“Music is the Art Which is Most Nigh to Tears and Memory.” ~Oscar Wilde

So… it’s that time of year again. Summer(ish). A time of warmth (or suffocating heat), thunderstorms, bees (fuck you, bees), picnics, camping, and…

Summer music.

My summer playlist is a huge, sprawling disaster of pop tracks and things that make me smile. And it’s the latter part of that I want to focus on today. Because some of the tracks that sneak onto this playlist year after year have come to have some interesting memories attached to them.

Lollipop Mika- This song is the song that defined my 2008 excursion to the Big Apple. When everyone else was in that creepy wax museum (that shit is uncanny valley territory for me), I got to hit the streets of NYC on my own. Nikola Tesla Ave (where I squee’d… and took a picture of the sign, because it made me that happy) and the incredibly talented busker and the gentleman’s club I peeked into (but did not enter… one day, I will fulfill my dream of actually going to a strip club) and the wooden escalator in Macy’s and… It was fun to play the silly tourist. It was the land of Jackson Pollock (in the MoMA… I actually almost cried when I saw his Number 1 in person, I was that awe-struck and happy) and the $5 street vendor scarf (it’s magenta and wonderful and I wear it all the time and wish I had more of them).

Enter Sandman Metallica- For some reason, every single time I took my tray back to the dishroom in The Gallery, this song got stuck in my head. To the point where I would be humming it every time I exited the place (and, to this day, I get a vivid image of standing in that dishroom line whenever the song comes on).

Love and Memories O.A.R.- This song always evokes the first time I heard it. I had just arrived in Billings during Christmas Break of my freshman year. We were in the car, driving through the quaint section of the city, when this came on the radio. I found myself scrambling for a pen so I could write down the title and download it later. It would later become part of…

Doing That Thing You Do The Wonders- Summer of my sophomore year, Sean and I lived together. We’d had some people over for drinks and general merriment, when the Triumverate (as I had taken to calling Joe, John, and Derek) decided we were all going to go to Theo’s for some late-night goodness. Sean and I hopped into Derek’s car, and the ride to the restaurant was a rather-tipsy blur of these last two songs, cranked to full volume with Derek and I singing along. I also lost my watch on that trip…

The Distance CAKE- It was the last two weeks of high school, and Brian, Rachel, and I had been suckered into creating the senior slideshow for graduation (our graduating class was so small that we had to create this 20-minute parade of nostalgic photos in order to make the ceremony last long enough to be worth attending). We were usually left alone in the computer lab in the old gym (no AP classes but two gyms), so it was just the three of us, too much caffeine, and whatever random snacks we’d snagged from the convenience store next door… for hours. The slideshow itself didn’t take long at all to make… we spent the rest of the time watching fetish porn, hacking the MySpace accounts of our fellows, and generally dicking around.

I Saw It On Your Keyboard Hellogoodbye- As I’ve mentioned before, this is the only one of their tracks I can stand. And that is because it reminds me of my 21st birthday party. Which was, for me, a surprisingly sober affair. But it was a great night, with Pictionary Telephone and 6 Feet Downstage (our god-awful horror comedy we made for our ROIAL final project) and the incredibly drunken Sasha/Stauff romp and losing the feeling in my left leg because Ben’s bony ass was on it and… ah… no, the rest is mine. Suffice to say, I always smile when I think about that night. Which happens whenever I hear this song.

Sympathy For the Devil The Rolling Stones- John is a huge Stones fan, and every party at The Lounge my sophomore year featured them heavily in the music selection. It was the year John and I were really tight, and he would often tell me to select the next track. Thing is, I’m not a huge Stones fan. So, I would always go to my favorite. This one. This happened with such frequency that I got it banned. I will never forget that night. John telling me to go pick a song, and just as I get to the iPod, I hear him thunder (in so much as he’s capable of thundering) across the room, “And not Sympathy For the Devil this time!” And then Beagley grabbed my ass and meowed.

Still Alive Jonathan Coulton- While this song may forever and always belong to the glory that is Portal, the song itself reminds me of the bus station on the way back from Ghost Ranch. We were all exhausted after the 30-something hour train ride and Nate, Amanda, and I had just cheated the drink machines to give us twice as many energy drinks as we were paying for and had settled onto the benches to wait… when I spy Derek, dancing around and listening to his iPod. Singing along to this track. We kept sing-whispering it on the bus, too, until I practically passed out on his shoulder.

Sunshine & Chocolate Semisonic- This was the song I used to keep my sanity during tech of Clue. I listened to it on loop while curling Liz and Mandy’s hair. I’ll never forget dear Mandy freaking out that I was listening to it too loud and was going to go deaf at a young age.

Leave Me Here To Love Imogen Heap- And this was the track that I listened to entirely too many times on the train ride to Ghost Ranch. I remember stretching out in the observation car, the tepid spring sun spilling in through the huge curved windows and warming my skin as I read Only Revolutions for the third time.

