Gracie McKenzie is the audience engagement editor for CityLab. She previously worked in public radio, as the digital producer for NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show and Here & Now, and ran social media for Narratively.
Songs about maps cross all genres and emotions. Got suggestions for music to add to our playlist? Leave song and artist ideas in the comment below or tag @citylab on Twitter.
My co-workers told me there weren’t enough songs for a playlist about maps, but I never back down from a challenge.
CityLab’s West Coast Bureau Chief Laura Bliss has been at work over the past few months on a series that, as she described it to me early on, is made up of “personal essays where maps are a character.” In the introduction to the series, she writes, “If you haven’t, I bet that—if it hasn’t already—a map will one day matter to you, because of what it says about your world … Because they can be so curiously emotional, maps are as capable of directing the way we relate to our world as they are of reflecting it. ”
You know what else can encapsulate time, emotion, and how we relate to the world? That’s right: music.
From the beginning, Team CityLab wanted to invite readers to contribute to the project. If you have a story that fits the theme, tell it to us here. Or you can share a tune. In the past, CityLab readers have helped us to put together playlists about public transit and how neighborhoods change. Now, I present to you “Maps … They Don’t Love You Like I Love You,” which is named for the one song about maps everyone has mentioned when I’ve told them about this project.
Here are a few highlights from CityLab staffers. As you can see, we really do love maps.
First, I would like to say that if you tweet at me to put “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the playlist, you will reveal yourself not to have looked at it. You might also notice that this early-2000s alternative hit also does not seem to have a lot to do with maps; the song’s title is rumored to be an acronym.
There’s only one song here that’s actually performed by a map, and it’s “I’m the Map,” a brief earworm from the animated kids’ show Dora the Explorer. Grab your backpack and crank it up. (This is stuck in your head now. You’re welcome!)
Immediately after telling me there weren’t enough songs about maps to make a playlist, CityLab executive editor David Dudley came up with R.E.M.’s “Maps and Legends,” a jangly number from the band’s third album.
One day, our children will not understand what Buffalo’s Ani DiFranco means in “Cloud Blood” when she sings “feel the wind on my Rand McNally.” But former CityLab editor and ex-Buffalonian Mark Byrnes will never forget.
”Surprised I don’t have more map-related songs among the 5.1 days of folk music in my iTunes library,” CityLab data reporter (and resident map-maker) David Montgomery messaged me. “If you ever need songs about ships or trains, though….” He did find one, though—“Hurricane Season,” from the ‘90s folk-rock band Billy Pilgrim; here, they sing about what’s written “at the edge of the mariner’s map.”
It takes a while to get to the part of “Map on a Wall,” from thoughtful indie artist Lucy Dacus, that gives the song its title, but I (surprising no one who knows me offline) recommend that you give it the time. Then, if you’re like me, you might start it over.
I would like to reassure CityLab staff writer Sarah Holder that her suggestion—“Anybody Have a Map?” from the Broadway hit Dear Evan Hansen—does not kill the vibe of our cool playlist. (The Dora song did that.) If you’d like to skip over the rest of our playlist and just listen to the rest of the Tony-Award-winning show’s cast recording, I know many middle-schoolers, and twenty-somethings, who would not judge.
Here's our complete maps playlist:
- Ani DiFranco, “Cloud Blood”
- Atlas Lab, “Shadow”
- Billy Pilgrim, “Hurricane Season”
- Björk, “Human Behavior”
- The Books, “An Animated Description of Mr. Maps”
- Bosnian Rainbows, “Torn Maps”
- Britney Spears, “Passenger”
- City and Colour, “Map of the World”
- Dear Evan Hansen Original Broadway Cast, “Anybody Have a Map?”
- Death Cab for Cutie, “Different Names for the Same Thing”
- Dora the Explorer, “I’m the Map!”
- The Front Bottoms, “Maps”
- Incubus, “Throw Out the Map”
- Indigo Girls, “Get Out the Map”
- Kacey Musgraves, “Back on the Map”
- Lady Lamb, “Atlas”
- Lil Wayne, Mannie Fresh, “Bring It Back”
- Lucy Dacus, “Map on a Wall”
- Luke Abbott, “Hand Drawn Maps”
- Luke Howard, “The Map Is Not the Territory”
- M83, “New Map”
- Maroon 5, “Maps”
- Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Map of My Heart”
- The Microphones, “Map”
- Muse, “Map of Your Head”
- Parquet Courts, “The Map”
- People’s Palms, “Maps”
- Plain White T’s, “Map of the World”
- R.E.M., “Maps and Legends”
- RUMTUM, “All Over the Map”
- Stan Rogers, “Northwest Passage”
- STRFKR, “Maps”
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Maps”