I returned from study abroad on December 17th, a blur of a day that I’ll describe more in another blog post to come. Needless to say, I’m still gathering the words, and I’ve always felt that music is a great way to voice the indescribable. I got “the Alchemist” on my Spotify Wrapped, which makes a ton of sense, as I love making playlists for certain moods and time periods, and naturally, I made one for my experience in Dublin. Here are some of the highlights!
WARNING: this post consists of a modern music addict rambling and nerding out about a variety of tunes.
Human - The Killers
Our cab tour driver in Belfast was a huge Killers fan and blasted this while driving us back to our starting point, and we all started singing along. Shoutout to Tom for that, it’s an undeniable banger.
Vito’s Ordination Song - Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens is a must-have when admiring any vast landscape, the greenery in Ireland being no exception. Mystery of Love is a great go-to, and somehow landed on Vito’s Ordination Song while driving past castles to Giant’s Causeway…really set the mood right. I highly recommend listening to some Sufjan if you’re going to visit an art museum.
Landslide - The Chicks
This played in a SPAR after I had an emotional conversation about growing up, and it’s a song I listened to a ton when I was a young kid, specifically The Chicks’ cover. The OG Fleetwood Mac version is beautiful, too, of course. Just hearing about how time shapes people in such a timeless song can make anyone cry or at least choke up.
Where the Streets Have No Name - U2
Actually about the neighborhoods in Belfast, which we drove through on a black cab tour. I’d heard this song a lot growing up in a house with many U2 fans, but never really knew the backstory. (Nor did I know U2 was an Irish band…).
You’re On Your Own, Kid - Taylor Swift
I’ve been slowly converting to Swiftism in the past year or so—I wouldn’t say I’m a mega-fan, but her music has definitely changed the way I view music and songwriting. This one I found quite relatable, for being on my own in a foreign country farther from everywhere I’ve ever lived for longer than I’ve ever been away. The final “you’re on your own kid, but you can face this” was something I needed to hear many times.
Dancing in the Dark - Bruce Springsteen
The angst of being alone and feeling aimless is a universal feeling that can be especially strong when you’re so far from home. We all have days where we hate what we see in the mirror, feel unproductive and tired out, and just feel like we’re just getting older alone… right? Well, in my case, it’s only occasional, but if it isn’t occasional for you, I’d recommend therapy in addition to dancing to this song.
HOZIER (bc DUH)
I can’t put just one Hozier song here. He’s an absolute legend, and I had to pay homage to him being in his home country. I especially listened to Damage Gets Done (feat. Brandi Carlile), Work Song, From Eden, Sedated, Would That I, and Sunlight.
When The Sun Goes Down - Arctic Monkeys
The first club I went to played this, and I headbanged like crazy to it. Also, the message of empathy towards people who society typically rejects is a strong reminder not to judge people who you may not understand the lifestyle of.
Last Nite - The Strokes
The makeup and energy of the city at night just screamed a guitar riff by The Strokes. Me and some friends were about to leave a rock bar one Thursday night when this song came on, and we agreed we had to stay to rock out for at least one more song.
Homesick - Noah Kahan
Noah was on repeat during my sadder hours as even though I’m very much not from New England (no offense to NE friends) he reminds me of where I grew up in the States and having a complicated relationship with where you’re from. I also listened to Paul Revere and Mess a lot.
ZITTI E BUONI - Måneskin
A friend put this song on while we were playing cards and I fell in love with it immediately. It’s in Italian, and I definitely do not understand Italian, but it’s the kind of banger where you can’t really care that much. I can proudly say that I’m a fan of Måneskin now.
Mandinka - Sinéad O’Connor
Have to include Sinéad here. I love Nothing Compares 2 U as well, but this one snuck up on me, playing on a couple radios until I took notice and Shazamed it. I’m definitely going to listen to more of her music in the weeks and months to come, RIP to a true legend.
Rush - Troye Sivan
Played in a gay club… everyone was screaming the lyrics. Incredible feeling of so many people from so many different places being unabashedly queer together. Also love One of Your Girls off the same album.
New Song - Maggie Rogers and Del Water Gap
A great song for walking along the creek, through calmer streets on a windy day and just pondering life, speaking from experience. I love Maggie Rogers, and this song takes her typically more indie/alt-rock voice into a more acoustic space, which is just lovely.
Zombie - The Cranberries
An Irish classic. Played in almost every pub that played live music and every cover was impeccable. Really important in terms of Irish history, as well as just a good song.
champagne problems - Taylor Swift
I return to this one a lot when it comes to storytelling, painting visuals into a narrative, and creating something so moving. I listened to it on repeat on a train over midterm break while writing stream of consciousness-style, and it really helped bring out the words and feelings that were needed. This song also reminds me of a lot of memories from my hometown, which, ironically, is Champaign, Illinois.
The Tree - Maren Morris
A song about leaving behind what doesn’t work for you, which I felt a lot throughout my study abroad experience. The opening lines, “I’m done filling a cup with a hole in the bottom, I’m taking an ax to the tree” will never not move me, making me think about what I’m putting my energy into and whether or not it’s worth it.
Go Or Go Ahead - Rufus Wainwright
We watched a movie in which this song played during the final scene, and it’s just such a powerful addition to the story of friendship and acceptance. I dare you not to feel electric listening to each chorus, especially the second.
Dark, Dark, Dark - Gregory Alan Isakov
I saw Gregory Alan Isakov’s live show at the National back in November, and it was such a great time! This is one of my favorite songs by him, and you bet I belted along when he played it. (I also loved that he played The Stable Song.)
Isn’t She Lovely - Stevie Wonder
I volunteered at a charity shop every week and without fail, this would always come on the radio around 4pm. It’s a classic by itself, but it’ll always remind me of Dublin now.
Johnny Bravo - Georgia G
I went to a concert at The Grand Social and saw a variety of local bands and artists play, including Georgia G, and this song. It’s a catchy jazzy tune with a groovy saxophone riff and guitar licks and Georgia G’s vocals move so smoothly through the music, I couldn’t help but swing along.
Falling Slowly - Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová
We watched Once in my Irish film class, and this was a song that I’d heard a lot growing up, but didn’t know that it originated from this movie. A nice full circle moment for a song that is truly heart-wrenching.
What Was I Made For? - Billie Eilish
This song, to me, is more than just a cut-and-paste TikTok sound; the background from the Barbie movie makes it feel incredibly human, and something I listened to a lot while I was packing to leave Dublin, utterly unsure of what awaited me beyond this incredible experience.
Murder On The Dancefloor - Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Me and a friend watched Saltburn in theaters, which was such a good movie, and if you’ve seen it, you’ll know where this song comes in. I danced in my kitchen to this song on one of my last nights while on a self-expression kick – highly recommend dancing in the kitchen at night.
Teenage Kicks - The Undertones
A punk song from this band that originated in Derry, Northern Ireland, which is not only catchy but also timeless. Through all the violence of the ‘70s and ‘80s up in Northern Ireland, a song like this reminds me how most kids are just, at their hearts, kids who want to live their teenage lives and find love.
More Blogs From This Author
he/him -- I'm studying Creative Writing and Studio Art at Knox College, class of 2025! I mostly dabble in cartooning, poetry, creative nonfiction, portraits, and humor writing. Outside of my majors, I play guitar and electric bass and sleep a lot.