I have a recurrent dreamTime smooths out a harsh wine, warms up a jangly guitar, and softens heartbreak. As I’ve gotten older (This old hoss is almost a grizzled 34 now), I’ve worried that my capacity for ecstatic experiences has mellowed, too. I’ve felt music most powerfully during difficult times of my life, and as my life has become more stable, music continues to delight and amaze me, but it doesn’t overwhelm me the way it used to—I mean completely overwhelm me, so that I’m leaning back in my chair, arms crossed tight, toes clenched, barely able to stand it.

In my 20’s, there were many albums that hit me like that. Automatic for the People by REM, Swamp Ophilia by the Indigo Girls, Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, Rufus Wainwright’s self-titled album during those neither-here-nor-there years after college, and Bjork’s Vespertine after an especially hard breakup.

I returned to Vespertine tonight after a busy week of work, with such little time to myself that by 5pm today I felt like I needed to do something to remind me of who I was.

So after I said goodbye to my last student, I poured myself a glass of wine, put on my headphones, and spent an hour letting Bjork’s otherworldly voice and insect-like rhythms wash over me. It’s been incredibly moving, and a little scary, to hear this album again. I remember listening to it on my CD player (this was pre-iPod’s—holy cow!) flying to my parent’s home in California for Christmas, knowing that my Ex was visiting her family just a few miles west of me (we grew up in the same town), hearing in every word of Bjork’s songs the call of my own heart.

Listening to Vespertine again brings back such vivid emotions. It’s something like the feelings I get from hearing Christmas carols, but mixed with a deep sadness. Not that I still miss my Ex, but I can still feel the pain I was going through after the breakup, and it saddens me that I was hurting so bad.

You can go for years without remembering a period of your life, and then you hear music that served as a soundtrack for that period, and it all comes raining back on you.

Comments 6

  1. It really does! Some songs by Sweet remind me of hard times, and not only remind – the feeling itself comes back for a moment, it’s like a musical time-machine.
    (I wish my english was better, I had more to say but I’m afraid I can’t find the right words)

  2. Nick Cave’s “The Boatman’s Call” and Live’s “Distance to Here” are albumks that do that to me as well. The stange thing is even to this day I still get something different out of them every time.

  3. That reminds me of the time when I was driving and I heard We Can’t Live Together, by Joe Jackson, on the radio…by the middle of the song, I had tears streaming down my face. My windows were open and a guy crossing the street asked if I was okay. I told him, “Yeah, just a blast from the past on the radio.”

  4. Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore” still hits me hard in that way. I’m happily married now, so I can actually listen to the song and enjoy it. Still, the sensation is mixed with the acute memory of being 15 years old, involved with my first boyfriend/love, and knowing that “forever” was going to end very soon.

  5. Recently I listened to the song “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd. And a flashback of my childhood came back, the first time I heard this song I was laying on my bed and my brother was playing the song in the stereo. That night we had no power in our house because of the hurricane, and the lyrics from the song freaked me out…. all I could visualize was someone trapped in a box not able to breath surrounded by darkness. That was the beggining of my brother’s drug years…this song fits him unfortunately.

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