Don’t know what to call this.

I have a really strong habit of associating songs with what was going on in my life when I listened to them. I think it works because I listen to songs repeatedly and then move past them for a while. I have some from freshman year of college:

Belle & Sebastian – Get me away from here I’m dying
Ben Folds – Brick
(Yes, I was a bit depressed. But it’s also usually the sad songs that have the strongest effect on me after time has passed.)

And It seems unfair to leave this one off although it’s the only one I can think of from sophomore year:
Beck – Lost Cause

And some from working at Shu:

The Postal Service – Random Song
Grandaddy – The Saddest Vacant Lot in All the World
Death Cab for Cutie – Title and Registration

And shortly after that, beginning of junior year:

Remy Zero – Fair (thanks to the Garden State soundtrack)
Cary Brothers – Blue Eyes

But the ones that really stun me when iTunes puts them on are from my first and second years in France (which turned out to be very distinct, separate playlists):

Bar le Duc/Nancy:

from riding the train back to and from Bar le Duc to see Chelsey/Zandra/Gavin/Laura:
*Andrew Bird – Plasticities
(thanks to our Mac song circle of the time)
*Mew – Am I Wry, No?
The Radio Dept – Pet Grief

Traveling in Spain songs:
The Decemberists – O Valencia
Youth Group – Forever Young

Songs I listened to when JS and I got together and my year was rounding itself out (so they remind me of walking around Bar le Duc):
The Shins – A Comet Appears
The Guillemots – Made-up Love Song
*Razorlight – America
(I didn’t choose to listen to this one actually, it was just on the radio all the time especially in the bar in BlD, I can’t say I really like it all that much even)
*CocoRosie – By Your Side
(this one always made me really sad at the time, because I was so worried about missing JS over the summer)

Returning to the U.S.:
*My Morning Jacket – Just One Thing

And then the ones from this past year in Reims:

When I could tell JS and I were slowly breaking up and then when we finally did:
Ani DiFranco – So What
(okay, so this one actually reminds me of a few different times, this is just the most recent one, and it’s also in general just a powerful song, at least to me)
Rachael Yamagata – Quiet
Atmosphere – F*@k You Lucy
All of Tegan & Sara/The Con
(which I listened to as winter was descending so I always imagine those after-work bus rides in the dark, and, particularly, the bus stop at the gare outside the big strip of park that was three or four stops before mine)
*Bob Dylan – Most of the Time
(this one can make me cry about it all over again)

Others, less distinct, for the rest of the year:
Plain White T’s – Hey There Delilah
(again involuntarily, and reminds me of my few visits back to Bar le Duc at the beginning of the year, and M’s apartment)
The Mountain Goats – This Year
*Band of Horses – No One’s Gonna Love You
(one guess as to who this was about)
CocoRosie – Not for Sale
Atmosphere – The Woman with the Tattooed Hands
(this one reminds me very distinctly of getting off the bus outside of the school last year and walking into the building, I listened to it all the time)
Calexico – Sunken Waltz
(this was on a cd Mala made me that I listened to all through my Poland/Ireland trip)
*Elvis Perkins – While You Were Sleeping
(same here)
Pauline Croze – Faux Contacts
(I listened to this one on early-morning bus rides in the winter, so, again, dark bus windows)
Two Hours Traffic – Jezebel
Imogen Heap – Hide and Seek
Feist – Secret Heart
Bob Sinclair – Together
(this one reminds me of my students, actually of one very specific party)
Sia – Breathe Me
Renan Luce – I Was Here
Renan Luce – Chien Mouillé

At lot of that very last list haven’t quite solidified yet, and they’re not all so sad either. I made another list of the ones from this past summer but in listening to them I realized that it really hasn’t been long enough for them to do the trick.

The ones with the *s are the ones that really floor me, and immediately, so I know it’s not just a response to the song itself, although clearly that is usually part of it. It’s really surprising how when I put on Andrew Bird I can almost feel the TER train rumbling along underneath me and the glass against my forehead that looked out on those bright, bright yellow fields of colza. It makes me miss my Nancy expat friends painfully, which is a feeling I don’t much have in that sharp form anymore and haven’t had in a while.

And when I listen to Just One Thing I find myself missing JS overwhelmingly, although it isn’t in any current sense at all, it’s very much the feeling I had those few days after I got back from France and was sleeping in my mom’s bed in SA and she and my dad hadn’t even gotten back from Spain yet. I can even see the blanket that was on the bed at the time, and remember the feel of the keyboard of her desktop that I used to e-mail JS because I couldn’t figure out the wireless.

For a long time that Forever Young cover would put me back on that bus from Valencia to Barcelona. That one would’ve had a * but I’ve listened to it since then enough times to desensitize myself a bit. And A Comet Appears places me in my little room in Bar le Duc around April-time, when I was spending all my weekends there with JS and our other friends, and I actually put this on a mix cd for him right after we got together (he asked for a cd, this isn’t something I normally do).

Most of these songs I mean that I actually can’t make it through without turning them off because the nostalgia (or whatever else) gets too strong. They’re actually in a playlist called “Songs I can’t listen to.” With most of them it’s a sensation similar to smelling an ex-boyfriend’s shampoo or an old friend’s perfume on someone else walking by. Except it’s three to five minutes long.


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