The snooze button is a dangerous thing, both literally and figuratively. This morning alone, I probably hit it thirteen times. Figuratively, I couldn’t tell you how many opportunities I passed on this year because of hesitance for one reason or another; fear or lacking self-confidence being the top reasons I “snoozed”. As a writer and musician, I am deeply affected by words and music. While I’ve wanted to hit snooze more times than I have this year, there are a few bands that have shaken me to the core and truly inspired me to put myself out there and test my bravery a little bit more. As 2013 comes to a close, I want to pass these bands on to you, in hopes that maybe you’ll avoid that damn snooze button a little more and do the things that make you feel alive in 2014.

Fall Out Boy | Official

Say what you will about these native Chicagoans, but this year’s Save Rock and Roll became the album that truly pulled me out of what could have easily been a disastrous funk caused by the abrupt end to a long-term relationship. This album came out shortly after I was left in the dust and I couldn’t be more grateful for it—both things, actually, the album and the dust-status. Save Rock and Roll was made on the band’s terms and in secret. Exploring a full gamut of emotions with strong lyrical presence (from the onset with “you are a brick tied to me / that’s dragging me down” straight through to the end with “you are what you love / not who loves you”), this album provided the fast-paced songs I needed to throw myself into doing something I constantly snooze on: self-care.

Twenty One Pilots | Official

I like to think of this Columbus duo as this generation’s equivalent to the first band I mentioned. They’ve been on my radar for a while, but it was their performance at this year’s Bunbury Music Festival that hooked me. In live performance, it is their stage presence and energy that will grip you. You never know what to expect with Tyler Joseph, and that’s starting to be something I deeply enjoy about live shows. Vessel has been an album that has propelled me through some rough times; the candid way that Joseph explores mental health issues as he flies through the lyrics can serve as inspiration for many to speak out more about the things that society has told them to hide away. More bands—and fans—need that stark honesty.

Lucius | Official

The quintet that’s been in everyone’s ears this year hails from Brooklyn and the buzz they’ve created is well-deserved. Lucius came seemingly out of nowhere, claiming 2013 as its own. For me, this band has been at the core of so many important moments; at Bonnaroo, they began the healing process for my broken heart. Months later, in Chicago, I left their sold out Lincoln Hall performance feeling like I could take on the world. This band powerfully explores the full range of emotions while creating music that is danceable. With two powerful female vocalists at the front, it’s damned near impossible for any woman to hear this band and not feel unstoppable. Listen to “Wildewoman” and tell me otherwise. For me, however, it’s Lucius’ “How Loud Your Heart Gets” that really hits close to home with a large dose of hope for new beginnings and healthier relationships.

Pearl and the Beard | Official

There isn’t a thing I don’t love about Pearl and the Beard, unless you count that I don’t get to see them more often. The trio is a powerful source of positivity that the world truly needs. Better than any other band I know, they connect people from all over the world and forge amazing friendships that otherwise may not exist. Check out their new single, “You,” and keep your ears perked for their new album next year.

The Damn Choir | Official

Another Chicago band that has been in my ears for a long time is The Damn Choir. Frontman Gordon Robertson, formerly of Cleveland, is inarguably one of the best singer-songwriters of our generation. With Creatures of Habit, the band’s soon-to-be released next album, they continue to expand their sound while exploring the effect of relationships. This band is proof that beauty can come from the broken, that art can heal wounds just as well as time could.

And with that, dear readers, I leave you to finish 2013 out in style. I hope that 2014 brings you much success and light!  Put on whatever music moves you and remember always: you select the soundtrack to your life. Choose wisely.