I read somewhere years ago that people stop really listening to new music after the age of 33. As someone who just turned 30, I started thinking that if this is true, I only have a few years left to feel passionately moved by new music.
I listen to music for lots of reasons. There are albums I listen to because I like them, albums that keep me from punching that dude on the train who leans his whole body against the pole, and albums I only listen to when I'm "getting ready to get kinda weird."
Then there are those that move something really deep inside me and make me feel things. Nostalgia, especially when it comes to music, can make you feel on top of the world or in a dirty Bushwick basement crying in a corner. There are those albums that are really powerful – for me, I realized that each of these feelings-albums come from painful and awkward and beautiful memories I've had with... well, boys. Obviously.
These aren't all critically acclaimed or even all that good, but they are on rotation in my head in a way that ends up on playlists and on long "staring out the window longingly" bus rides home. (Full disclosure: I had a Limp Bizkit story that I deleted out of shame.)
You know every single word of these records – you scream thing, you cry them, you listen to them on private sessions on Spotify. Own it – they represent your youth.
Brand New "Deja Entendu"
Steve's dad was always out of town. He also lived in the woods, and had a pool, a trampoline, a fog machine(?), and an endless supply of Mike's Hard Lemonade. I would sleep over at Alexa's house down the road, and we would walk over for random parties full of kids I loved and none I didn't.
All things considered, they were pretty tame, but I had the hugest crush on this little stoner named Evan. He was in my photo class, and we would mostly goof off in the darkroom and talk about music. When he first kissed me, we were sitting on the trampoline in the dark, and I asked him if he thought I was pretty. Fast forward a few hours, we were both a little dizzy off the sweet bottled alcohol, and moved onto a comforter on the floor in Steve's living room while everyone else was outside. We laid side-by-side, staring at the ceiling, and listened to the entire "Deja Entendu" album start to finish, him holding my hand. I kept wondering when he would kiss me again, if I would let him go further. Probably not, I decided, although the melancholy ache of Brand New was the best emo kid makeout music.
He leaned over me, pushed his quintessential floppy hair out of his face, and puked all over the rug. He blinked a few times, then tried to kiss me. I politely declined.
Jay-Z "The Black Album"
Trevor wore my pants from Pacific Sunwear, had a boat, and took his shoes off at Blockbuster. He had a strange dichotomous love for both Jay-Z and Guns N' Roses, but we played "The Black Album" constantly that summer. We had also met in photo class (a very educational class for me, indeed), and started hanging out when he showed up at my graduation party and never left.
It was that fling you spend years waiting for, reading Judy Blumes, and hoping you'll get to experience that illustrious summer romance at some point. We became kind of obsessed with each other, watching zombie movies under blankets, and riding around on bikes eating grapes. I was also super into tube tops that year.
With Jay-Z blasting from a CD player on his little boat, we made out and got sunburned. When he helped me move into my freshman dorm that fall, he gave me a mix CD with an eclectic mix of hip hop, emo, and Ashlee Simpson. I broke up with him a few weeks later after making out with a snowboarder, but I listened to that mix for years after. That very cute boy could certainly make a mix CD.
Ben Folds "Ben Folds Live"
Three days before I was supposed to go on vacation with James' entire 8-person uber-Christian family, I found a text message to his ex that said "I want to fuck you." It was the first time I ever felt truly betrayed, and that was a sucky feeling. I could have dumped him, but I really wanted to go to the beach and I loved him in that way you only can love someone when you're 18. Our bodies overlapping in the back seat for the 20 hour long car ride, his sisters screaming and annoying each other, unsure of how long I would stay with him, and if I could ever trust him again. I gave up when he looked at me in that disarming teenage boy way, and sang "The Luckiest" to me. My feelings were successfully self medicated during that week with Corona, ocean, hot tub, overrated outdoor shower sex, and the vocal stylings of Ben Folds.
Third Eye Blind "Out of the Vein"
James again. He loved Third Eye Blind in general. We would sit in the back of his tour van, plucking the controversial B side "Slow Motion." It was the only song I could sing to, watching twists of smoke from the end of his cigarette.
Towards the end of our four-year, very sweet relationship, this album was always on his dashboard somewhere, the forest-green liner notes privy to all the things we did in that car. One rainy afternoon, we sat on his bed with the window open listening to this, and drew for hours on his acoustic guitar with a Sharpie. When we saw Third Eye Blind live, at a college show where Stephan Jenkins pulled a drunk girl from the crowd and disappeared with her for 20 minutes during a drum solo, I remember thinking that the end of us was near. That I was about to break his heart. There's one track, "Faster," that I can't listen to because it brings me back to that time of my life so hard that it hurts.
Grimes "Art Angels"
As proof that sometimes you can feel 18 even when you're 29, Mike and I somewhat spontaneously stepped onto a plane bound for Iceland. No real plans other than to stuff our faces with fresh fish, see miniature horses, and maybe a World Wonder or two. We rented a tiny red car (later I would learn that they only rent red cars to tourists, as most of the country's deaths come from dumb-faced Americans staring at various vistas), and named him Vern. As a couple whose fights are mostly about the GPS being wrong, a road trip in a foreign country was ironically the most magical adventure we had embarked on.
Iceland is 1% city, 99% other planet. Since Icelandic radio can only take you so far (although I recommend the hip hop), "Art Angels" went on constant rotation through icy fields, sleepy dark towns, and layers of wool. Her ethereal voice and quirky melodies matched our surroundings and the way I felt about him, a sweet warmth and subtle cold, and we explored an unknown land to music.