Saturday, 5 March 2016

Songs through time

I've never considered myself a particularly musical person. I can't play an instrument, I'm not down with the latest bands, and music is the one art form that I struggle to write about with any semblance of understanding or coherence. At the same time, however, music is - with the possible exception of literature - the art form I have most exposure to on a day to day basis. I'm always listening to music, replaying albums until I'm sick of them, and tracking down that one song I heard on a TV show for twenty seconds so I can play it non-stop for the next few days.

So when I saw this video by Savannah Brown talking about her journey through music, and the artists that have impacted her the most at different stages in her life, I was suddenly reminded of those albums and artists in my own selection which can transport me in a matter of seconds to certain moments and periods of my own life, so vividly that, much like Proust and his madeleine, it feels like my past is unfolding around me and I'm standing in the centre of it. There are of course plenty of songs which do this to all of us, individual songs which remind me of specific moments or nights out with friends. But these are albums that I listened to again and again, almost absent-mindedly, so that they inadvertently became the soundtracks to different points in my life.

A Fine Frenzy - One Cell in the Sea

Oh God, this album. This was when I was sixteen or seventeen, and I know it was around the time I became obsessed with The Gilmore Girls, as I still get unconscious flashbacks of Lorelai and Rory whenever I listen to it. This was also around the time I started getting into blogs and writing my own; as soon as Come On, Come Out starts playing, I'm instantly transported to that girl sitting in her childhood bedroom scrolling through colourful, magical pages filled with shots of places she'd never been but longed to go, and photos from films which held such undiscovered promise.

Regina Spektor - Begin to Hope

I discovered Regina Spektor around the same time; I think someone linked to a music video of Samson, and I remember thinking it was the most unique, gorgeous, longing thing I had ever heard. My Regina Spektor period is actually harder to pin down, as I remained caught in her world for a long time after that - her album Far defines a lot of my revision memories from my first year at Oxford.

Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More

Speaking of Oxford, Mumford & Sons are deeply tied to my nostalgia for that beautiful place. I first heard of them when a guy I was at my pre-term grammar session with - my very first experience of living at Oxford a couple of weeks before it properly started - had us listen to Little Lion Man. Whenever I listen to this album I'm taken back heart-wrenchingly to those insanely idyllic few days, where we wandered through the September sunshine and the first autumn leaves on the ground, exploring that city which would eventually become so much to me.

The Shins - Oh, Inverted World

"You gotta hear this one song- it'll change your life, I swear". I cannot hear or talk about The Shins without immediately thinking of that line from Garden State. And it's so true. I'd loved The Shins since I was around fifteen or sixteen, entranced from their very first appearance in Scrubs most probably, but the band and this album in particular are irrevocably linked to my memories of a spring day in London when I was eighteen and on a break from Oxford, wandering around Notting Hill and Portobello Market before lying down in the sun in Hyde Park - my headphones in the whole time. This album is possibly my most Proustian experience out of them all; I can still see the white houses in front of me and feel the warmth on my face.

Lana Del Rey - Born To Die

Skipping ahead to my year abroad. I still have a very complicated relationship with this year; there are very few happy memories attached to it, and what there is has been marred by the tragedies that happened right at the end. Yet even several years on, and despite having listened to this album a million times in a million different contexts since, I'm still taken to those bright, freezing days in Germany, where everything felt alien and unfamiliar apart from myself.

Johnny Flynn - A Larum

This album is possibly one of the closest to me right now. I first discovered Johnny Flynn when I moved to St Andrews, and my then relatively unknown coursemate asked me if I wanted to come to Edinburgh with her to see him in concert. This girl and I are now firm friends, both living in Edinburgh, and hopefully moving in together next year. Johnny Flynn was my first ever gig, at the embarrassing age of twenty two, and I remember adoring everything about his music, buying A Larum as soon as I got home, and letting it accompany me on crisp, autumn days walking through fields or by the breathtaking Scottish sea.

Alt J - An Awesome Wave

An Awesome Wave came along a few weeks later, as I sat in my boyfriend's room after we'd only known each other a few days, and he played me Taro and I fell in love with everything about that moment. I don't have much more to add, except Alt J are still one of my all time favourite bands, and I have listened to this album hundreds and hundreds of times, and it's the only one I have never got sick of.

Radical Face - The Family Tree: The Roots

I first heard of Radical Face when their song The Mute played in the Wish I Was Here trailer (Zach Braff, where would I be without you); it was this album that I ended up falling for instead, this past summer when my boyfriend and I were living in our own beautiful little apartment in Amman, Jordan, with very little air conditioning and a pet tortoise. This was the time I started working properly at The Culture Trip, and as I worked from home, I would play this again and again out loud while sat on the sofa editing articles. It's a desperately melancholy album, but every time I hear it, I'm back in that wonderful time where every piece of my life briefly came together for a few months.