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Music of the Years

A look at the songs that have shaped us over the years.
Cali and Brianna compile a list of their top songs each month and go in-depth with them. For the grand finale, Cali and Brianna reminisce on the tracks that mean the most to them over the past 6 years. PC: Kevin Rowe

As a bittersweet conclusion to the “Music of the Month” column we started our sophomore year – a compiled in-depth list of our top songs each month – “Music of the Years” honors the tracks that stood significant for more than one month, shaped us as individuals, and remind us of nostalgic times.

Want to see what else we’re listening to? Check out our Spotify accounts!

Cali: Footos | The Fresh Fighter

Brianna: Benusom

6th grade, 2017-18

Cali’s Pick: “Fly Like An Eagle” by Steve Miller Band, “Fly Like An Eagle” (1976)

A song that personally bleeds with much nostalgia and reminiscence, “Fly Like An Eagle” is a decade-defining explosion of psychedelia and electric blues. Featuring organs, synthesizers, and countless audio effects, the tune pioneered an eclectic sound in rock that many thought left with the 60s. An interpolation of Steve Miller’s 1966 project with Paul McCartney, “My Dark Hour,”  the composition has become a classic rock staple and nearly a “theme for everything” as McCartney describes it. Hearing this song from nearly the moment I was born, it sounds like dancing with my mom in the kitchen and becoming overzealous with joy anytime I heard the distinct “beeps” of the intro on the radio. 

Brianna’s Pick: “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “Greatest Hits” (1993)

Tom Petty is a name essential to the rock era, starting his first activity in ‘67 to beyond. Even more so, the opening guitar riff to mega-hit “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” is pure nostalgia. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” is substantial to my upbringing, and is pushed to a greater extent considering Petty’s death in 2017. Along with the innovative musical elements, Petty also created a dark yet creative music video with the help of director Keir McFarlane and starring Kim Basinger. From late summer nights to tailgating at the Oakland Coliseum, I explicitly remember this track blaring through speakers 24/7. 

7th grade, 2018-19

Cali’s Pick: “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer, “Weezer” (1994)

This track brings me back to long Sunday drives down Skyline Boulevard blaring Live 105 (105.3, the best FM radio station in the Bay Area). As Rivers Cuomo navigates the listener through his tumultuous teenage trauma, he is accompanied by Weezer’s signature quirky riffage, catchy choruses, and impressive solos. One of their first singles off the iconic “Blue Album” that marked the end of the grunge era, “Say It Ain’t So” was voted #10 on Pitchfork Media’s Top 200 Tracks of the 90s and Rolling Stone nominated it as #72 on the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. Regardless of accolades, this song was one of the first alternative rock songs that caught my ear, paving the way for my current music taste. 

Brianna’s Pick: “Soul to Squeeze” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Greatest Hits” (2003)

The opening guitar line with the amazing bass counterpart creates one of the best mellow anthems of Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) discography. “Soul to Squeeze” encompasses summers in Capitola, driving with all the windows down, and my forever adoration for this band. Although the track is not featured on a studio album, “Soul to Squeeze” exhibits the strong attributes of the few melodic tracks in the band’s catalog. Each instrument calls out to the listener, with John Frusciante’s intricate and precise guitar, Flea’s walking and bolstered bass line, Chad Smith’s hard-hitting yet steady drumming, and Anthony Kiedis’ innovative singing and rapping. 

8th grade, 2019-2020

Cali’s Pick: “Very Ape” by Nirvana, “In Utero” (1993)

I wish I could go back to the very first time I heard this song. I had to sit back and stare at the wall for a second in my 8th grade history class to process the pure excellence of this song. An overlooked track on Nirvana’s seminal “In Utero,” “Very Ape” is a short, but absolutely sweet, cut that showcases the punk rock side of Nirvana’s sound. The entire number is driven by Kurt Cobain’s innovative riff that consists of sliding power chords and Dave Grohl’s melodic, yet absolutely killer drum licks that he probably acquired during his time with Scream. The chaotic track ends in the cataclysmic screams of Cobain and a short guitar burnout. Although one of the most abridged numbers in their catalog, “Very Ape” opened up seemingly endless musical possibilities for me, helping my then shallow music knowledge take its first gander into punk.

