Jarrett Fuller


Soundtrack to my Life

Nearly all day, from waking up to going to bed, I have headphones on with music playing. I’m obsessive about my music: how I listen, what I listen to, finding new music, and how I organize it. To wit, on Spotify I have almost 250 playlists. Some of these are favorite songs from favorite artists and others are favorite songs by genre. Over the years, I’ve made many curated mixes around seasons, feelings, or themes.

Most of these playlists, however, are the monthly music diaries I’ve been keeping for the last decade1. I got the idea from Frank Chimero, who wrote about it on his blog in the early 2010s2. He made monthly playlists where he collected songs he was listening to each month. I adopted the practice in January 2013 and just realized I now have ten year’s worth of music, organized by month.

The songs collected in these mixes are not necessarily favorites, though many are. They aren’t always the most listened tracks from the month either but rather the songs that catch my ear throughout the month: a track playing in a restaurant or store that grabs my attention, a song I can’t seem to get out of my head, a favorite from a new album, a surprise from a shuffle, or a song that creeps back into my the ears after years lost. More often than not, they are a collection of songs that make up the soundtrack to my life. Looking back over the last decade, these diaries have become a an audio journal of my life. To spend time in the archive, I can recall specific memories and feelings that might otherwise be lost.

Here are a few memories, pulled from tracks from ten years of music.

April 2013

I started this habit in the midst of a big life change: a move from New York to California and I was listening to a lot of music that was making me feel nostalgic. The Weepies’s track I Can’t Go Back Now feels like the soundtrack to this move.

August 2015

Another move: this time from California to Baltimore for graduate school. It was hot when I moved and I knew no one in the city yet. I spent the first week walking around my neighborhood alone listening to the new EL VY album.

June 2016

I was spending the summer in Brooklyn with my then-girlfriend, not wife, to work at The Whitney and participate in the Triple Canopy Publication Intensive. The election was heating up — no one thought Trump could win — and there was hope for the future. Waiting for E to finish work, I sat under the Brooklyn Bridge, this song played on repeat.

January 2017

Starting my last semester of graduate school, It’s snowing outside — a lot. I’m spending a lot of time alone, reading and writing, deep into finishing my thesis. The The is playing on repeat in the background.

November 2018

On a bus from New York to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving; recently found out we were having a baby. Chance the Rapper just released a series of singles and I’m listening to them on repeat. Each one feels like it captures how I feel in this moment: content.

June 2019

Summer hasn’t quite hit Brooklyn yet. We’re walking through Sunset Park, the sky is blue and the Manhattan skyline spans the horizon. Our baby sleeping in the stroller in front of us. Whenever I hear this song, I’m taken back to this moment — I can still feel the breeze hit my face.

February 2020

It’s bitter cold. Everything is grey. I’m waiting for the train so I can pick up my daughter from daycare. This song, from a new-to-me band, reminded me of the music I listened to in high school. It also anticipated how much the world would change in a few weeks.

December 2021

The coldest it’s been since we moved to Raleigh — a stark contrast from the heat of the summer. It’s rainy and I’m dropping off our Christmas tree to be turned into wood chips. We feel settled but we’d find out a few weeks later we were having another baby.

May 2022

I’ve started gardening. I’ve rediscovered my love of experimental and ambient music.

My musical tastes are all over the map, as seen from the above random selection. But it’s striking to see how they’ve evolved over the years, and even more striking to rediscover old tracks, tied to specific memories, that might otherwise be forgotten.

All my playlists are public on Spotify is you are interested. (I also make year-end favorites of new music.) This habit has become indispensable to my music-listening habits. I can’t believe it’s been ten years.

  1. First in iTunes, then on Rdio (RIP), and since 2016, on Spotify. 

  2. I can’t find his post anymore.