Music As Reminder

 In Music

Do you have music that you associate with a certain time of your life? I guess decades could be like this–80s=hair metal, 90s=grunge–but I’m thinking about something more specific. I was just rifling through my iTunes catalog and stopped on PJ Harvey‘s Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea. As soon as those first aggressive notes of the album’s opener, “Big Exit”, hit me, I was immediately taken back to the later part of 2000 when I was living in Seattle and making a painful bus commute to Kirkland to work second shift at a grocery delivery call center. That ride was about an hour and a half each way, and in the evenings the bus was full of characters I didn’t want to know. So my salvation was my old, beat-up Walkman. Stories was one of the albums I listened to religiously around that time. I’m a HUGE PJ Harvey fan so it wasn’t all that unusual. If you know that album, though, you’ll know it’s a lot more upbeat and hopeful than most of her other stuff, and it was recorded all in NYC instead of England. Kind of a love letter to the city, I think. For me, living in a new city and knowing no one, it was my perfect soundtrack. I was excited and a little scared, so hearing that album over and over again really helped me to get along.

Music was a big part of the four years I spent in Seattle, and there are several albums that I can’t listen to without thinking about that time. Here are some of them:

Radiohead – Kid A
Holy crap. I was so happy to have this album. It was somber, sure, but it had energy and I loved it. It feels melancholy to me, and that’s a lot of what was going on with me when it came out. Perfect.

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Before I left Philadelphia for the west coast, I went to see Wilco at the Trocadero with a co-worker. He was in love with them, but I hadn’t heard too much of their stuff before the show. I tried to familiarize as much as I could leading up to the performance, but once it was over I kind of forgot about them. Then Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out. I remember a gal I worked with gave it to me and I was instantly smitten. I like broken, dissonant things, and I like alt-country music, too. So this was a beautiful melding of those things and I probably didn’t stop listening to it for about three months.

Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, this album is full of noise. I love that. The fact that it’s a concept album was interesting to me as well. The last album I’d bought that had a concept was Mike Watt’s Contemplating the Engine Room, which I really dug. So, the idea of Yoshimi being similar didn’t make me bulk. In fact, I embraced it and it made me incredibly happy, even though it’s relatively dark in nature. That’s hidden with its happy sounds though.

John Frusciante – To Record Only Water for Ten Days
I remember wanting to go to Tower Records to wait in line at midnight for this album, but I was set to have a first date with someone that night. It worked out that she blew me off, so I got to go get the album anyway. I’m glad I did. Before this, I’d listened to Frusciante’s Niandra la des and Usually Just a T-Shirt quite a bit. I think the guy is a genius, and Water has a ton of Joy Division and Bauhaus influence on it that I was really interested in since everyone I knew in Seattle around then was goth to some extent (though I wasn’t).

Pearl Jam – Verona, Italy Bootleg
Living in Seattle was super fun for me for many reasons. One of them is that I’d been an enormous fan of Pearl Jam and a lot of other Seattle bands for a long time. So being there, getting to see them around town and in small clubs, was truly fantastic. Pretty much every Pearl Jam album has a big effect on me. It’s safe to say they’re my favorite band. But this Italy bootleg was one of the first of the zillion they released and I’d heard it was one of the best. I heard right. Later, I’d get the bootlegs from the several Seattle shows I attended.

There were some other albums throughout that period that meant a lot to me, but I think these are the big ones. How about you? Any music that reminds you of a time? Or am I the only one?

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