I’ve been listening to my iPod on shuffle recently and it’s been unexpectedly enjoyable — I keep hearing music I haven’t played in years, and as I drive to and from work I drift in and out of these nostalgic fugues. Music can make you remember a certain moment or time period in such a visceral way, don’t you think? Like how a certain smell will bring you back to a specific moment more intensely that your memory alone ever could.
Here are some albums that are both meaningful to me and awesome, in case you’re looking for new (well, old, but you know) tunes. I’m hoping you’ll tell me your memory-triggering albums/songs, too.
They Might Be Giants, Apollo 18
I was 21 or 22 years old, working the swing shift at Kinko’s and living in a mold-smelling basement apartment in Corvallis, Oregon. It was a warm summer night and the streets were empty and dark. I was walking past the library with a boy I was crushing on at the time and we were talking about nothing much when a guy pedaled by us on his bicycle, singing at the top of his lungs: “Turn around, turn around, there’s a human head on the ground . . .” Later, when I heard the They Might Be Giants song “Turn Around” for the first time, I would remember that odd moment and the entire night would come back in a pleasant rush: the summer-smelling cool air, the quiet sleeping town, the moment when I kissed my boycrush while we sat in a park gazebo.
Sheryl Crow, The Globe Sessions.
“All my powers of expression
And thoughts so sublime
Could never do you justice
Reason or rhyme
There’s only one thing that I did wrong
I stayed in Mississippi a day too long”
Man, I used to love that song. I loved this whole album, and listened to it over and over and over again while driving from my highrise apartment in downtown Portland to my first real job — a crappy marketing position at a boring insurance company, but still, I had a desk, I didn’t have to answer phones or greet visitors, I could go out to lunch without punching a timecard. I had recently moved from Corvallis and felt nearly drunk with independence. I loved the city, I loved my tiny home with its sparkling view, I loved going out to bars with my friends, I loved that I was in the midst of an email flirtation with a previous coworker that was rapidly growing into something more.
Chris Isaak, Forever Blue.
I was living in Las Vegas, of all places, with my email-flirtation-then-real-life boyfriend, who had dropped to one knee on New Year’s Eve and presented me with a diamond ring so gorgeous I still stare wondrously at it today, eight years later. We played this album and sang along with “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing” while driving from our rental house in the suburbs to the Strip, where we’d park at Mandalay Bay and spend the night people-watching and sucking back overpriced cocktails. During the weekends, we’d hike the dusty nearby hills and drive long loops around the city, marveling at the sea of neon and hardly believing we were really there.
Andrew Bird, The Mysterious Production of Eggs
I was heavily pregnant with my first baby and riding the bus to and from work and listening to this album every day on my iPod. I would sit with one hand on my belly, convinced my boy could hear the dramatic opening moments of Fake Palindromes – a song that never fails to send goosebumps down my spine with its beauty — because he would flip and turn in me like a playful dolphin. Everything in my life was about to change. I felt it, like I was standing on a cliff overlooking some glorious barely-seen landscape, and I was holding out my arms, ready to jump.
What music brings you back to a specific period in your life?