Annotated In-Universe Playlists
These playlists are not inspired by the characters or used as a writing device - instead they have been made by the characters within the universe of the podcast. As such, these annotations are going to contain notes from the character themselves as well as the author of the playlist.
Selected lyrics: words in italics indicate lyrics from that song that are particularly relevant.
Author notes: All annotations in [brackets] indicate notes from the creator of the playlist. Either me [LS], Briggon Snow who plays Caleb [BS], or Julia Morizawa who plays Dr. Bright [JM].
music for your football brain
Just something to keep you company on the bus - Adam
[LS: So this playlist may not need that much explanation from me. Adam already gave his reasons for picking each song, which he wrote down on a note and gave to Caleb. These notes are the first bullet point after each song and are followed by any additional notes by myself or selected lyrics.
In general, I think this is one of many playlists Adam gave to Caleb at the beginning of their friendship. Adam wanted to introduce Caleb to a lot of different bands, so he would send him Spotify playlists, YouTube videos, etc. But this is the first mix that Adam made with very distinct intention - he wasn't just sharing music he liked, he was crafting something specifically for Caleb to listen to while on the bus to an away game.]
- Notes from Adam, in character
- [LS: author notes from Lauren Shippen]
- Selected lyrics
1. "Can't Feel My Face" - The Weeknd
- I don't know if you even realize you're doing it, but you mouth along with the words every time this song comes on the radio.
- [LS: I know everyone is sick of this song but, goddamn, I still love it. I absolutely love The Weeknd and I think Adam would have put this song on here pretending it was just for Caleb when he actually secretly adores it and dances around in his bedroom to it.]
2. "Hard Out Here" - Lily Allen
- yeah, yeah, it's a girly song, but Lily speaks true.
3. "Here" - Alessia Cara
- I don't think anyone has ever described so well what it's like to party with our classmates. At least, I assume, I don't know, you're the one who actually gets invited, you tell me.
- [LS: Adam spent a lot of time early in his friendship with Caleb convincing himself that the friendship wasn't going to last - that Caleb would get bored and go back to his cool parties. Listening to this song was a way of assuring himself that he didn't want to be part of that world anyway, thank you very much.]
4. "Strawberry Swing" - Frank Ocean
- I know you love Coldplay, but trust me - once you hear this, you'll never go back to the original
- [LS: unsurprisingly, this is also my view - this cover blows the original so far out of the water, it's unreal.]
- say hello/then say farewell to the places you know
5. "Grade 8" - Ed Sheeran
- idk, this song just reminds me of you.
- [LS: oh my god, dumb, dumb boys. This is a song that doesn't sound romantic, but the lyrics sure are - if someone sent this to me and said it reminded them of me, I would definitely think twice about what that meant. And yes, Adam was very aware of his own feelings for Caleb at this point and I think this was his way of testing the waters - if Caleb picked up on it, then maybe...he clearly was overly confident about Caleb's ability to read between the lines at this stage.]
- hold my heart to stop me bleeding now, now, now/and I'll never let you down
6. "Water Under the Bridge" - Adele
- all hail Adele - this is my favorite off her new album
7. "You're Not the Only One" - Jamie Cullum
- words to live by.
- [LS: This is Adam telling Caleb, "I don't just think of you as the hot jock who punched that guy that one time. I know you have hopes and dreams and interests and layers and I want to see you succeed in life". This song is a really bittersweet reflection on starting out in life and trying to achieve your dreams and how lonely that can be.]
8. "Super Trouper" - ABBA
- I'll be in the crowd in spirit. Have a good game.
- [LS: boy, did I not expect this song to become as much of a thing in the fandom as it has but boy, am I happy that it did. A large portion of my heart belongs to ABBA and it brings me great joy to share the love. Also, this is just a really sweet, supportive song. And yes, for those of you wondering, Adam does still call Caleb "super trouper" on a semi-regular basis.]
for caleb - x adam
[LS: This mix was built before the football game mix - I knew Adam expressed affection through playlists and so began with the sappiest stuff and worked backwards to the pre-romance stage. This personality quirk is 100% inherited from me - the greatest high school flirtation I participated in involved absolutely no actual flirting, and instead consisted of trading CDs back and forth. This was pre-Spotify, so me and this person would meet at the corner by our town deli and do massive swaps of burned CDs. To this day, "Southtown Girls" by The Hold Steady brings a nostalgic smile to my face.]
