Monday, September 7, 2009

Notes of the Past

One of the most powerful ways to relive a memory is through scent. A friend knew this, and during our stay in Turkey you could find her in her room every morning, spraying a certain body splash and taking it all in. Now, I'm sure, every time she smells that particular fragrance it takes her back to the days of sweltering heat, lamb on a stick, olive Lays potato chips, and no coffee to-go (though I think the latter affected us more than it did her).

I accidentally managed this effect while in Russia a few years prior. I had an inexpensive, 9 or 12 oz. bottle of a sort of tropical melon fragrance that I used on a daily if not bi-daily basis. Every time I happen to stumble across that particular bottle in a box of old items (I never use my fragrances up entirely) or accidentally sample it in the Wal-Mart body splash aisle, I am transported to a place of blistering cold, dogs with no homes, bacon Lays potato chips, and a longing for Lenin to return.

The second most powerful way to relive a memory, I have found, is through sound. I have a shortlist of albums that remind me of where I was and what I was doing when I first truly became engaged with those songs.

Here are five albums that, when played, remind me of different times:

Parachutes by Coldplay:
When the album released in 2000, the popular track "Yellow" held me. The music video was nothing more than a ridiculous at-home-video, but I loved it. I broke down and purchased it a year or so later, but it didn't get adequate playing time in my boombox until my freshman year at college (2002). I'd never heard anything like it nor have I heard anything similar since. Coldplay veered off in a different direction afterward, and well, the sounds of Parachutes will always be just that: the sounds of Parachutes. Every time I hear this album, I am once again in room 106, my roommate Kim doing homework on the bed across from mine and our icicle lights glowing brightly.

by Death Cab for Cutie:

I was a sophomore in 2003--the year Transatlaticism came out. I hadn't heard of Death Cab before, but was a goner once a friend showed their performance on Letterman (or was it Leno?). This played endlessly in my room, that year, and I'll never forget the moment of panic when realizing that I had purchased my first album with language I would have to hide from my parents. Needless to say, that moment of panic came and went rather quickly, as the sheer perfection of the album formed nothing but love and admiration in my heart for the indie group from Seattle. Listening to this album reminds me of have a double room to myself, sleeping through my Dr. Wes exam, pulling all-nighters and boys.

Speak for Yourself by Imogen Heap:
I've had a slew of female celebrities I've wanted to be. The most persistent, however, was Imogen Heap. This british electronica/pop rocker stole my heart with her collaborative effort as Frou Frou, and the moment her solo album hit the shelves in the summer of 2005, I was there. I took her music to Antalya, Turkey, where I listened to it while seated on our apartment's balcony, overlooking the busy street and monorail below and Mediterranean in the distance.

Our Endless Numbered Days
by Iron and Wine:

My return from Turkey brought with it a list of new artists and albums to purchase, as the people responsible for putting the trip together fed my hunger for music. Iron and Wine was one such artist. I had graduated college and in the midst of a 6-week living arrangement with BethEmily when this album entered my life. It followed me out of that apartment and into one of my own, filling the empty walls and floors with its rich sound and at-home feel. It reminds me of those few years I spent living alone, eating rice and potatos and waiting tables.

Girls and Boys by Ingrid Michaelson:
Lastly, I present you the album I brought with my while touring the Chicago suburbs. As an Admissions Counselor in 2008, my primary travel zone was the Chicagoland area. The fun, upbeat songs on this album carried me from traffic jam to traffic jam, school visit to school visit, college fair to college fair, and pizza place to pizza place. This was also the album that witnessed my run-in with homes of my past. Not once. Not twice. But three times. This album reminds me of when I was truly doing something I loved in an area of the country that I'd marry if it were area I miss so very much.


  1. Next album to remember, The Trials of VAN OCCUPANTHER by Midlake. "It is a suite of lush, heavily melodic songs laden with multi-part harmonies, given evocative lyrical imagery set in woodlands, boats and log cabins, telling oblique but moving tales of pioneering, travel, and isolation." I think it's perfect for you.

  2. ok the words above me have to be either some writer I know or Tad. Anyway I applaud you for this memories. (also a gnre of time travel) I love are the inspirer of blogs. dont forget memories are also triggered by VISIION and i will follow that up with my movie blog :) thank you i dont know what i would do without you

  3. absolutely love it! at least album #4 doesn't remind you of that awful roommate experience...and didn't we get together one time at a pizza place during album #5? there's a good reason marrying places is illegal - chicago would be polygamous...and that's against the law.


  4. beth,
    the pizza place may have been around #5...we met in the spring, I believe, and I can't remember whether i had that album at that time...I'd go so far as to say, however, that my primary music track during that time was Bloc Party's Weekend in the City...I think...

    Some people thing polygamy is okay, beth. Don't be closeminded.

  5. Anonymous (jared),

    I'll have to check that one first, i thought you were making a joke with the whole cabin and pioneering thing....but maybe Van Occupanther will be the next soundtrack of my life...! minus the part about being in nature. I'll enjoy it from the city, thank you very much.

    Thanks for the rec!

  6. It's a great album for those who've left their families, settled elsewhere, and gotten married.