Brianna’s Pick: “Baby Hold On” by Eddie Money, “Eddie Money” (1977)

This song holds major significance to my upbringing that is engrossed in music. This is especially due to my Papa, legendary drummer Gene Pardue, who worked with Eddie Money himself in the studio. Released on his self-titled debut record in 1977, “Baby Hold On” not only received significant airplay then but continues this trend to this day. Between its catchy rhythm and infectious chorus, “Baby Hold On” stands as my all-time favorite song by Money. Additionally, the timeless quality of the track perfectly captures the uplifting message that is portrayed.  Though Eddie Money passed away in 2019, his legacy lives on through his music, effortlessly flowing through speakers. 

9th grade, 2020-21

Cali’s Pick: “Emit Remmus” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Californication” (1999)

Over quarantine, “Californication” was the driving force getting me through the throes of distance learning. There was never a time during this school year where this record wasn’t in my turntable, quickly aging my needle. Although the album in its entirety is undoubtedly no-skip, the ninth track, “Emit Remmus” always stood out to me. One of RHCP’s more experimental tracks, John Frusciante shines with complex guitar licks played backwards (explaining the title’s palindromic reference to “summer time”) under Anthony Kiedis’ expressive croons. Inspired by Sporty Spice herself, the ditty tells the tale of the cascading relationship between an English woman and American man. The bridge of the number is a standalone masterpiece – that I definitely haven’t cried to before – with the energy peaking into an emotional sequence before boiling down to Flea’s apt bassline. Though years have passed, “Emit Remmus” is an underappreciated gem in the Chili’s discography that still serves as my favorite song of theirs.

Brianna’s Pick: “Respect” by Notorious B.I.G., “Ready To Die” (1994)

During our quarantine years, music called out to me in many ways. In one of these instances, I started to get into Notorious B.I.G. and his significant influence in the wake of the ‘90s. Featuring Jamaican singer-songwriter Diana King, “Respect” sonically transcends genres as Notorious B.I.G (Christopher Wallace’s pseudonym) narrates his life from his birth to his juvenile conflicts, to his adult experience in Brooklyn. I’ve always been a fan of branching out to genres I wouldn’t typically listen to. Overall, “Respect” is one of the first Biggie tracks that stuck with me. 

10th grade, 2021-22

Cali’s Pick: “Last Words” by Knocked Loose, “Laugh Tracks” (2016)

During my so-called metal awakening, Knocked Loose expanded my music taste into the newer, sometimes unorthodox genre of metalcore. The eighth track on Knocked Loose’s first full-length release, “Laugh Tracks,” “Last Words” is a dynamic number faltering in noise and energy levels. The number begins slow with Bryan Garris’ muffled vocals before exploding into a ruthlessly rhythmic ensemble with Garris’ wail and a grinding riff courtesy of Isaac Hale. Throughout the number, the impressive musicianship is exhibited by the band with fading solos and crunching djent-style breakdowns. Finally, in the typical style of the Kentucky band, the composition is accompanied by an eerie music video dealing with themes of mortality and retribution (super metal!!!).

Brianna’s Pick: “Starman” by David Bowie, “Moonage Daydream” (1969)

I remember “Starman” being one of the first songs I completely obsessed over and single-handedly intensified my love for music. Between the sweet 12-string acoustic riffs, Bowie’s soaring vocals and appearing in one of my favorite movies at the time, “The Martian,”, “Starman” is a pivotal track that marks the point when music truly engrossed me. The cosmic aspects of the track exemplify the connections between alienation, salvation, and the utmost power of music. The overall complexities of human condition articulated in the track reflects into music innovation, especially as the song grows into the chorus.  