- Notes from Adam, in character
- [LS: author notes from Lauren Shippen]
- Selected lyrics
1. "Shut Your Eyes" - Snow Patrol
- Now, before you make fun of me for putting Snow Patrol on here, listen to this and actually do what the lyrics are telling you to do. Trust me, it's fun.
- [LS: Adam has zero chill. This is such a romantic song to start off with, IMO.]
2. "Golden Train" - Justin Nozuka
- Is it obvious that I need a vacation?
- [LS: I do think it's telling that the first two songs are essentially about running away with someone.]
3. "On Your Porch" - The Format
- I know how much you like fun., but Nate Ruess has been churning out incredible stuff forever. Pretty sure I first heard this song in "Veronica Mars", which I s2g, you will watch someday.
- [LS: I think this is one of the greatest songs that Ruess has ever written. It's pretty sad but ultimately hopeful, which is definitely where Adam is at this moment in his life. Also, this song was featured in VMars, a show everyone should watch, but that's not where I first heard it. This album was already on repeat in our house.]
4. "Be Mine" - Ellie Goulding and Erik Hassle
- If you haven't heard the original by Robyn, it's great. Obviously, because Robyn is amazing. But, idk, I really like this version a lot.
- [LS: Of course you like this version more Adam, you great emo sap. This cover almost hides how sad the lyrics are.]
5. "Warmer Climate" - Snow Patrol
- Shut up, Snow Patrol is great and this is a very under-appreciated song.
- [LS: Adam's right - Snow Patrol is great and basically no one knows this song because it wasn't widely released, which is a real shame.]
- Edison would spin in his grave/to ever see the light that you gave
6. "The Guy That Says Goodbye to You is Out of His Mind" - Griffin House
- Just...don't make it a thing. I just like this song, okay?
- [LS: Yeah, this is the most overtly romantic song on this mix. I'm sort of embarrassed it's on here. This was still pretty early on in their relationship and this song is just...really fucking cute. I'm sure neither of them every acknowledged it.]
7. "Like Real People Do" - Hozier
- Remind me to send you this whole album - it's great.
- [LS: I'm not gonna front with you guys - this is 100% a make-out song.]
8. "Rob Me Blind" - Jay Brannan
- Another artist you need to get into! His shows are really fun - we should try and catch one next time he's here.
- [LS: If in-universe mixes had keystone songs, this would be it - this would be the keystone song for their whole relationship. It's sad, hopeful, self-deprecating, and loving. Not to mention, by one of Adam's favorite artists. There are actually a bunch of lyrics I want to pull out and highlight, so buckle in.]
- you and me we spark/no, I take that back/like a dancer in the dark/my beauty it's black - [LS: Adam seeing his own appeal as this dark, spinning thing makes so much sense to me]
- come on and steal a kiss/rob me blind [LS: that's just really good wordplay, which is a thing Adam is into]
- you don't need another player/gambling for your charms [LS: Adam is constantly concerned that he's not good enough for the golden boy - that there are many other students who would love to be with Caleb who Caleb might like better given the chance]
- "simple boys make better boyfriends"/that just isn't true [LS: I mean, come on, do you guys see what I mean? This song is perfect]
[Briggon Snow: This mix was definitely made by someone in love. Caleb at this point is using music to communicate with Adam. I pictured Caleb working on this for a whole weekend…carefully choosing the right songs to not only impress Adam with his music taste, but send the right message he wanted to send. Emotional communication is a huge hurdle for the male brain - it’s just the reality - and despite being an empath, Caleb struggles with communicating his feelings with those the feelings are directed towards. Adam speaks with music, and this was Caleb’s way of saying “I got your message…here’s my response, you handsome goof!”]
[Lauren Shippen: While I was not at all involved in making this mix, both Briggon and I agreed that Caleb would have given it to Adam with no note or explanation. Hence, these annotations are just Briggon's own notes about why he chose songs, with no in-character notes]
1. "We Move Like the Ocean" - Bad Suns
- [BS: Lauren’s writing, specifically the metaphors she has come up with to describe the sort of flavors of emotions, immediately made me think of this song. Not only does this song by Bad Suns have that “teen-dude” quality to it…but the ocean is something that Caleb has expressed as a way to describe his feelings for/with Adam.]
- [LS: I swear I'll shut up soon, because this is not my mix, but I just want to say that I had never heard this song before. When Briggon sent me the playlist and this came on, I nearly fell off my chair. This song is just so effin' perfect, especially the chorus of We move like the ocean/and I can't swim]
2. "Jinx" - DNCE
- [BS: This DNCE song is about being cautious with something that is SO GOOD. I get it. I’ve felt it. This was Caleb’s way of saying that he has feelings for Adam…but he doesn’t want to admit it too easily/quickly, for fear of it all going to shit. Life lately hasn’t been easy for him…and he doesn’t want to mess up this good thing.]
