Written by Ana Maria Liarakos, Nahum Gale
… and in this moment, I swear, we are infinite…
That is a line from the 2012 indie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It comes in a moment in the film where the protagonist, Charlie, realises he is not a sad story. He is alive. He stands up and sees the lights on the buildings and everything that makes him wonder. And he is listening to that song on that drive with the people he loves most in this world. And it is this moment, this infinite moment, that Colombian-born psychology student, Ana Maria Liarakos and Ethiopian-born journalism student, Nahum Gale, try to replicate in their Spotify playlist, Book Club.
This is Ana and Nahum’s story of how this playlist saved their lives…
Ana: On the 5th of May, 2019, my Spotify rotation consisted of two albums. The first was Go Farther in Lightness by Gang of Youths. May 2019 was also just after my old man’s one year anniversary of his passing. Listening to Gang of Youths in the midst of grief provided indescribable comfort. Their lyrics resemble the humble philosophy my father believed in. One that acknowledges the pain of life while simultaneously urging you to push forward for its beauty. Album number two, you ask? It was Bad Bunny’s X100PRE. His beats reminded me I was still a badass. Que yo soy sola de mi. That I am only my own (person). Bad Bunny’s energy was strongly needed after leaving an abusive relationship six months prior.
That was when I started sharing my music with Nahum.
Nahum: On the 5th of May, 2019, my Spotify rotation consisted of one band: Bon Iver. I was moving on from my first official relationship which ended super abruptly and Bon Iver songs perfectly captured how I felt. In fact, they always did. So that is all I let play upon my eardrums. Alongside personal dramas as well, I was slowly losing any sense of a solid identity. I turned to film soundtracks to form character and find a style to base the “new me” on. But nothing was really working. My persona was fractured and I was feeling angsty.
That was when I started sharing my music with Ana.
Ana: Book Club was formed on said date of May 5th, 2019. It provided us a way to share music with one another as somewhat of a coping strategy.
So, what did the first Book Club songs mean to us? Comfort. I think they prepared us for the change we had to face in our lives. They possessed a blissful escapism. Take our first pick, Welcome Home, Son by Radical Face. Its build-up is crafted so magically that when the first chorus hits, it feels like you are flying. There’s a similar undertone colouring most of our first picks, like, White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes, Like the Dawn by The Oh Hellos, and of course, Blood by The Middle East. We recognised these songs had an indie folk genre when we first started exchanging music. However, when Book Club was created, we needed criteria.
“We were making our own movie moments…”
Nahum: The essential criteria we set ourselves to navigate this newly formed playlist was simple. We decided we would both add a song every Monday morning. It functioned kind of like, funnily enough, a book club. The whole idea was to make Mondays sentimental. We wanted to be emotionally ready for the next seven days of our lives, and what better way to do that than to start the week with introducing the other to a new song. And so, the philosophies of Garfield soon flew out the door as Mondays became a day of anticipation. Mondays became the best day of the week because, in those precious mornings, we could be completely, and unapologetically, emotionally vulnerable with one another.
Ana: By June 2019, Book Club had become experimental; first, by sharing odes to our teenage years. Nahum did so through rap, and I, through alternative rock, and we were delightfully shocked to see that Mac Miller’s Aquarium and Green Day’s Redundant fit in our playlist. But that wasn’t the end of it. Nahum started adding Icelandic indie music (yes, you read that correctly). Through Sigur Ros, I learnt how Nahum’s passion for film and travel had been a gateway for him to connect to unexpected genres. On the other hand, Latin and Spanish music were intrinsically part of who I am, a gateway to my culture. Adding Gipsy Kings, my parent’s favourite band, was a milestone in Book Club for me. It made our playlist feel like home.