11th grade, 2022-23

Cali’s Pick: “Barely Legal” by The Strokes, “Is This It” (2001)

An upbeat ditty with a heavier meaning, “Barely Legal” serves as the fourth track on “Is This It”, the pinnacle of 2000s garage rock. The composition is signature Strokes, being driven by Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr.’s harmonizing guitars, Julian Casablancas’ mellow vocals, and the undertones of Fabrizio Moretti and Nikolai Fraiture’s infectious rhythm section. Having a very conventional structure, the blissful number ends after a concluding repeat of the chorus. Although never released as a single, “Barely Legal” has easily become a fan favorite through iconic performances and the hooky nature of the track. Further, after seeing this song live in May 2023, it sealed the deal as not just one of my favorite Strokes songs, but a go-to track – as cliche as it sounds – that I’ll never grow tired of. 

Brianna’s Pick: “Hate to Feel” by Alice in Chains, “Dirt” (1992)

This song marks the peak of my love and appreciation for grunge. Released on their second studio album, the track opens with the sludge, fuzzy guitar that leads the way for the collaborating band. As he describes the introspective turmoil, “Hate to Feel” is one of two songs on the album credited to Layne Staley as the sole writer – amplifying the darker tones of the track. I explicitly remember blasting this track in my headphones every passing period to get to each class. Each listen lends itself for a new element to appear that wasn’t heard previously. With so much occurring by the end of the 5-minute track, “Hate to Feel” offers a captivating journey of isolation with a banging beat and perfect vocal harmonies. 

12th grade, 2023-24

Cali’s Pick: “DVP” by PUP, “The Dream Is Over” (2016)

Dominating my Spotify Wrapped for nearly two years, this track and album was my everything. Through powerful vocals, pillaging guitars, and absolutely slamming drums, PUP flawlessly epitomizes the angst and eccentrism that comes with growing up. The composition is a direct continuation of the prior track “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will”, creating the feeling of an epic, pop-punk saga. Throughout the anthemic choruses and catchy group chants, the Canadian outfit hooks the listener into the hypnotic number – pushing them to press that restart button again and again. One of the band’s most popular songs, “DVP” should become an essential for any punk fan, and it makes me look forward to getting stuck in traffic on the titular Don Valley Parkway next time I’m in Toronto. 

Brianna’s Pick: “The Weight of Dreams” by Greta Van Fleet, “The Battle at Garden’s Gate” (2021)

Oblivion! Greta Van Fleet reinstates the classic rock sound, expanding it even further by introducing transcendental instrumentation and thought-provoking lyricism. The initial version of the track, titled “Black Flag Exposition,” is instrumentally composed the same, however, Greta Van Fleet integrates a lyrical rendition of “Lay Down (Candles In the Rain)” by Melanie Safka (1970). “Black Flag Exposition” garnered mass attention with their iconic performance at Red Rocks Amphitheater before the lyrics were finalized on the studio version of “The Battle at Garden’s Gate” as the final statement of the album. This nine-minute track was also voted in Guitar World’s 21st-century best guitar solo. Nevertheless, the personal ties I have with this track will always outweigh any amount of awards it receives: hearing it live at the final show of the Dreams in Gold Tour, blasting it while flying down a highway after watching the “Barbie” movie at the drive-in, or simply listening to it for hours on end.    

Music of the Month song selections by decade released.
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About the Contributors
Brianna Nusom
Brianna Nusom, Editor-in-Chief
Brianna Nusom, senior, is in her fourth year on the Norse Notes staff. She has been involved with Oakmont's theatre for four years- the past three she has been the sound technician for plays, musicals, choir and band concerts, and dance shows. Brianna has been a cheerleader for six years and looks forward to what the senior season will bring her. Brianna has a great passion for all things music and in her free time she enjoys composing and listening to music. Outside of school, Brianna plays many instruments ― her favorites include drums, bass, and guitar. Her essential music genres include grunge, folk, and metal, consisting of artists such as Alice In Chains, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stephen Stills, Deftones, and Greta Van Fleet.  
Cali Rowe
Cali Rowe, Features Editor
Cali Rowe is a junior and is in her third year of journalism. Cali enjoys playing guitar, writing, listening to music, and playing softball in her free time. She loves travelling anywhere and everywhere, especially to the beach, hanging out with friends and family, and dedicating time to her faith. Cali is pleased to serve as a features editor this year, and is excited to once again be part of the Norse Notes staff.

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