3. "Clocks Go Forward" - James Bay
- [BS: Probably one of my favorite songs of the last year, and one that I felt conveyed Caleb’s finding solace in Adam amongst a lot of challenges in his life with his ability. The self-imposed isolation became a beautiful positive as he buried himself in Adam…hoping to get through to sturdier ground after the “clocks go forward”. Also…the song is sexy…and Caleb feels it. This was definitely a “wink” as well.]
4. "Where You Go" - The Young Romans
[BS: It’s upbeat and light and full optimism. The song is about being with someone who no matter what makes everything good. No matter what happens, as long as Caleb has Adam right next to him…it’s all going to be okay.]
5. "Bloom" - The Paper Kites
- [BS: This song has always hit me with that feeling of being hypnotized by the one you love. Out of all of the songs on this mix, this was the most vulnerable and eagerly honest. Caleb just wants to be near Adam…and when they’re not together…he’s thinking about him and being filled up by that. Adam has him daydreaming for the first time in forever.]
6. "Satellites" - Guster
- [BS: “Keep Me Green”, “He anchors me”…Adam is Caleb’s satellite. Caleb is telling Adam in this song that he’s basically his North Star…his direction…his balance in a very shaky world and life.]
7. "Dreaming" - Smallpools
- [BS: This is just a song that evokes youthful, boyish “We’re having fun, we’re coming at you world, Fuck off if you’re not on our level” vibes. I just pictured this as a soundtrack to a montage of Caleb and Adam living it up together on the weekends. This is their fun.]
8. "Little Hell" - City and Colour
- [BS: This song is a heavy and special one for me personally. I have said before that I relate a lot to Caleb with the anger he deals with and how that has affected his relationships with other people. This song was Caleb telling Adam that he’s not easy…he has big struggles…and that he’s sorry for that…but he hopes Adam will be there for him.]
9. "Kid in Love" - Shawn Mendes
- [BS: This is an admission. At this point Caleb had never said those three big words to Adam, and this was Caleb’s way of dropping that fact. It’s a lot easier to tell Adam this through music first.]
10. "Living Louder" - The Cab
- [BS: This is hope, youth, love, happiness, exhilaration…everything that is beautiful about being young and in love. This is Caleb telling Adam that they may be strange, but fuck it, being strange and bold is awesome. They’re awesome. They’re doing awesome things. Take note, World.]
11. "Meaning" - Gavin DeGraw
- [BS: Gavin DeGraw defined my musical pallet in high school, and in my mind Caleb’s inner musical monologue vibes with Gavin’s music. “Meaning” to me represents Caleb’s motivations in everything he does to his core. Caleb loves…his love and thought of others defines him…this is just Caleb conveying that to Adam. Plus…it’s just a chill song.]
12. "Young Forever (Acoustic)" - The Ready Set
- [BS: “Young Forever”. This is Caleb telling Adam: We’ve got our music…we’ve got each other…we’ve got this. Hit it.]
mark's mix (or how to survive your first year in college)
These songs got me through college. Hope they can be of use to you too. - Joanie
[JM: When I created this playlist, I don’t think we had begun recording The Bright Sessions yet. Or at least not very much. So I was concerned that the playlist wouldn’t accurately reflect the character of Dr. Joan Bright. In truth, this playlist is just a handful of my favorite songs that I wanted to share with Lauren, Briggon, and the rest of the cast; and saying that it is an “in-universe” playlist from Joan to Mark was just a creative excuse. But two seasons later, I’m beginning to think that Joan and I are more and more alike than I originally imagined. And if these songs got me through high school and college (which they did), then it’s fair to say that they got Joan through adolescence as well.]
- Notes from Dr. Joan Bright, in character
- Selected lyrics
- [JM: author notes from Julia Morizawa]
1. "Where is My Mind" - The Pixies
- A classic, no-brainer for any alternative rock list. You probably remember me playing it a lot when I was in high school.
- Your head will collapse if there’s nothing in it…
- [JM: The Pixies inspired two of the (arguably) greatest bands of the 90’s – Nirvana and Radiohead. So there’s that. I remember having heard this song many times, then one night, sitting in the car, perhaps a bit stoned, and hearing it again in a brand new light. It just hit me in a different way. And ever since then, hearing Black Francis’ initial “Ooh ooh” makes me feel a little high, in a good way, even though I’m not. I imagine that Joan appears to be pretty straight-laced on the outside, but if you get her buzzed enough, she’d tell you some stories about getting high in a car, listening to this song on repeat.]
