Taylor Dobbs is a man who still believes that journalism is a job that deserves to be celebrated. Preferably with glasses of gin and Springsteen sing-alongs. You can follow him on Twitter @taylordobbs
Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen
Just about any good story could start with “The screen door slams…” and to be honest, I’m not sure what exactly Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road is about. But his ability to craft a feeling, the feeling of youth, the desperation and reckless abandon of “the engines roaring on,” and living that for the first time. “Hey, what else can we do now,” — and this is where he breaks it open — “except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair?” I blew through my teen years driving too fast, and much of it was in the pursuit of the feeling Springsteen captured so beautifully here.
Butterflies and Hurricanes – Muse
Before graduating high school, each senior in my class had to write a 10-page memoir. That year was a dark one for me, and I was putting my family through hell as I flailed, terrified, towards the real world. I’ve always love to write, and I used that memoir as an outlet for the depression I felt. My teacher wrote me back, and in her page-long letter she told me she was sorry for the pain I felt, then sent me on a mission I’ve pursued ever since: “I will, however, request that you use that vision and sadness, when it comes, for a purpose. Tell the truth. Write it down. Someone will read it, and we will start making some progress. That’s what we need, and you are the man for the job. Get on it.”
Every time I hear this song, I think of that teacher and the side of the darkness (there is more coming on this playlist) she showed me: the side I can turn into good.
Famous Last Words – My Chemical Romance
Honestly, I’m not sure what it is about this song that speaks to me. And I’m not sure there is anything I could write here that might make you think anything but what you’ve always thought when someone tells you they like My Chemical Romance. You should probably think that about me, because it’s probably true. I’ve got a temper. Not the kind that will make me yell at a cashier or sucker-punch a random in a bar, but one that allows me to be so hard on myself and angry about my failings that I fall into a fit of rage. It can reach the point where I don’t move for fear that I’ll lash out and break something. In those moments, fill my stillness with noise. I play this and many other songs at a volume so high I only know the words by memory. Somehow, I come out the other side feeling alright.
Gravity – John Mayer (Live at the Nokia Theater)
For all of the criticism John Mayer faces for being to poppy or being a scumbag (I won’t defend him there), the man can shred. And it’s not just raw skill. I love Gravity, and I don’t think I’ve ever found a song that articulates so perfectly what it is to be depressed. In this performance of the song, you can feel that. The sadness plays all the way through, but the change in the song’s energy level does just as much. And the solo is one of the finest I know.
Smooth – Santana (featuring Rob Thomas)
Speaking of guitar gods, Carlos Santana. It’s no secret to most of the people who know me that I love Matchbox Twenty, the group that made Rob Thomas famous, but I’ve often had trouble with Thomas’ solo stuff. It’s hard to hate this one though. I remember this coming out in 1999 and playing on the radio so much that just about everyone else got sick of it. I just can’t. It’s catchy, and the guitar is timeless.
Hand Me Down – Matchbox Twenty
I have never listened to any song more than I’ve listened to this one. Its play count in my iTunes library — which doesn’t include the CD plays in the car — is somewhere above 300, and I’m still not sick of it. The intensity and sadness of both the music and the vocals are the kind that sounds good at any volume, but sounds best when it’s turned up to eleven. The theme of the song is fairly vague, but the message — you can have all the problems in the world, but when you’re not alone they all look a whole lot smaller — is one I couldn’t agree with more. Fighting loneliness is an everyday battle for me, and I’m not sure why because I have amazing friends and family and a girlfriend of four years who knows me better than I know myself, but in those lonely moments, this song is a savior.
The (Shipped) Gold Standard- Fall Out Boy
Anyone still reading by now is probably sick of my self-pity. Me too. And I’m prone to it. I know that, and that’s why this song is here. I can never remember any of the lyrics but “You can only blame your problems on the world for so long before it all becomes the same old song.” Those words are some of the easiest to remember and hardest — for me — to live. I often find myself thinking I’m the only one who feels the pains I feel and faces the problems I feel, but this song always reminds me otherwise, providing a pick me up along the way.
Please Don’t Tell Her – Jason Mraz
“Please don’t tell her, ’cause she don’t really need to know that I’m crazy like the rest of us, and I’m crazier when I’m next to her.”
Trying to impress a woman from the inside of this mind is no small task. Feeling as frequently and wholly fucked up as I often do, it’s easy for me to keep everyone at arm’s length and never let them fully into my head. Because once someone sees in, the only logical response seems to be to run the other way. “But I know she’d hate me if she knew my words.” Please don’t tell her has a lot in it, but the idea of hiding the inner turmoil from the outside is encapsulated in that first line, and it helps me remember why I keep everyone at arm’s length, and it helps me try to fight that urge.
Run, Baby, Run – Sheryl Crow
When I was a senior in high school, I walked out my house slamming the door behind me. I wouldn’t sleep there again for two years. I thought I might never speak to my mother again, and I felt okay about that. I was angry, and ready to graduate high school and leave town and never come back. One day, when my mother was at work, I came to the house to get some of my things. As I walked through the kitchen, where my mother always leaves music playing, this song was on. I stopped and looked around the house and the chorus swelled. I was sobbing before it was over, and I remembered in that moment that as grown up and independent as I thought I might be, I was still my mom’s son.
Runnin’ Down a Dream – Tom Petty
My mom and I went on a lot of long road trips when I was younger, and one of our favorite albums to listen to in the car was Full Moon Fever. “Runnin’ Down a Dream” was always a favorite of mine, because as we drove (even though it was often just to grandma’s house), I felt like we were living that song, singing along, and enthusiastically strumming along with the acoustic during the chorus. It was damn fun.
Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
There are two types of people in this world: Those that rolls their eyes when they hear “Just a small town girl livin’ in a lonely world,” and those that get their air guitars ready. I’m the latter, and anyone getting to know me should be warned in advance: I’m not above dropping to my knees in a public place and cranking out the meanest “Don’t Stop Believin'” air guitar solo you’ve ever seen.
Chicken Fried – Zac Brown Band
I’m a country music hater too. So you can stop rolling your eyes and thinking me a hick. I’m a hybrid. I have a MacBook and a high school diploma, but mowing the lawn on a tractor and target shooting in the backyard are the only true indicators of summer in my eyes. As much as I would’ve told you I hated growing up in that small town, I love that I did. And remembering that the simple, easy stuff you can do without leaving the driveway is often the best stuff to do is important to me. There’s not much that says it better than this song.
Check out the playlist in its entirety below: