Saturday, 26 September 2015

知觉 | Music is a time machine

Posted by: Dom Lowth

Yo. How are you all doing? I don’t feel like I’ve asked for a long time… It’s all been a bit me me me recently. However much you struggle to believe me, I’ve started typing up this blog post one whole week before the upload deadline. I know, I know. All congratulations cards and gifts through my door will be graciously accepted. If you're lucky I’ll even put them up on the little shelf in my room.

So get excited, there are no excuses for this not to be a blogging masterpiece.

I think I should also make it clear quickly that my last post, titled ‘Grow up’, really wasn’t meant to be as depressive as I think many people read it. After posting, I had more than one person genuinely check if I was okay, and I honestly was, and still am. I started writing it far too late on a very busy night, so it was never going to be packed full of the laughs my thunk posts usually are [this was sarcasm]. I am still nervous about this business of getting older, but I’m also massively excited, and on most days I can’t think of anything I’m looking forwards to more than going to university.

There we go. I hope that’s all cleared up, and that particular itch has been scratched.

I’m going to write about music this time round (original, I know). In my first ‘Things I don’t understand about people’ post, I raised the question of why music can have such a huge effect on us, and mentioned the strong connections that music can have with memories. Putting your earphones in, hitting shuffle, and hearing the intro to one particular song can be all it takes to throw you back several years to a specific, often incredibly detailed memory.

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to wonder if my iPod is a time machine. The plot of ‘Back to the Future’ seems a bit weak when you realise that probably all Marty McFly had to do was listen to a couple of old tunes to send him back a few years. And scientists really do make the whole concept of time sound a lot more complicated that it actually is… Someone could make it so much easier for the guys by buying them a radio.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to go through a few of the songs on my iPod that have these connections for me. You never know, this post might even introduce you to your new favourite song! Or band! I can dream.

‘Break Your Heart’ by Taio Cruz

Taio Cruz seemed to exist as part of the music industry for only a couple of years, and I can’t say I’ve really found myself missing him all that much recently. However, in year 7, my first year of secondary school, this song was a banger. Indisputably. From the ‘woah woah woah’ intro all the way through to the ‘woah woah woah’ outro, every portion of it hit the spot. I won’t lie and say I have any particular emotional attachment to the lyrics of the song. The chorus (‘I’m only gonna break break your, break break your heart’) never really gave me goose bumps. No, this song kicks off my list because it will always have a connection in my head to the school discos. These were the nights (and by ‘nights’ I mean absolutely no later than 9:00pm in bed) that put a crowd of boys and a crowd of girls in the same room for the first time. There was smoke, lights, lasers and loud music; all in safe quantities. Topman T-shirts were unfortunately never present in such restrained sums, and nor were low-riding jeans, but at that age you’d be doing it wrong if these boxes weren’t ticked. Just like you’d have no chance without knowing every step to Soulja Boy’s ‘Crank That’, or the Macarena. Hearing this song puts me back in my year 7 body, strolling across the crowded hall up to the DJ to ask him to put on ‘Replay’ by Iyaz. Of course, as he explains (or shouts), he can’t really play it for the fourth time in an hour, but that’s not the point. In that moment, I was the coolest human being in the world. I’d earned the rainbow dust and cup of orange squash I picked up from the bar on my way back.

‘Broken’ by Jake Bugg

When I listen to this song, I’m suddenly stood in a crowded Alexandra Palace, my arms in the air, wet with the beer from the cups being thrown around me. ‘Broken’ is by far my favourite Jake Bugg song, so his live performance of it that night always stands out in my memory. I remember him playing slower from the start than he does on the album, and quieter. The song’s a grower, though, and each verse and chorus built on the last. Gradually drums and bass backed Bugg’s melodies and plucking. More and more sound filled the incredible venue, lights appeared above heads in the crowd, and with every new line another chorus of voices sang with the man on the stage. Every gig I went to after that one seemed a bit empty for a while, like something was missing. It was such good night, and not one I’ll forget.

‘Down in the valley where the church bells cry,
I’ll lead them over to your eyes
Woah, oh, I am one. I am one.’

Damn, I love that song so much.

‘On Top Of The World’ by Imagine Dragons

This one’s different. Whereas the last couple both put me in crowds, noise and flashing lights, Imagine Dragons take me further away from home… to Canada; The Willmore Wilderness Park in Alberta.  Two years ago I embarked on a three week trip to the country with my school, and for eight of the days we hiked through the wilderness with nothing but the kit on our backs and each other. Over the entire week of walking, we saw no more than about five other people. We climbed higher than any other group from the school had managed before, through the worst weather the area had seen for years. The song triggers powerful memories of this amazing trip for two reasons:

Reason 1: The lyrics fit the week of walking pretty well. Most of the hiking we did was uphill, because where’s the fun in walking along a flat path all day? Every day we reached a higher peak than the day before, and I’m honestly not exaggerating when I say that standing at the top of a mountain that you’ve climbed, looking down over miles and miles of beautiful emptiness, made you feel like you were on top of the world… That rings a bell, no?

Reason 2: The song become my team’s anthem. Once we were out of the Canadian wilderness we did a lot of driving to different towns such as Jasper and Banff. We still slept in tents, but we were now in proper campsites instead of setting up in the middle of nowhere. The car journeys were very, very long. Each team travelled together in a 4x4, and passed the time by talking, sleeping or listening to music. I was often sat in the front of our team’s car, so was trusted with the aux cable. For those of you who are not regular car DJs, this means I plugged my iPod in to the car’s stereo, and was expected to play music that everyone would enjoy listening to. It’s a huge responsibility. I didn’t always get it right, and there were some definite disagreements, but when this song came on, we all knew it was the one. We whistled, clapped, and sang the miles away. Everyone picked the words up pretty quickly too:

‘Cause I’m on top of the world eh!
I’m on top of the world eh!’

I reckon that’s enough for now. I write far too much when I’m enjoying myself. There are so many more songs like this on my iPod that have amazing memories connected to them though, so if I’m stuck for ideas for a post in the future sometime maybe I’ll do another one of these.

See you soon!

Dom's listening to: ‘I Wanna Get Better’ by Bleachers

Read my previous post here.

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