Over time, Book Club has become our own log of identity defining moments. For example, the day Nahum interviewed Thelma Plum is my favourite moment captured in Book Club. This was Nahum’s first journalistic interview with someone of high significance to him. He experienced how journalism worked, and it matched every hope he had. That day Nahum lived his dream. Just seeing his smile afterwards, I knew it was a moment he would treasure forever. And seeing Thelma perform that night was also special for me. She was so expressive; I was wholeheartedly captivated. Above all, she was comforting; a master storyteller. While Thelma was singing Nick Cave, I had an epiphany. If seeing her perform felt so great, I wondered how healing it must be for her. Me dio envidia pero de la Buena (it’s a saying in Spanish meaning, I was filled with good envy). I wanted to feel what she was feeling. That gig prompted me to write my own songs… and I am bloody glad I did. Narrating stories to myself while cradling my guitar has transformed into something sacred, if you will. Something healing. Especially when my stories are in Spanish.
“Narrating stories to myself while cradling my guitar has transformed into something sacred, if you will. Something healing…”
Nahum: It’s true. The playlist began to expand beyond just the playlist. We were no longer coping; we were properly healing. I got to watch Ana bloom. She was no longer quiet, she was loud. And the music we shared was making it so. She was finding her voice through those of Iron & Wine’s, Ball Park Music’s, and others of that ilk. And for me, I was no longer looking for personal identity and character in movie moments and soundtracks. We were making our own movie moments. And Ana was my soundtrack. Even when I travelled from places as far as Peru to Japan, and Ana would cruise through the Pacific Islands, we would make sure the moments we were experiencing apart were moments worth time capsuling. Maybe the biggest moment for me was when I found myself finally in the crowd of a Bon Iver concert, and the first person I needed to tell was…
Ana: I remember getting that video of Bon Iver playing. You were so hyped and couldn’t stop messaging. I was let into another special moment of yours, and it made me feel trusted. I guess that’s what this playlist is about. We are not just exchanging music, we are exchanging the moments that have made us who we are and, simultaneously, sharing the ones which will make us the people we will be. There is a level of transparency that accompanies sharing songs like that every week. And it has expanded beyond the realms of a playlist and into our daily life. Nothing says trust to me like the fact that Nahum was the first person I showed my own personally written music to. He has cheered me on since day one. He has believed in my creativity. That’s a gift not many people can find in friendship. Being received with their warmth, comfort, and validation. It’s just a beautiful feeling. I can’t put it into words.
“I saw the girl I met two years ago become the woman whose life had changed thanks to one small alteration to our Monday mornings…”
I know this is going to sound corny (and that I am), but I think Nahum and I were really destined to be friends. And I think it was destined to happen over creativity. I think our dream world of Book Club has helped us craft the identities we have today – the ones that have propelled us forward – where Nahum is a freelance writer and editor and an outstanding photographer and where I am an aspiring musician, an aspiring podcaster and fucking content with being alive.
Nahum: And, trust me when I say, Ana is more alive now than she has ever been in the last few years I have known her. A few months ago, I got to see Ana perform with her guitar before a large crowd. I saw the girl I met two years ago become the woman whose life had changed thanks to one small alteration to our Monday mornings. And when she sang the songs of our playlist, I felt, for those moments, we were better. We were alive. We were infinite.
Ana: So, what albums do I have on repeat now? Gossaner by Passion Pit and Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) by Kali Uchis. I think they reflect my current emotional state. There’s a lot of light and insight piercing through after a period of monochrome rigidity. I’m really proud of where I am. It hasn’t been easy. Now that I’m savouring the realisation that I am worthy of what I long for, I’m beyond excited for the experiences I’m yet to encounter. What about you, Nahumster?
Nahum: I still listen to Bon Iver, 24/7. I would be lying if I said I didn’t. But now Justin Vernon’s music is no longer just a sombre affair. Like the band, I feel I have escaped the winter and am now basking in the suns of spring. I feel the joy of Arcade Fire, the liveliness of Vampire Weekend and the soul of Death Cab for Cutie or Bombay Bicycle Club. I feel invigorated. I feel found. I feel an identity entirely my own. And it would not be without you, Ana. And this infinite playlist.
More from Edition 42
Written by Ashleigh Buck Trigger warning: Cyberbullying, sexual harassement, sexual assault, child abuse, self-harm, suicide Living in a pandemic age has supercharged …
Written by Emma Mellett Trigger warnings: Sexual assault, sexual harm, sexual harassment Sexual assault and sexual harassment are major health and welfare …