Still from The Truman Show 

What We’re Listening To: Existential Crisis

It’s the end of the year; it’s the time to reflect on the past 12 months, look to the future, create goals, make plans and ponder new beginnings... There’s also minor existential crises that can arise in tandem...

By Lily crandall & the music team


What am I doing with my life?
What did I really “DO” this year?
What do I have to show for another year on this Earth besides my Spotify Wrapped?!

Anyways, these are the songs that make us feel like that.

These are songs that feel like the uneasy end;
the end of the movie,
the end of the year,
the end of the world…
enjoy :)

Taylor is Listening to... 

What more can I say than, “Do you still hoard souvenirs / And make them mirrors / Of sentimental veneer?” I guess I could also say, “Is it laced within my DNA / To be braced in endless January? / Have I become the cavity I feared?” Casual questions for some self-reflection.

This sounds like watching the past slip away. It’s an interpretation of a folk classic (one of my favorites) and the simultaneous familiarity and strangeness is jarring.

This is a song for when you just want to feel like you’re doing “being alive” right. It’s soothing despite the emotional turmoil coursing through its lyrics. Lael Neale’s seemingly shallow question, “Why can’t I have some fun?” later turns into, “Why can’t I love someone?” The twinkling keys that emerge at the song’s end sound like hope, a reminder that growth and change are always possible, if not inevitable.

Miguel is listening to... 

“The Garden,” Kidä

Look at these emojis and decide which one feels like the song.

“Hard Drive,” Cassandra Jenkins

The instruments here begin as simple accompaniment to Jenkins's story, building and giving it a rhythm. But as we reach the song’s final act, the guitar transforms into a meditation gong, guiding us. “So close your eyes / I’ll count to three / Take a deep breath / Count with me.”

Lily is listening to... 

“A lot’s gonna change in your lifetime.” It’s either a beautifully hopeful or terrifying sentiment—these days, it feels more like the latter. The fact that this was my top song of 2019, with all the changes that came the next year, is only slightly unnerving.

This song sounds like how I imagine standing at the top of a very tall mountain feels—not in a hopeful, calm way, but in a oh-my-god-I-am-so-small-and-the-world-is-so-big way. The last minute of this song is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard—nothing like a 6.5 minute song to get you….thinking…...

Adam is listening to...

“There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” The Smiths

The Smiths are constantly in crisis. This is the happy-sad feeling of flinging through the night streets in a car that’s going a little too fast, trying to feel something. There are just those nights when you have to escape.

“Casimir Pulaski Day,” Sufjan Stevens

This ended up as my most listened to song of 2021, which I guess tells you a bit about how the year has gone. No, it hasn’t been that bad, but this is the perfect song for that necessary self-reflection when your life tosses you around. Sometimes it’s the small moments that seem to matter most in the long run.

“Lives,” Modest Mouse

Maybe it’s been a year of existential crisis for me, as this was my second-most listened to song this year. A short deep cut from one of their best albums, “Lives” encapsulates everything great about this strange band. The best part is the complete switch-up in the middle that becomes more hopeful, only to return to the sounds of the beginning at the end.

Cath is listening to... 

Ever since I heard this song on the Marie Antoinette soundtrack during my formative years, I cannot help but to link it to apathetically soaking in a large bathtub while having a low-key existential crisis at Versailles (the soft lofi drone in the background perfectly elicits the light fog of hot bathwater—bravo for the incredible pairing, Sofia Coppola).

Any time I feel utterly lost and alone, I picture all of my friends singing this to me through a bathroom door… okay yes, that’s a scene from Mamma Mia, but hear me out. This song’s incredibly tender lyrics doubled as a comforting security blanket on some of my darker days in 2021. And in true ABBA fashion, the song ends on a gloriously high note with a cinematic piano cadence that evokes a feeling of endless possibilities. ABBA cures all—don’t fight me on it, I don't make the rules.

I’ve been listening to the charmingly chaotic and unexpectedly profound Mirror Might Steal Your Charm heavily the past couple of weeks, and this grounded ballad closes out the album. This song’s final lyrics, “It's not the destination that matters to me / It's the journey I take to get there,” always seem to find me when my mental gears need a reboot.

Tessa is listening to... 

“Atari Acid,” Jakob

During “ends,” you can often find me lying supine on my bed, headphones in and on full volume playing “Atari Acid.” For me, the song is a release from reality, a reminder that things aren’t as serious or dire as they seem. It’s a safe haven, reminding me that everything will work out.

“feel good,” Tierra Whack

“feel good” forces me into introspection. It’s a good song for a “we need to face this now” kind of situation and, while it’s short, it sparks an urgent sort of rumination during the times when I need it most.

“Roi,” Videoclub

Meant for those in-between moments, “Roi” lets me unplug and find some semblance of peace during my darkest, most existential points.

Julia is listening to...

“She's up dancing, dancing / Till she feels nothing / She's up dancing / Till she's disqualified.” This song puts me in a state of trance-like reflection. Of course I'm never sure—or want to be—of an artist’s intention, but listening to this track feels like the exhale I let out on the subway home after a bad night out.

This track speaks to the transitory nature of relationships, seasons, and periods of life in general. The way the synth and guitar sit on top of one another while Doyle’s melodic voice traverses over the eerie chord progression gives me the feeling of being in an unfamiliar place, both unsettled and excited at once. I love the repeated line, “I’m always dimming the light switch,” because it has such an open-ended meaning, but is relatable nonetheless.

Molly is listening to... 

“drip bounce_7_24_18,” Toro y Moi

This song offers solace to anyone feeling lost. When everything feels heavy, I let myself be washed clean with Toro y Moi’s silky guitar and existential lyrics. It’s a simple reminder that there is beauty in not knowing what’s next and letting yourself soak in daydreams for a while.

“Sober Feels,” Nia Archives

This song is the epitome of a guilty pleasure. With a chaotic, high-energy dance beat paired with lyrics like, “I guess I'm stuck in a loop, it's always the same for me, guess I'm stuck in a pattern, I really need something to make me sane, I guess we all can relate,” it’s perfect for when you’re feeling stuck and need to dance your way into making an introspective change.