Someone I consider an online pal tweeted today she’s going to take on the task of getting into The National beyond Apartment Story. It got me thinking about the role that band plays in my life and got stuck into reminiscing about songs that remind me of specific places. So this newsletter is about that.
The National is a band I first ever really heard of because my dad liked Trouble Will Find Me a lot and listened to it in his car frequently but I didn’t really find myself caring a lot about them until 2016.
I went to the Art Institute in Chicago with my boyfriend at the time, who I’d met online, the first of many times he’d come to Chicago to visit. It was around my 19th birthday. He got an airbnb in Old Town. My mom yelled at me about birth control. Anyway, one day we went to the museum and we did the same walk I always do there.
Up the stairs, through the impressionists, veer left through the café, over through the contemporary galleries, up around the modern galleries, down two flights to see if there’s anything of interest in the photography and video rooms.
This time we walked over to the video room and he was excited because the video of The National playing Sorrow repeatedly for six hours (aptly titled “A Lot of Sorrow”) was showing. I kind of knew what The National was, like, I’d heard the name and knew the songs my dad liked but I didn’t know anything about them.
I remember walking into that dark, empty room and hearing Matt Berninger’s voice— deep and warm and never ending.
We sat there, still awkward having just met face to face for the first time after years of Tumblr friendship, and we just watched.
The National lives in that room. They live in that moment. Depth, darkness, excitement, anxiety, love— all these things that live inside the way I love that band all can be traced to that room and the way I felt watching them play that day.
I think all the time about the ways music intersects with my everyday life. Some bands or albums live inside places and they’ll never escape it. The National feel like that darkened room— doesn’t matter the song. I like them best in a dark room. Some music lives in the same location as your memories.
My third year of college I studied abroad and it was a mostly miserable experience. Paris is a beautiful place and I really liked it, but I was more depressed than I’d been in years and felt that crushing weight paired with the crushing guilt of not enjoying it enough. While there, though, I got into a bunch of music I’d go on to cherish like Martha and Frightened Rabbit but two albums live as Paris memory markers more than all the rest.
I’d have to leave really early to get to my university so everyday before I left I’d queue up Guppy by Charly Bliss and All of Something by Remember Sports on the way home.
Guppy sounds like running down four flights of stairs hoping I won’t miss the train at Montgallet.
Charly Bliss felt like artificial adrenaline the way nothing I’d ever really loved did. I woke up and I’d listen to the songs over and over until my brain fog gave way to something resembling energy. Eva Hendricks’ screeching felt like pouring carbonated water on my brain so for five months I relied on Guppy and instant cafe au lait packets to motivate myself out of bed to do anything.
I’d stare at myself in the windows of the 8 train listening to Julia feeling like the only thing keeping me from collapsing like a dead tree was her voice in my headphones.
Or sometimes I’d just hide in that IKEA furnished room and panic. Either way, it pushed me to feel something at a time when I couldn’t.
All of Something, by contrast, sounds like looking around my lobby to make sure I wouldn’t get judged by the women in my building for taking the microscopic elevator up even though really it wouldn’t have been too hard for me to take the stairs.
Specifically Washing Machine and Getting On In Spite of You have a strong hold on my brain. I can close my eyes and see the inside of that rickety, mirrored mini elevator staring into my own sunken eyes.
If Charly Bliss was Monster Energy, Remember Sports was Espresso— they both keep me going, but to say they were being used for the same purpose is simply not true.
I listened to All of Something on repeat the first time I went to the Louvre. I remember not being able to find the exit for 45 minutes and instead of continuing to search I just putting Get Bummed Out on repeat and sitting down next to a bunch of portraits of people I’d never heard of.
All of Something— and I think Remember Sports on the whole— feels like music to live your life to. Go to the grocery store, take the train home, buy a sandwich or a coffee, sit in the park. I think that’s why I like it so much and why I clung to it when I was living in a country I’d never been to prior to that August. It felt like living my life at a time I felt so far removed from everything I’d ever considered my life.
It felt special because it made me feel like I could still be me without the surroundings of the familiar American city I’d grown to tie so much of my identity to.
Now I live somewhere new and Remember Sports still feels like music to live my life to, even if some songs won’t ever escape France.
That collection of Remember Sports songs played a sort of foil to Charly Bliss. I’ve never been much for sad, sparse songs when i’m feeling depressed so they filled the two gaps I needed. I go back and forth on whether I feel like it’s a good or bad thing that I’ll never be able to hear those songs and not think about Paris and how I felt that fall.
Maybe it’s not good or bad.
I was trying to think of another example of this bonding of songs and places. I dug through my memories and came up with one specific song from a similar time period but this one is different.
While in France, my study abroad group went down to Nice. Nice is beautiful, obviously. I was dramatic and sad, obviously. The music snob I was dating was trying to get me into Big Thief, obviously.
So I spent four days only listening to Paul.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I was sad but god that’s corny! Laughable!
I was on an old bus driving through the mountains between Nice and Monaco. I’m trying to seriously listen to Paul by god damn Big Thief because I’m sad and serious but everybody looks like they’re scared this bus is gonna fall off the side of the mountain.
That song makes me so god damn sad and I wallowed a lot with it! Had some serious emotions! But when I hear it all I can think of is my Serbian study abroad advisor gripping a handle saying, “we should have taken the train I did not know” and that’s kind of pure in a different way.
Anyway, I’d like to hear about songs or bands or albums that bring you back to certain places. Feel free to tweet at me or comment (?) I love to hear that stuff.
Onto An Update!
So I usually end these by saying I’ll probably never make it a paid newsletter but surprise ! I’ve opened up paid subscriptions!
I don’t really think people are gonna be interested in that but I figured I’d open it up anyway. I don’t want to put these things behind a paywall or anything but I figure if people are into it and send some money my way I can offer some alternative stuff to make that worth it! I’ve wanted to sort of marry my newsletter and zine stuff so I’m hoping this could be a way to do that.
Super Special Perks:
- I’ll send you a copy of new zines for free and you’ll get one of your choice upon paid sign up!
- You can have input on the something old/something new albums I review!
I’ll make you a personalized playlist? Is that something people like?
We can talk about more ideas if anybody subscribes. Your money would be going toward me facilitating zine making and paying writers for those as well as just, uh, me because I do spend time on these!
Also, in all reality, if just two of you subscribed that would fully cover paying for me to continue my subscription to Dan Ozzi’s newsletter which is very important to me so, ya know, think on it
No pressure or anything. For most of you this doesn’t change anything but I figured I’d at least open the option.
Thanks for reading and remember— there is no goal, there is only work.
Miranda Reinert is a zine maker and law student based in Philadelphia. She is looking for friends. Follow me on Twitter for more on music and other things like bait tweeting the music community about their favorite splits: @mirandareinert. Thanks for reading!