Time 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.