super Rich Kids” by Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt
The entire Channel Orange album brings back extremely strong memories of the beginning of my freshman year of high school. I almost hate how nostalgic the album makes me feel because I think it’s safe to say that my freshman year was not a time I necessarily yearn for. No matter how many times I try to form new memories to tie to this album, I can’t do so without feeling a little like I’m back at my high school again, walking from class to class in the bright late summer sun with my earbuds in and my hair still damp from having to swim during 4th-period P.E.
“If I Needed Someone” by The Beatles
Rubber Soul was the first album I bought and my introduction to The Beatles. Overwhelmed by their dozens of studio albums and more recent compilation albums, I think I just ended up picking one at random. Nevertheless, this song and this album were the soundtrack for many family trips to the beach when the signal would cut out and we had to turn to CDs to fill the silence. Years later, this CD now lives in my car, still serving its purpose.
“Highest Highs” by Extremophiles
Just over a year ago, my friends and I were spending our weekends stuffing ourselves into backyards and garages knowing that we would spend the next hour or two getting extremely sweaty while we jumped and bobbed to music played by local bands. The Extremophiles were one of those bands who played regularly and when the first few chords of Highest Highs were played, we knew that meant we had a few seconds to decide to either get to the edges of the crowd or push to the middle and commit to moshing. God, I really do miss being around gross (but happy) college kids.
“Mayonaise” by Smashing Pumpkins
Out of all the songs that got me through the 7th grade, “Mayonaise” by Smashing Pumpkins was one of them. The song’s introduction with its eerie, melancholic guitar riff caught my attention so quickly, I always ended up having it on repeat. I vividly remember sitting in the inside seat of the bus looking hopelessly out to the window, wondering if my life would get any better than this. This song always helped soothe that question; it was none other than comforting. I would become so lost in the music that five minutes felt like 30 seconds. As soon as the piece ended, I would immediately replay it until I got to school. It was something I could close my eyes to and become lost from reality. “Mayonaise” was the perfect form of escapism before I even realized it.
“Dramamine” by Modest Mouse
I didn’t really get into Modest Mouse until the 10th grade when a friend of mine showed me a few songs, and it all escalated from there. I eventually listened to their whole discography, and I fell in love. I also started listening to the band when I started learning how to play guitar. “Dramamine” was the first song I ever wanted to truly master. I remember picking up my acoustic-electric guitar each time and being bound to play “Dramamine” first thing. When I finally learned all three guitar parts, I was granted the most rewarding feeling. I even got to see Modest Mouse live in 2019 (with the same friend too)! It was indeed such an experience. It’s one of the concerts that will remain fresh in my brain. Well, before I go on a more extended tangent about my soft spot for the band, let me discuss why “Dramamine” is one out of the many Modest Mouse songs that have stuck with me throughout the years. The number is the opener to Modest Mouse’s first album, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, and I still remember my first time listening to it. “Dramamine” is a song more than about some over-the-counter drug to help with motion sickness. The lyrics that are displayed in the music are raw. Not to mention, each guitar solo and riff complement it ever so smoothly. It’s another song that the instrumentals speak for themselves. If you’re looking to get into Modest Mouse, I would highly recommend this fine tune. Plus, it’s the ultimate song to listen to out on a walk and be mad at the world around you.
“Black Sheep” by Metric
Where do I begin with this song? The amount of adrenaline this melody gives me is absurd. It’s more than just good. It’s groovy, upbeat, and vibrant. I’d like to provide the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World a special shout-out for introducing me to Metric. Not only that, I’d like to give another thank you for having Envy Adams (played by Brie Larson) perform this song in her skinny black dress with cherry red laced pumps! Talk about a boost of self-confidence! No matter how many times I listen to this totally bodacious piece of music by myself or with my friends, it always gets better. If someone were to ask me a few songs to help define my freshman year of high school, it’s this one. “Black Sheep” was there when I was experiencing things for the first time. This number is more than just a party anthem. Besides the incredible bass in the background, it also consists of great simplistic peachy lyrics like “Send you my love on a wire” that have you singing along effortlessly.
“Ribs” by Lorde
Oh, boy. “Ribs” is the definition of a comfort song at its finest. I’m pretty sure everyone can relate to this song down to its core. I mean, what else do I have to say? It feels almost self-explanatory how this song can hold such depths for everyone. Lorde wrote this song when she was reasonably young without even having second thoughts of its impact. “Ribs” is one of those songs you can easily describe the metaphorical meaning to, but what it means to you is entirely different. To even think about growing up and facing reality when you’re still amid your youth can be one of the scariest things. Things become real, and you can no longer escape anymore; however, the second you press play or drop your needle and “Ribs” starts playing, all that discomfort goes away. It’s one of the songs that can heal you as time goes on while still managing to hurt you at the same time. It’s a reality check, but it’s the best of them all. “Ribs” is purely about nostalgia, and it must be on this issue’s playlist for this theme. Now it’s about that time to be consumed in pain and play “Ribs” on repeat once again. We can all be nostalgic together. Thanks, Lorde.