When You Were Young The Killers- Running through the rain to the library in the middle of the night to meet up with Squeaks and have a cigarette, bitching about our respective papers. It was only later that I would learn that this was the moment when his first laptop was stolen.

Low Flo Rider ft. T-Pain- I was sitting in the lobby, trying to study for my TC 100 exam. I was reading about the music industry and the break-down of the mp3. Or, at least, I was trying to. Instead, I was replaying my “meeting” with John that had occurred a half hour before. The “meeting” that informed me, a month out from what we thought was opening night for Dangerous Liaisons, that John had forgotten to book the theatre for the performance. I was so stunned and crushed… and then Derek sauntered over, singing the second verse to this song and dancing, and I found that I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all.

Over and Over Hot Chip- During my sophomore summer, I was out for a walk one night when I suddenly heard a strange thumping sound that didn’t quite sync up with this song. Tugging off my headphones, I realized it was coming from somewhere deeper on campus. Running back to the apartment, I managed to con the other residents of Number 4 Appletree into joining me on a quest to find the source. We failed rather miserably (it kept seeming to change direction!), but Kathie and I found a way to sneak into Spartan Stadium, where we lay on the grass and stared at the stars.

So Pure Alanis Morissette- This makes me think of the summer of 2005, when I wandered down to the second floor to discover half the TASPers ripping apart the couches in order to construct a fort in the little lounge area. And there was Frank, blasting this track and dancing around the haphazardly abandoned copies of The Peloponnesian War and whatever war/genocide text Cornell II was currently immersed in as we tried to find blankets and chairs to support our structure.

The Night Chicago Died Paper Lace- Spring of freshman year. My first trip to Chicago, and my second time seeing Second City perform. We were settled at tables right in front of the stage. At one point, they were going to make up a love song and asked for a prompt from the audience. Love is like… The place was silent for a moment before Nick burst out “THE HINDENBURG!” No one else dared to shout out something else, because we all knew the improvers onstage would have latched onto anything else. So, we stuck them with it. “…It might be good, it might be crappy/I hope this motherfucker’s happy/Love is like the Hindenburg!”

O Valencia! The Decemberists- Fixing the lights for Oppenheimer, during which Ben dragged me to the back of the theatre to look at all the lights turned on at 30%… which looked like an image from the Hubble Space Telescope. I felt like I was in space. It was beautiful.

We Didn’t Start the Fire Billy Joel- Drinking with the old gang in Stauff/Nick’s room after a few rounds of Halo. I bet Nick and Ainsley that I could sing every word of this beast- I won that bet, even intoxicated. We all ended up passing out on a blanket spread on the floor instead of walking the ten steps across Abbot to our own rooms. Because that’s how we rolled.

Shadow Stabbing CAKE- During the spring of my sophomore year, I frequently took 4 a.m. showers in Phillips Hall and sang this (among other tunes) loudly and terribly off-key as a way to unwind after rehearsal/classes.

The Gambler Kenny Rogers- Summer of sophomore year. Sitting on the fence in front of the apartment with Sean and Percival (my firefly friend… long story), smoking a cigarette and watching Sean’s pasty Irish skin turn pinker and pinker.

People Should Smile More Newton Faulkner- Spring of junior year. Advertising for the one-acts. I had no sleep, Ben was exhausted from Kendo, every building we went into felt like it had a hundred fucking stairs. Still, the picture I took of him that evening always makes me laugh when I see it.

Blood Makes Noise Suzanne Vega- Reading play after play after play under the trees in front of Mason Hall during my sophomore summer.

Rebel Rebel David Bowie- Some nebulous time during high school. Stretched out on Rachel’s bed, thumbing through her CDs as she got ready for our double date with Paul and Lance.

Call on Me Eric Prydz- Fall of junior year. Intermission of the Sunday show, I went backstage to find my entire cast (and crew!) blasting this song and dancing. I laughed so hard I couldn’t stand up.

Camera One Josh Joplin Group- Last summer. Working the packaging line in my ugly lab coat, singing this softly as I zipped along, making Arnie and Marcie laugh at my random dancing.

Soda Shop Jay Brannan- Spring of junior year. Stretched out on Ben’s floor by his desk while he sang this to me.

Stronger Kanye West- Summer of sophomore year. Walking up Orchard (on my way back from the library), Sean waving at me from the porch.

Catch and Release Silversun Pickups- Smoking a cigarette in the rain outside Phillips Hall.

Voodoo Child Rogue Traders- My high school graduation.

I’ll stop now. As you can see, music (for me) always ends up tangled around my memories. Memories of people I’ve known and things I’ve experienced. Listening to this playlist is not just enjoyable because of the catchy tunes and infectious beats, but because it reminds me of these people and these places and these times in a way that is not sad or nostaglic, but instead celebrates the past.

And that’s why I love these songs.

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