2. "Let Down" - Radiohead
- Changed my life. First heard it riding in the back of a pick-up truck with friends in high school. The best album of the 90’s.
- And one day, I am going to grow wings
- [JM: You know the book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower? When they’re in the pick-up truck, driving through a tunnel, and they hear this song on the radio that the author refuses to name, and “In that moment, I swear we were infinite?” This is that song for me. No joke, Radiohead’s music got me through my adolescence.]
3. "Rebellion (Lies)" - Arcade Fire
- I could listen to this song on repeat forever and it would never get old.
- People say that your dreams are the only things that save you/Come on, baby, in our dreams we can live our misbehavior
- [JM: This is one of very few songs that I could literally listen to on repeat forever and ever and it would never get old. This is a “feel-good” song. I picture Joan driving in her car, playing this song with the volume cranked way up, and dancing in her seat. Oh, wait, that’s just what I do.]
4. "Girl/Boy Song" - Aphex Twin
- Like Mozart for the electronica age.
- [JM: Sometimes when Joan is taking a relaxing, end-of-a-long-day bath, she plays Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major” on repeat. And sometimes she plays this track. In a modern age of computer-generated EDM and techno, this is a song that proves electronica can be more complex and emotionally moving than the typical laptop beat. Also, this song is featured in “Manic,” one of my favorite movies set in a psychiatric hospital.]
5. "Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl" - Broken Social Scene
- Sitting alone and meditating song. Might be too girly for you.
- Used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that
- [JM: I would literally sit in my first apartment in Silver Lake with this song on repeat while “meditating,” which at the time meant smoking and drinking. There is something deeply sad and therefore exceptionally soothing about this track. I have a feeling that Joan has tried to describe this exact state to Mark on numerous occasions and he doesn’t quite get it.]
6. "Paper Tiger" - Spoon
- Makes me feel cool when I’m driving and singing along.
- I will no longer do the devil’s wishes/something I read on a dollar bill
- [JM: Definitely one of my favorite bands and albums that I wasn’t exposed to until my college years. I saw them live a couple of times and they put on a great show – their songs sound different live than they do on the album which is a key factor for me in determining whether or not a band is worth seeing. I think Joan would consider this a love song – holding hands while fighting the good fight against a powerful but unsubstantial agency is her idea of a good date.]
7. "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" - The Postal Service
- My favorite track from what might be the best album of the 2000s.
- And I am finally seeing why I was the one worth leaving
- [JM: This is an album that I can listen to today, over ten years later, and still every single track and the order in which the tracks are presented blows me away. It’s so good! Even though Radiohead released four pretty damn good albums between 2000-2009, I think “Give Up” by the Postal Service is still my favorite album of that decade. Oh, if it’s not clear, Radiohead is my all-time favorite band so that’s why I made the comparison. I think Joan could relate this song to her distancing relationship with Mark, which probably took place around this time.]
8. "Skinny Love" - Bon Iver
- Didn’t hear this ‘til grad school. Didn’t fall in love with it until I had heard it many times.
- I’ll be holding all the tickets and you’ll be owning all the fines
- [JM: When I was first listening to this album, I was primarily obsessed with the track, “The Wolves (Act I and II),” which I would listen to on repeat in my car. On the album, “Skinny Love” is the prior track, and I had listened to it a number of times. But then one day I skipped back one too many tracks and suddenly heard this song in a brand new light. I was like, “What IS this???” I feel like Joan would play this track after a long day at work, sitting in a lumpy chair, sipping on scotch, contemplating whether she should order delivery or heat one of those “healthy” frozen dinners she keeps in the freezer.]
9. "The Leaving Song" - A.F.I.
- Something about these lyrics is empowering.
- All the cracks/they lead right to me
- [JM: I used to love singing along to this song while driving and chain-smoking cigarettes. It may be the only A.F.I. song that I can even remotely sing along to. There’s something heavily depressing about this song for me, which is why I like it. Maybe Joan would feel the same way – like when she’s feeling sad, listening to sad music will make her feel better than listening to happy music. Maybe not.]
10. "Waltz #2 (XO)" - Elliott Smith
- This might be the song that got me into indie rock in the first place.
