The other night I tweeted about how I tend to associate music and books. I like to listen to music while I read or do homework (which usually involves reading anyway) and can often think of a book or album and what I was reading or listening to at the time. I also realized that there are certain albums that I associate with particular times of my life. As I approach graduation from college, I’ve been thinking about the albums that have had some kind of personal significance for me in the last four years. Here are the top 10 albums that have marked my college experience.
1. AM by Arctic Monkeys
I have been listening to Arctic Monkeys since I was 13 (it was one of the first albums I uploaded to iTunes and put on my iPod nano), and will wax poetic over the band’s entire discography for days. But what has a special place in my heart is AM, which came out in 2013. I saw the band perform three times for the AM era, and know 98 percent of the lyrics. This, I feel, will be an album that I will never get tired of. “Do I Wanna Know?” is my text tone. I have the digital version, the CD and the vinyl. Out of all of the albums on this list, it is definitely the most personal. AM reminds me of September nights, driving in Los Angeles and relationships that didn’t work out.
2. Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend
This is also another deeply personal album for me, and the record that made me a Vampire Weekend fan. I still enjoy dissecting the lyrics of MVotC, which deal with time and mortality and love and sense of belonging, amongst other things. I also got to see Vampire Weekend while it was promoting the album, and I desperately want to go again. This album reminds me of my school commutes, dancing around in my bedroom and rainy days.
3. Yeezus by Kanye West
This album is what made me a true believer in Kanye West and his cultural significance. Yeezus also changed my life. It is my go-to “gotta get shit done” album, and I find something new to analyze with every listen. This is not an easy album to listen to, but I think it’s the perfect example of just how powerful music can really be. Yeezus reminds me of many late, sticky summer nights.
This is a 2-for-1, but I discovered Real Estate in my second year of college and fell in love with the beachy sound. Atlas came out in 2014, and I have had it in heavy rotation. I also like how both albums talk about what it feels like to be displaced from home. Real Estate in general reminds me of both Berkeley and Washington, my discovery of lattes, and cold-but-bright winter weekends.
5. Sunbathing Animal by Parquet Courts
I believe my good friend Valerie recommended Parquet Courts to me, and I like Sunbathing Animal‘s balance between sentimental lyrics and good old fashioned rocking out. This is also a “gotta get shit done” kind of album for me, which has gotten me through many papers and planning sessions. This album reminds me of walking around on campus, feeling like a badass for the great things I said in class or about to go take care of business.
6. Is This It? by The Strokes
This is kind of a cheat, because I discovered The Strokes in high school (Side bar: I was in love with the friend of the boy next door [who I had never interacted with] and I found out through his MySpace account [this was like, ninth or 10th grade so don’t judge me on any of this] that he loved The Strokes) and have loved the band ever since, but I have found myself returning to Is This It? over and over again in the last four years. For me, it’s one of those albums you can play all the way through without skipping anything. I guess it’s my safety blanket. And “Someday” has been resonant for me at many points in the last four years. Is This It? reminds me of listening to vinyl records in my bedroom and doodling lyrics in cursive all over my French notebooks.
I discovered Mac DeMarco last year through my brother Graeme. Graeme doesn’t like him much anymore, but I have a soft spot for Mac DeMarco. He’s a very weird dude with very weird preferences, but his music can be very tender. “Ode to Viceroy” and “Let My Baby Stay” are two very good examples of both the former and the latter, and happen to be my personal favorites. These albums remind me of Burgerama with Graeme and the Law siblings, the last summer at Public Affairs and multiple trips to and through San Bernardino.
8. Dead Man’s Bones by Dead Man’s Bones
I bought this album on a whim in October of my freshman year, mostly because Ryan Gosling was in it. I distinctly remember sitting in the library between classes, previewing this album on iTunes and immediately falling in love. It has sort of morbid subject matter, but it is very earnest and endearing. “In the Room Where You Sleep” comes to mind. Dead Man’s Bones reminds me of fall quarters and walking to a deserted parking lot after 7 to 8:50 p.m. statistics lectures.
9. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late by Drake
This is a very recent addition to the list, but a great one. I had never listened to much Drake before this mixtape came out, and we listen to it constantly in the Poly Post newsroom. If I remember anything about my Poly Post experience, it will be our spirit animal Ferlinda Shedricks (don’t ask), “apparently” and this mixtape. It also has got some fantastic lines that I have made a part of my vocabulary, and I listen to a song from this album at least once a day. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late reminds me of Sunday deadline night and boba runs.
10. George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue
Between my second and third summers of college, I started watching a lot of Woody Allen movies. The opening scene of Manhattan references Rhapsody in Blue, and when I looked it up I fell in love. Rhapsody in Blue is the aural version of my life. It is nothing like the other albums on this list, but discovering Rhapsody in Blue is a hallmark of my attempts to widen my cultural horizons and appreciate art to the fullest. I will never forget seeing it performed live at the Hollywood Bowl last summer. Rhapsody in Blue makes me feel invincible and bold.
My honorary mentions include Allah-Las, Albert Hammond Jr., Spoon, Divine Fits, The Shins, Beirut, Arcade Fire, The Police, Fleet Foxes and The Black Keys.
Do you have albums that you associate with particular points in your life? Let’s talk about it in the comments.