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Style & Culture

How I Hear It: Music tied to life’s fondest memories

Whether or not you find it written in your overpriced textbook, music is a big part of history, both politically and personally.

People remember where they were when they first heard a special album or song — they remember their initial reaction to it or they have some sort of deep connection to it. When I listen to The Cure, I almost always think back to the summer of 2011, which was when I really got into the group because their upbeat tunes suited the season so perfectly for me.

Writers at SPIN and New Musical Express have recently gotten nostalgic as well. On Oct. 11, SPIN posted a retrospective of Weird Al Yankovic’s Nirvana parody, “Smells Like Nirvana.” On the same day, an NME blogger wrote about Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut album, both of which celebrate their 20th anniversaries this year.

The year 1992 was an eventful one for me: I met a lot of new people, moved into a new house and was born. It might be because my brain wasn’t yet able to form memories, but nothing that I listened to that year really sticks out, so I don’t share the same sense of nostalgia for these records as others.

Listening to them now, though, I recognize that they’re fine, historically significant records, but not something I’d go out of my way to listen to. Reading those articles, I figured I had to have something better from that year in my iTunes library.

Not really. I have a few early Verve songs, various tracks from Nirvana, Bob Marley, The Cure. I also have Massive Attack’s debut album, titled “Blue Lines,” which is a recent discovery I’ve come to really dig over the last week.

There is one last 1992 album I have, both digitally and on CD, that I not only think is better than Rage’s record and the “Off The Deep End” album that contains “Smells Like Nirvana,” but is arguably one of my top-10 favorite albums ever: Blind Melon’s self-titled debut.

Because of the success of “No Rain” and the lack of success of all subsequent singles by the neo-psychedelic group, Blind Melon was branded as a one-hit wonder. There is obvious truth to that, but that identification has led to their debut album being unjustly overlooked and not recognized as the well-rounded effort that it is.

Even without “No Rain,” “Blind Melon” should be hailed as a quintessential ’90s rock album. At 55 minutes, it’s a bit lengthy, but the diversity keeps it interesting.

“Soak the Sin” and “Seed to a Tree” shows the edgier, harder rocking side of the record, while “Time” is more ambient than anything on the album and “Tones of Home,” “Paper Scratcher” and “No Rain” are flower-power anthems.

While I think this album is better than the aforementioned two, and I’m disappointed that it’s underappreciated, I can’t blame the magazine writers for fondly looking back on their favorites.Music is strongly tied to memory, so it’s common to rank albums more highly than they should be if they are associated with something good in your life.

I consider “The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place” by post-rock band Explosions in the Sky to be my favorite album of all time. My cousin recommended the album to me in August 2008 as an introduction to post-rock. I sat in the chair in the corner of my living room with my headphones plugged into my laptop and was blown away.

It was unlike anything I had ever heard before. I had heard instrumental rock music, and I had heard progressive rock music, but my introduction to post-rock was so much more epic and sweeping than the wordless songs that I only found mildly interesting before. That album opened my ears to more instrumentally based varieties of music like ambient, jazz, film scores, progressive house, American Primitivism and long-form psychedelic rock.

The exposure and enjoyment that the album provided has me viewing it through a rose-colored lens — listening to their 2011 album “Take Care, Take Care, Take Care,” I almost think that it’s as good or better than “The Earth.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s important to love music, no matter what the reason. I’ve read so many articles online where writers recount specific memories they associate with their favorite songs and how listening to them takes them back to these great times they had. That’s a pretty powerful thing.