08/23/2007 10:17 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Thanks For The Memories

It happens from time to time: you'll walk down the street or through a
store and suddenly a particular scent will waft by and you're
momentarily transported to a place long ago and far away. That one
corner of the grocery store radiates a potato-and-cabbage smell that
just screams Aunt Helen's house. A line of idling cars gets the diesel
and garbage smell of Central London just right; it's 1997 all over
again and I'm walking down the lanes off Leicester Square.

They say scent and memory have the strongest bond in terms of instant
recall, be it to places or people or even states of mind. (Pine Sol
always puts me on edge, reminiscent of the summer I worked cleaning
bathrooms in a dilapidated movie theater.) But I've found music has a
similar effect. I can pop in an old record, throw on the headphones,
and for those initial few minutes I've stepped in a time machine,
those old familiar feelings and thoughts sweeping over me.

As I go through my old CDs and tapes in an effort to digitize my music
collection, I've been overjoyed to travel back to my teenage years and
earlier. ("The
Humpty Dance
" brought back elementary school thugs, long walks
around the neighborhood, getting jumped... Let's forget that particular
one.) Each LP has its own intersection with my life: the R.E.M. record
I happened on at Record Bar in 6th grade that opened my ears to
Michael Stipe and the delicate brilliance of their southern rock, the
Notorious B.I.G. href="">debut that blew
away everything about rap that had previously alienated me and took
the genre to realistic, awe-inspiring levels. Each one of these
records was in a way a step further down the path, leading me towards
the music I seek out today.

It's also interesting to me how this sort of time travel works on a
macro and micro scale, depending on the selection.

Esthero"s Breath
From Another
will forever remind me of cool fall nights my
freshman year of college, and with them, the invigorating feel of a
first taste of freedom, exposure to people and places previously
unexplored, and best of all, long nights playing cards with my
roommates by lamplight. Conversely, href="">Explosions In The
Sky have been overplayed in my iPod, and the memories seemingly
blend together. But there will always be that one track that I first
heard jogging down Connecticut Avenue in the brutal August heat in
Washington, DC on a Saturday afternoon. As the crashing cymbals and
booming bass drum subsided, a wave of lush guitar sparkled to the
surface and there I was, sweating my ass off and feeling euphoric.

For this reason I tend to be conservative with my music. If I happen
to listen to an album during an uneventful period of my life, it will
get played to death. If a particular record coincides with sweeping
changes, monumental events or experiences, then it's shelved and only
dusted off when I'm feeling nostalgic. I like that about music, that
it can take the form and character of a fine wine or a photo album. I
love knowing that when these opening chords begin, I will see that old
living room, those faces long since departed, I'll remember that in
the end, our memories are the most important thing we've got.

I wonder what particular records resonate with you? Feel free to
share. No traumatic Humpty Dance tales, please. I'm still recovering.