“Angeles” by Elliott Smith
There’s a particular time in the year when all of my attention is solely focused on Elliot Smith. It’s typically around September and October. Seeing the leaves fall from their branches, become absent of light, and be crushed is the key signal I know when to queue Elliott Smith’s discography front to back. Nothing can fit that atmosphere more than his music. While each song is filled with much tragedy, “Angeles” is one of the melodies that always manages to hit me the hardest. Plus, Elliot Smith is featured a lot on Good Will Hunting’s soundtrack, and it’s one of my favorite movies. So, it holds a lot of weight for me. As for the music aspect, the guitar plays at a fast tempo while Elliott’s voice sings at a much slower pace. It kinda feels like that’s how life is. Everything is moving so fast around you that it feels impossible to keep up. You’re taking things slow, but things don’t fail to keep moving beyond you. It’s a never-ending cycle, and Elliott’s music, especially “Angeles,” captures that.
“Robbers” by The 1975
The 1975 has always been that band for me. I started listening to them when I was 14, and I haven’t stopped since. The first song I fell in love with by them was “Robbers.” It even remains my favorite song of theirs to this day. I don’t think a song has influenced me as much as this one solely because of the lyrics. I believe that it’s some of the best ballads the band has written. Lines like “She had a face straight out a magazine” and “You’ve got a pretty kinda dirty face” feel as if they’re plainly written on my forehead. I’ve also seen The 1975 live three times, and I’ve been able to hear this song each time. There hasn’t been a performance where I haven’t cried to it. It’s like there’s this spiritual connection that exists. I don’t think the longing I have to hear this tune will fade over time. I might not be an intense fan anymore, but “Robbers” holds a special place in my heart. When I hear the first three seconds of the song, I’m instantly reminded I still have the same mindset as I did when I was 14. Perhaps things never change.
“Reuse the Cels” by Car Seat Headrest
I know I can always count on Car Seat Headrest for uncannily fitting metaphors about painfully specific emotions. A cel is a transparent sheet used in the process of hand-drawn animation; by “reusing the cels,” you’re drawing over the worn frames of a movie that ended long ago. “Reuse the Cels” does a heart-wrenchingly good job telling a story of trying to reignite a long dormant relationship despite knowing its futility, like a cautionary tale against letting nostalgia get the best of you.
“All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem
I feel like all seven minutes and forty-two seconds of this song could mean anything, depending on who you’re asking. To me, “All my Friends” puts into words the overwhelming task of introspection: “You forgot what you meant when you read what you said / And you always knew you were tired, but then / Where are your friends tonight?” It’s like looking back on a particularly tumultuous part of your life in the midst of what might very well be another one. Like any good LCD Soundsystem song, there’s an acknowledgment of a certain pervasive tiredness that creeps into all your thoughts; yes, even the mere act of reminiscing on good times of the past is quite taxing.
“Northern Downpour” by Panic! At the Disco
Honestly, a large chunk of Panic and Fall Out Boy’s discography would find a place on my personal nostalgia playlist. “Northern Downpour” holds a special place in my heart. I discovered it in middle school on an 8tracks playlist (you’re a real one if you know 8tracks!) that was tagged with “sad.” I remember the day I listened to the playlist, I was feeling down about my life and just feeling very lonely. When this song came on, it resonated with my soul. It’s not a tragic song by any means, but there is definitely a melancholic feeling to it. When I hear the song now, I recall how alone I felt and the anger I had towards the world when I first discovered it, but now the song also conjures a certain hopefulness for me.
“Bonfire” by Childish Gambino
“Bonfire” and “Sweatpants” by Childish Gambino fueled me throughout all of high school. Gambino is a lyrical genius and even though I do like his new music, I miss the “Bonfire” era. “Bonfire” brings up memories of screaming the lyrics in the car with so many of my friends as my mom or dad drove us around. It always puts me in a good mood no matter what, not just because it is such a hype song, but also because of the good memories associated with it.
“Weightless” by All Time Low
Yes, in middle school, I was the kid who wore an embarrassing amount of band t-shirts from Hot Topic in a desperate attempt to prove that I am not like other girls or other Asians. My favorite band at the time was All Time Low, and “Weightless” carried me through the awkward years of adolescence. When I would listen to the song with my earbuds in at full volume, I felt so good about myself and what I could become. It was a desperately needed confidence booster, as I was an insecure and pessimistic preteen at the time. The lyrics resonated with my core, and I thank All Time Low for the song.