Years ago, my grade 8 french teacher tried to tell us that listening to music while studying was bad and made you lose focus. She said we should sit at a quiet desk, with motivational posters, trophies and/or medals within sight. Not only did i never follow any of these studying tips, over time, I became a firm believer in music as a positive study tool. It warmed my heart when years later, I learned of studies proving music as an aid in memory recall. Take THAT grade 8 french teacher.
Today, my love of music and my love of geography has heightened these beliefs tenfold. If I were to compartmentalize my life into main events, situations or era’s, I could make a soundtrack.
So I’m going to.
And these aren’t “Hey, remember that song? i think i was in high-school when it came out…man, high-school was awesome” moments. These are full recall situations. These are situations where one song turns me into a time traveler and helps me recall almost every emotion I felt at the time and every sense that was being stimulated.
Not in chronological order:
Track 1: Lifehouse - Hanging by a Moment
I realize writing about an ex girlfriend is usually not kosher, but this song represented the first time around with Chelsea…when I was in grade 8. We were in a long distance relationship (King City to Whitby) and would talk on the phone almost every night for hours. I would hang out in my basement on a giant white cordless phone and walk around the room talking to my “girlfriend” while my pubescent hormones were doing their thing.
This song was the first song we bonded over. It was popular at the time, we both loved it, and it was a perfect soundtrack for young teenagers. The moment I hear the bass line slide from the 12th fret to the 5th fret, it puts me back in my cold, dimly lit basement in King City, talking to a girl i would eventually fall madly in love with.
Track 2: Patrick Watson - Close to Paradise
I bought two albums, Patrick Watson’s “Close to Paradise” and Tokyo Police Club’s “Elephant Shell,” before i went to Europe with my friend Andrew. My obsessive music listening at the time meant these two albums were literally the only thing i listened to for those two weeks. The first track on the Patrick Watson album is the title track. Much like the opening bass riff from Lifehouse, the opening Glockenspiel riff on this song puts me back on a high speed train (or a communist era Czech train depending on the trip) somewhere in continental Europe. The train rides on this trip were our relaxing moments, our hangover cure moments, our make-salami-sandwiches-with-cheap-bread moments, and this song was a perfect relaxing companion. And I would be a fool not to mention the lyrics. I really felt close to paradise while on the trip, whether it was the exploration we did, the people we met, the sights we saw, the alcohol we drank or the girls we…looked at.
This song, along with putting me on a train in Europe, is a constant reminder that often times sitting back and soaking it all in is the best way to enjoy your time.
Track 3 - Jimi Hendrix - Hey Joe
When I first heard about the death of my dad’s long time best friend and business partner, I was at work in an office building, working for the company he and my dad built out of our old basement in Toronto. Brooke was an amazing soul, quirky to the nth degree, and was extremely fond of music.
Anyways, i immediately started crying so my boss gave me the day off to be at home with my family. I had to gather myself to be able to drive home, so i decided to put on some music in the car before i left. It was right around the time I was getting into classic rock, so Q107 was on the dial in my car. The song had already started, and I just sat in my car, listening to Hey Joe (and always thought it sounded like he was saying “Angel”) crying, and thinking about life and death. To this day, this song puts me in the driver’s seat of my Pontiac in an above ground parking lot, trying to deal with a loss.
Track 4 - Bedouin Soundclash - Mountain Top
That girl from the Lifehouse song? She also ended up being the first girl I fell out of love with. As I write now, half a year after a brutal break up, the bitterness of being heartbroken is completely gone. But, for a long while, I was a lost soul. Music undoubtedly played a huge part in getting me back on the right track, and “Mountain Top” became the Commander in Chief of my army of “get your shit together” songs. The lyrics are uplifting, the song is catchy and upbeat, and it makes me dance around my apartment. I will always remember laying on the couch in my living room not wanting to move, or eat, or speak, or live, and forcing myself to listen to this song and enjoy it.
The funny part is that most music that I listen to during shitty periods of my life I develop aversions for (i really wish I could love Florence and the Machine again…maybe in time). However, even as this song accompanied me through the lowest of the low, i still love listening to it.
Track 5 - The Tragically Hip - Fifty Mission Cap
A late 1980’s black Nissan Pulsar is the home to of many of my early memories. It was my dad’s car and we would drive all around Toronto and the GTA in it. He would pick me and my sister up from swim practice in the Pulsar, we would go near the airport and watch planes land after swim meets (It had a T-Roof so it made plane watching awesome), and we would run errands in it.
Around the time of all of this Pulsar driving, the Tragically Hip came out with their “Day for Night” album, and “Fifty Mission Cap” was a single. ALSO occurring around this time of my life was my exponential growth in love for hockey. I was, at the very youngest, 5 years old.
So what do you get when you combine a car that you spend a lot of time in, a new album, and a dad who loves the hip? The memory of, on multiple occasions, sitting in the back seat and jamming to a song I still love to this day. Fifty Mission Cap was my first ever “favorite” song. The memories from around this time are obviously mashed together given how long ago it was, but Fifty Mission Cap represents my love for my father, music, hockey, and T-Roofs all combining into one of my earliest, fondest memories.
Track 6 - The Weakerthans - Sun in an Empty Room
I have listened to this song more than 20 times in the last 24 hours. It has easily become my new favorite song. It is helping me live in the moment. I want this song to be on repeat in my ears as the next few weeks unfold. Right now I am happy, hopeful, and enjoying every moment of life, and I know “Sun in an Empty Room” will be the song to remind me of this. But not now. And yes, i understand the irony of the lyrics being about decay, but the song representing growth and hope. It’s still awesome.
Ill keep this post short like a 6 song EP right now because, as anyone who has experienced this histiogeographical-music phenomenon will be able to attest, it could easily be a Full Length Double CD with a bonus “Making of” DVD and unlockable online content.
Oh, and histiogeographical? I totally just made that word up.