The other day, I revisited the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Fever To Tell, an album I’d loved in high school. Every song sounds like it was recorded in someone’s garage. It’s messy, screamy, and frenetic with the occasional moment of quiet. It’s the perfect reflection of the hormonal roller coaster I was on at the time. Even now, I can listen to it and remember how free I felt jumping around the living room of our 2-bedroom apartment when my mom wasn’t home, fists mauling the air, before drinking a bunch of Monster or Red Bull to calm down (because back then, energy drinks made me sleepy).
Listening to Fever To Tell sent me down a high school/undergrad music rabbit hole. I listened to the other Yeah Yeah Yeahs albums I’d loved (Show Your Bones, and It’s Blitz!), then on to The Vines’ album Winning Days, with its psychedelic beauty. It’s always been one of my favorites to harmonize to. I used to lay on my back on the floor, breathe out the notes and watch them float up to the ceiling. Then an old favorite I’d almost forgotten about: Hot Hot Heat. You’ve probably heard the song “Bandages” about a billion times; it’s been used in commercials and to make grocery shopping slightly more interesting. The albums Make Up the Breakdown and Elevator were in constant rotation in my room, my car, and my mom’s car whenever I rode with her, much to her chagrin.
Music has always been incredibly important to me. But these albums, and this period, marked the first time I consciously thought of certain albums as part of my identity. Unlike middle school, where the main objectives were to make my friends laugh and escape the notice of bullies, high school was about figuring out how to separate who I had decided I was from the mass of my peers while forging connections with other kids whose weirdness complemented mine. I miss hearing a song and knowing it was a piece of me. I miss gathering tunes like seashells to complete my Who Am I? tapestry. I miss believing there would be a moment in the future when that tapestry would be complete.
It was strangely comforting to think I would someday be a finished, unchangeable version of myself. Comforting because it meant knowing something, anything, for sure. Of course now, the idea of such an existence horrifies me. I’m so grateful that the process of growing and changing won’t stop until I’m dead. And even then, everyone’s ideas of me will continue to grow and change as the stories of those who knew me and the stories I’ve written all meet and overlap for the first or the hundredth time. People will learn things they never knew and a new tapestry will form.
For now, I can take comfort in the knowledge that those pieces of me from years ago are still there, shining in the dark to guide me back to myself when the path ahead gets hard to see. Hearing the song “Amnesia” puts the same beatific smile on my face that its victims wear in films and soap operas. Maybe they’re remembering something, too. Something more important than their names.