There are around 500,000 minutes in a year, which gives us a lot of time to listen to music. Subtracting a little time to sleep, the average person has the ability to be exposed to over 100,000 songs per year that they are alive, which is unlikely, but the amount of music that passes through our ears during a lifetime can be tremendous. So, what can make one specific song so significantly connected to memories in our lives? EARMILK writers share what one-in-a-million indie track has stayed circulating their playlists and the moments behind them.
Steph Evans, Managing Editor
"I used to be obsessed with seeking out underground music. Now, most of that music wouldn't be that hard to find, but in the early 2000's it was a bigger ordeal. I would spend afternoons going through used CD's or head to Rhino Records (or Amoeba, on special occasions) in LA to find good new music. I also had one online outlet to find such music: the online store for Aware Records. I remember, it was Awarestore.com, and I would go on every now and then and just order the top 10 CD's that were charting through their sales. Awarestore.com is now something very different, but the artist I found on it still stick with me. They released many now famous artists' first releases, including Gavin DeGraw, Jack Johnson, and last but not least John Mayer's Room for Squares. Of course, I was obsessed with the album, and him – a cute, pretty clean cut, verging on the nerdy musical genius (hot) Mayer. "3×5" was my favorite track, and the first time I saw him live I was probably 15 or so and dragged some friends to see him at the House of Blues in LA. He opened with the track, which was amazing enough until he locked eyes with me and sang the entire song to me without breaking it. I could barely stand up."
Erica Hawkins, Indie Contributor
"Like most great tales, this one starts with half priced margaritas at a company backed happy hour. Or, to be more specific, at a Super Target right after the happy hour ended. Feeling a little buzzed and strolling through the CD aisle (you know – compact disc, the thing people used to use to listen to music) I decided to buy a gift for my then boyfriend, now husband. It was perfect timing too, since he had just celebrated a birthday and mentioned that his favorite band had just released a record. I walked into our tiny apartment excitedly, toting the black case decorated with a vibrant color map of the human brain's pathways. "It's your favorite band's album," I said, cheerfully handing him the gift. "Umm.. he replied. My favorite band is The Killers." "Shit," I responded. Apparently, the margaritas had me fucked up, and I had somehow picked up The 2nd Law by Muse instead of The Killer's latest iteration, Battle Born. In an attempt to fix my mix step we headed back to Target. This time, picking up the right CD. I slid it into my laptop once we got back, listening to the title track, trying to ignite some enthusiasm. He looked a little disappointed. "This doesn't sound like their last album." I frowned. Not only did I mess up the birthday gift, I had now bought two albums he didn't even like. Then, the next track played. Like a train in the distance the synth rolled in, then an acoustic melody strummed evenly over it. The piano played like a lullaby, and by the time the lyrics "teenage rush" hit, I wasn't just trying to drum up enthusiasm, I was completely engrossed by the song. The words, the melody, it all hit me like a ton of bricks, and I let it pile on for the next few hours and the days and weeks to follow. It's the reason I bought a ticket to see them play it live at The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. I expected to dance, to sing, but what I wasn't expecting was the contagious passion emanating from the stage. I wanted to feel the way they felt about playing, I wanted that passion, I wanted to feel that way as much as possible. Shortly thereafter, I left my corporate job for a startup and started pursuing, discovering, and finding the things that lit me up the way that song did. Now, I spend my time writing stories about music, traveling to places I never thought I would, and surrounded by people I'm thankful for every day – and it all started with half priced margaritas at a company backed happy hour."
Rebecca Davis, Indie Contributor
"Graduating from college is weird, especially for me, who is hyper emotional and pretty bad at dealing with major changes. I packed a lot into my last few weeks of school because leaving made me sad and I didn’t know what I was going to do with the rest of my life (side note, I still do not know what I am going to do for the rest of my life), so I felt that distractions were better than dealing with thinking about any of it. One of these distractions included buying $15 tickets to a Whitney concert the day before my finals started with some of my closest friends. Light Upon The Lake came out earlier in my senior year, and it was an album that was played during a lot of ‘nostalgic’ ‘this is going to be the last time we do XYZ together as college students’ moments. The title track, ‘Light Upon the Lake,’ in particular, resonated with me because it seemed to be describing exactly how I was feeling in a way that was much more articulate and musically inclined. “All these times will change, I can’t turn away……Will life get ahead of me?” Clearly, I played this song a lot alone in my room when I needed to be dramatic about leaving college and moving on to a new lifestyle. At the concert, I had five dollars in my bank account and was getting no sleep because of studying. I ordered a glass of tap water at the bar and shoved my way to the front row with my friends, and we danced and sang in between wiping the sleep from each other’s eyes. The band only has one album, so it was inevitable that ‘Light Upon The Lake’ was going to be on the setlist, which was both really great and really awful for me at the same time. Great because it’s one of my favorite songs, awful because I usually cried to the track alone in my apartment and not amongst hundreds of concert goers. When the song started, I almost excused myself to conspicuously run to the bathroom for a convenient three minutes and nine seconds, but my friend gently interlaced her fingers with mine even though my palms were sweaty and my eyes were wet and we stared doe eyed at the band that reminded us the most of college. The moment was so sweet that I almost forgot that I had to stay up the rest of the night writing a paper that was due at 8am. Almost."
Adam Keilbach, Indie Contributor
"I first heard Toro Y Moi's 'Talamak' in 2011, right around the time his sophomore album Underneath The Pine was coming out. I was a little late to the chillwave movement, basking in all the hazy tunes the genre had to offer a few years after the infamous chillwave summer of 2009, so 'Talamak' was not only my first step into the amazing world that was chillwave, but it also ended up getting me through a weird breakup as well. Getting broken up with on Valentine's Day sucks extra hard, and sure the lyrics seem counter-intuitive to alleviating those heartbroken feelings I had – "How can I tell if I love you anymore? Never mind, I know I do." – but it got me to accept what had happened and how I felt, and as they say, acceptance is the first step to recovery. I was in high school at the time, and every 5th period, I was allowed to listen to music while doing my classwork, and I would always turn to Causers Of This, and specifically 'Talamak.' It made me more productive to boot, probably because it's a damn good song and album. I was able to focus on my work, get over a girl, and process all my dumb post-breakup sadness and angst. Not bad for my first experience with chillwave."
Tanis Smither, Indie Contributor
"In an essay on the nature of grief, Freud theorizes that there is a stage in the grieving process in which a person invests all their emotional energy into an object or a person. Some people rebound, some people refuse to let go of that one forgotten t-shirt. I rediscovered the album _Absolute Zero_ after the first boy I fell in love with ended our relationship, and right before traveling alone to Ireland for the first time. The album had been out and in my peripheral vision for a solid two years at that point, and I'd had a few Little Green Cars tracks in heavy rotation but hadn't given the album my full attention. At least once a week I thank whatever cosmic powers that be for the iTunes shuffle function. 'The Consequences of Not Sleeping' had no particular significance to my failed relationship, but I latched onto that song like an old t-shirt. The opening riff hit me square in the chest, and the lyric "but if you leave me now I'll die" seemed an seemed an accurate description of my despair at the time. I wept in my pillow to that song and it accompanied me essentially on repeat through the Irish countryside. When I listen to it now, I think about how much of myself was wasted on a person who didn't care about me and definitely wasn't worth the time. But I can't imagine how different my life might be at this moment had I not rebounded with _Absolute Zero_."