As the great Rob Gordon said in High Fidelity:
“We all experience music autobiographically. I think a lot of people do. So I’ll have certain songs that mark certain times in our life and I think we’re not rare that way. Like I’ll use music as fuel, you know? Not like as inspiration but as fuel like if I need to get into a certain mindset I know there’s certain songs that I can turn on that’ll just… that’s the gas and that’ll get me right where I need to go. Or if I need to get out of a certain state put on this song or that song and it just propels you.”
Like our consummate indie hero, I too have certain songs that bring me back to a particular time or place, or evoke a familiar feeling no matter where I am or what I’m doing. And although I haven’t gone so far as to organize my music collection autobiographically quite yet, that doesn’t mean certain songs haven’t been compartmentalized in my mind that way.
So in response to today’s Writing 101 prompt, Here are the three most important songs in my life to date.
1. Lauryn Hill – Doo-Wop (That Thing)
Along with the Spice Girls’ Spice Up Your Life and Much Dance ’97, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was one of three CDs I received for Christmas in 1998. Initially ambivalent, it only took one listen for me to forget about the other two, and immerse myself completely in the world of Lauryn: her amazing vocals, dynamite lyrics, and unbelievable swagger. I had never heard anything quite like it, and I became certifiably obsessed. I played the CD constantly and brought it everywhere I went, scratching the surface so badly that barely a rhyme could be delivered without a skip. Through Lauryn, I learned about other great hip hop acts like The Fugees, The Roots, and what would soon become an even bigger obsession: Missy Elliot.
This song, though, was my ultimate brass ring. I practiced it daily until I had every lyric down pat- and if you twist my arm (ok, you might not even have to twist my arm) I can still recite them all to this day.
2. Death Cab For Cutie- Transatlanticism
I had this friend in high school, let’s just call her Mary. Mary was way cooler than me in every sense of the word- she played the drums, wore a pocket chain, and had that total “IDGAF” attitude I always tried, but failed to emulate. Mary and I didn’t typically hang in the same circles, but somehow we managed to form this one-off, insular friendship, and the glue that held it together was music. While I knew I loved music, I really didn’t know much about it at that point- save for my extensive Missy Elliot collection and hand-me-down Dave Matthews CDs from my older brothers. Mary, graciously turned a blind eye to my ignorance, and took it upon herself to be my musical spirit guide. We were sitting together on the bus one morning, when in a move resembling the famous scene from Garden State, she took her massive headphones off and bestowed them upon me, saying “Listen to this song, it will change your world”.
The song was Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie, and it really did rock my 17-year-old world. It was moving, powerful and deep and I couldn’t get enough of it. I went out and bought the whole album that day, and listened to it on repeat for weeks. This one recommendation opened up a whole new world of indie music to me – bands like Metric, Stars, and The Shins that I never would have heard of if it wasn’t for her. So thank you, Mary, for making me the annoying indie music snob I am today.
3. Feist- Brandy Alexander
Sometimes a song isn’t so much tied to a specific memory as a feeling. That’s the case with this song. I’ve loved it since the first moment I heard it in 2007, on Feist’s third album, The Reminder. Even with its depth and powerful production, it instantly put me in a calm, reflective state. To this day, I go back to it when I need a moment of stillness or clarity; often with a glass of wine- my own, personal Brandy Alexander.
Question of the Day: What are the three most important songs in your life?