Although I’m sure most of us have always loved listening to music, this season of staying-at-home has given us some extra hours to do so.

Some people just like to turn on the radio and listen to whatever comes on, but some people (myself included) are picky about what they listen to. I spend a lot of time creating playlists for different sorts of songs I like. I find the process therapeutic and the result a worthwhile method of organization, and I would highly recommend playlist-making as a hobby to people who are both particular about their music taste and precise about capturing nuances within it. 

This is my personal formula for curating a Spotify playlist. Obviously music is an entirely subjective topic and this can be done in any way one prefers.


  • Always listen to your Discover Weekly and Daily Mixes. They can help you find great new music you wouldn’t find otherwise. Even if you’re a few songs into the playlist and not really vibing, push through and listen to the whole thing because there might be a hidden gem or two.
  • Keep an open mind. If you’re too focused on maintaining a rigid aesthetic for the playlist in question, you’ll miss out on songs that would actually sound really good in there.
  • That said—don’t stick totally opposite genres together. Keep them semi-related. For example, I would put indie rock and folk pop together, but not reggae and electronica. 
  • Pinpoint a specific moment you want to emulate. Making a playlist called “long drives” is counterintuitive—where are you driving to? Are you alone? What time of day is it? There are many different types of long drives. A long drive at sunset on the way to your grandma’s house with your parents is going to feel a lot different than a long drive to the airport early in the morning with your best friend in the passenger seat. You gotta be specific. 

One such playlist curated in this manner is one I made last summer. Some of the songs on there are just songs I listened to a lot at the time, so they remind me of that era via association; but some of them are songs I discovered later whose lyrics or vibe match with some of the ways I felt or things I did. 

  • “Portland” by Bowling Shoes
  • “Sports” by Beach Bunny
  • “Atlas” by COIN
  • “Run” by COIN
  • “The Basement” by Lunar Vacation
  • “This December” by Ricky Montgomery
  • “Buttercup” by Hippo Campus
  • “seasonal depression” by mxmtoon
  • “Mixtape 2003” by The Academic
  • “Saturdays” by Twin Shadow
  • “No Going Back” by Yuno 
  • “I Miss Those Days” by Bleachers
  • “1901” by Phoenix
  • “Sunlight” by Yuno
  • “Hunnybee” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra
  • “New Flesh” by Current Joys
  • “San Junipero” by Carousel Casualties

For example, the song “The Basement” by Lunar Vacation is something I listened to over and over again when I visited the UK in July 2019. I remember letting it play through my earbuds on the long drive to the airport. But the song “San Junipero” by Carousel Casualties is a song I first heard that fall, and I added it in because it reminded me of how carefree I felt the summer before. 

For another example, I included the song “Buttercup” by Hippo Campus just because that July I visited Connecticut and stayed in a neighborhood with tons of yellow buttercups lining the sidewalks. Song choices don’t always have to be meaningful or symbolic. The same is true for the song “Sunlight” by Yuno; it reminded me of that June when I was in California and we drove up the coast on a sunny day. 

It’s okay to keep adding to a playlist, but I would discourage against fiddling with it too much after a long time, or you might lose that specific association you get from making a playlist representing one moment or period. I don’t add songs to my summer ‘19 playlist anymore because I want it to remind me of that summer and that summer only.  

Humans are pretty complicated creatures with a whole lot of different compartments in our brains for memories and feelings, so I think it’s important to find a way to express these areas of our personality in a creative way, whether it be through making playlists, or writing, or painting, or anything you enjoy. Modern tools like Spotify and Apple Music make it so easy for us to access millions of songs online and organize them in any way we like; I suggest taking advantage of this and exploring the music scene to find genres and artists you relate to.

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