- She appears composed/so she is I suppose/who can really tell?/She shows no emotion at all/stares into space like a dead China doll
- [JM: Yep, this is the first song I heard that exposed me to indie rock and influenced my change is music taste as a teenager. In middle school, I was all about Hanson, The Spice Girls and a little bit of hip-hop like The Fugees. Then I started buying this indie rock magazine that came with a mix CD of new music, and this song was on it, and I was a changed girl. Well, I was also being exposed to alternative rock like The Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana and Garbage and The Foo Fighters, but that’s a whole different story. Anyway. I think this song really pokes at Joan’s inner demons – feelings of inadequacy, sometimes struggling with hopelessness, but still truckin’ on one day at a time.]
11. "The Wrestle" - Frightened Rabbit
- OK, this song came out after college. But I really wanted to put Frightened Rabbit on your mix. And this is my favorite track.
- My enemy,please stay close to me/I’ve no breath left,you cold breath thief
- [JM: Reviewing the lyrics, I realized I never really knew what this song is about. I’m thinking: sex? More specifically, sex with someone you hate? Hmm… I suddenly feel this wasn’t appropriate for Joan to put on Mark’s mix. But all of Frightened Rabbit’s best songs are about sex. Also, I think this song technically came out too recently to have logistically made it onto this in-universe mix. Oh well. Now that I’ve come to this realization, I think this song could sum up Joan’s relationship with Agent Green. Lauren may disagree with me, but I don’t believe that Joan was ever really into Green. He was instant-gratification, escapism, a distraction – much like a cigarette or a Long Island Iced Tea or binge-watching television.]
- [LS: I definitely do agree with you Julia - Green was (is) always way more into Joan than she was him. He was convenient at best, I think. Also, I adore this song.]
12. "Time is Running Out" - Muse
- A rock song that makes you want to dance. Enough said.
- I tried to give you up/but I’m addicted
- [JM: This song is kind of orgasmic, no? It’s just hot and sexy. That’s why it’s on this list. However, it seems to be about a very, very, very unhealthy relationship. Has Joan ever been in an unhealthy romantic relationship? Probably a few. But if I were to relate this song to the universe, I’d say it’s mostly about her relationship with Ellie.]
13. "Say It Ain't So" - Weezer
- One of my favorite songs to karaoke. It never feels dated and everyone knows it.
- I can’t confront you/I never could do/that which might hurt you/so try and be cool
- [JM: Does Joan karaoke? Hmm… not in years. But back in college, with just enough liquid courage, as long as it was private-room karaoke? Maybe. This is a song that came out over 20 years ago, but if it were to hit radios today, you wouldn’t know. It is still so very, very good. I don’t think Joan and Mark can necessarily relate to the having-an-alcoholic-parent storyline of this song, but perhaps they can relate to the issues of abandonment and not having close relationships with their parents.]
14. "My Drug Buddy" - The Lemonheads
- Sadly beautiful. Don’t do drugs, little brother. Mmm’kay?
- I’m too much with myself/I wanna be someone else
- [JM: I don’t think Joan personally relates to feeling like she’s in love with the guy she scores drugs with; but she is, first and foremost, a therapist. I mean, there’s a reason she chose therapy as her specific field of study when she is also fully capable of designing weapons of mass destruction or breaking barriers in quantum physics. I first heard this song covered by Ben Kweller on a bootleg of him playing live. And I can relate to it and I love it and that’s why it’s on here.]
15. "Places" - Ours
- Great to sing along to when you’re feeling melodramatic.
- There’s a hole in my soul/how much more will it take?
- [JM: I like a lot of depressing songs, don’t I? It’s fun trying to hit all the high notes – it’s a good vocal warm-up. I’m a sucker for a good falsetto. I picture Joan listening to this in her car, driving on the freeway with the windows down, trying to hit those high notes even though she’s quite a terrible singer. But she loves to sing, in private, even though she’s not good at it. Oh wait, I just described myself. Again.]
16. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
- This might be my favorite song of all time. I think it might be.
- I see friends shaking hands singing, ‘How do you do?’/They’re really singing, ‘I, I love you'
- [JM: This is my favorite song of all time. How could anyone not absolutely love this song? It is truly a feel-good song about love. This is also Joan’s favorite song. Because it’s my favorite song, and that’s that.]
17. "Om Nashi Me" - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
- Again, post-college. But this song just really makes me feel uplifted and full of light. I wanted to end this mix with a track that would fill you with light.
- Om nashi me/I love you/And I love you forever/And I’m loving you now (these are the full lyrics for the song)
- [JM: This song is for forgetting the bullshit. A good reminder to have on any playlist. Again, this song might have come out too recently to actually be on this playlist in-universe, but, oh well. It’s a great album and the best track on the album.]