Photo by Francesca Bernardino
High school was rap and R&B and bedroom pop; the summers between these school years are immortalized in radio-friendly indie (think “Electric Feel” by MGMT or any Phoenix song ever), and middle school was the infamous Arctic Monkeys slash Lana Del Rey slash The 1975 era. Every major era of my life thus far has been marked by hyper-specific genres and those few songs that I relentlessly replayed on my way to school or as I was getting ready to go out.
I shuffle a playlist to wake myself up before class and I spend much of my day walking to my next destination, music blasting music in my headphones at an admittedly detrimental volume. At home, I cook and clean with a speaker on hand, and the highlight of my day is when I can sink into my bed and fall asleep to the unfailingly soothing lull of a sleep playlist. Music is so deeply entrenched into my daily life that I appreciate it with little to no thought. However, I’ve come to notice its value as a gentle reminder of times past with much more nostalgic power than a photo.
My childhood consisted of my dad’s early 2000’s garage rock revival bands and Britpop, like The Killers and Oasis. Inspired by his CDs or what I heard through his laptop on YouTube, I spent much of my time as a child on Pandora Radio creating stations, remembering the titles of songs and names of artists that I liked and writing them down later. These are my earliest memories of my little repertoire of music; I had no idea that these songs and bands would now evoke such visceral memories of a time when my greatest worries were if my neighbors could come outside to play the next day.
My favorite thing about indulging in nostalgia through music is my (then) obliviousness to how important these songs and artists would be to me years later. Today, the entirety of “Hot Fuss” by The Killers still evokes memories of cleaning the kitchen with my dad, while “Creep” by Radiohead brings me back to karaoke nights with my family that I mostly spent half-asleep on the couch. While it takes some effort to conjure up what I did with my childhood friends or on that Florida family vacation, I unfailingly recall the songs I downloaded onto my iPad or tried to save in my mind as I flipped through unfamiliar radio stations in a rental car.
So much of my current music taste is owed to an era of music I just barely missed; my favorite bands include The Strokes and Interpol, hailing from that golden era of early 2000s garage rock. One of my most recent Spotify playlists is titled “2001 function,” an attempt to emulate what I can only imagine must have been on each party mix in the early 2000s (in New York City, at least.)
It’s a mundane joy to unearth songs from artists in their prime before I was old enough to read, let alone remember anything. Often, I wonder what it was like to be in college in 2003 when Regina Spektor was opening for The Strokes during their Room on Fire tour or when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs released “Maps.” The nostalgic meaning I’ve attached to these songs and artists expands beyond the barrier of time; perhaps the songs that accompanied me as I studied into the ungodly hours of the night or walked to the CVS down the street will be what I listen to another ten years from now, thinking of times I didn’t know I’d look back on so fondly when I was living through them.