Matthew Magill talks us through the soundtrack to significant moments in his life
A Song for Age: Placebo – Running Up That Hill
Most people have their ‘teenage band’, with the likes of My Chemical Romance or Paramore being popular choices to rock out to with an ‘It’s-Not-A Phase’ side-fringe, but I found mine in Placebo at fourteen. Quite recently, my first concert was in 2015 seeing them performing in Northern Ireland. This was the first time the band had played in the country for nearly two decades.
Their cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ was the first song I heard. Its brooding melancholy always held a dark appeal for me and, as they closed the night with it on stage, it felt like an end of an era. At nineteen, my teenage years have held the most significant moments of my life so far and to see Brian Molko walk off the stage, and the lights of the Waterfront Hall flickering on, it felt like growing up had finally caught up with me.
A Song for Friends: Walk The Moon – Shut Up and Dance
Between some of my closest friends at home, this will forever be the ‘Squad Song’. Even though use of ‘Squad’ itself has gone out of fashion, we’ve clung to this 2014 dance track. From birthday anthems to late nights and long car rides in the dark, this song holds a shared feeling. Even after numerous fall-outs, it has always been a reminder of the good times we’ve had and the ones that are yet to come.
Now, separated by sea and schedule, whenever I hear this song played on the radio and watch as everyone around me rolls their eyes because it’s generic and overplayed, I can’t help but smile, thinking that maybe they’re listening too.
A Song for Old Times: Stevie Nicks – Edge of Seventeen
So this is a song that I feel could be called my oldies anthem and, despite knowing it was going to originate from somewhere in the 80s, it was by far the hardest to choose. Contenders included A-ha – ‘Take on Me’, The Smiths – ‘This Charming Man’, or a wildcard 60s tune: Cass Elliot (Mama Cass) – ‘Make Your Own Kind of Music’. All of these have the nostalgic power that I was aiming for but, in the end, no one can top Stevie.
I’ve been a Fleetwood Mac fan for quite some time, but ‘Edge of Seventeen’ is the definition of an anthem: as soon as that opening guitar riff kicks in you can feel the power of the track. Being a song forged from grief, inspired by the death of Nicks’ uncle and John Lennon, I feel like it is the ultimate fight song, to power through the darkest of times, as she belts out, ‘Then suddenly / there was no one left standing’.
A Song for Change: Joni Mitchell – Both Sides Now
This is a song for leaving home for the first time with feelings both good and bad. For one part, I associate this song with driving home from meeting with friends one evening. Everything seemed perfect: the sky was pale blue and violet, the sea was a light silver, and the mountains around me were deep, dark green. It was at this moment that I realised what it meant to leave home and suddenly I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision.
But ‘I’ve looked at life from both sides now / from up and down’ as Joni sings, and I now understand what she means. Through the same song comes another memory, of sitting in my car having flooded the engine on a dark, winter night miles from home. As it grew colder, this song kept me going with the thought of the different life university could bring. It was only then, when I was forced to a standstill, that I was ready to move on.
A Song for Creation: Jónsi – Go Do
My aunt first introduced me to the music of Iceland at an unusually young age. Listening to songs like Björk’s ‘All is Full of Love’ and Múm’s ‘Green Green Grass of Tunnel’, she opened up a world of singers to me that I otherwise would never have listened to. From Icelandic Jónsi, Sóley, and Sigur Rós to Scandinavian iamamiwhoami, Studio Killers and Röyksopp, these musicians, calling out from the most northerly edges of Europe, have helped me through my own creative endeavours through their art and expression.
As pretentious as it may sound, in this sense, Iceland has become for me an imagined centre for creative thought. The Chainsmokers summarised the feeling in their recent song ‘Paris’ which they define as: “a sentimental yearning for a reality that isn’t genuine”; my Iceland isn’t a place to be found but a place to be felt.