Musical Nostalgia: Places, Time Have Their Own Sound

A&E.Rust.MusicReview

Illustration by Emma Rust

One of the best things about music is how, after listening to a particular song or album for a while, it can become emblazoned with the way your life was at that point in time; you forever associate that locality or time period with that music.

Yet sometimes I think music can come with an association before one even gets a chance to play it enough times to engrave it with a time and place. Sometimes an album can come out, and it already feels like it speaks of old friends, or of last Thanksgiving break or of what it felt like to be a sophomore. The music itself has a distinct characteristic that can remind you of whenever or wherever. It’s not the individual songs that do it, it’s the way the artist forms them and their particular sound.

For me, Blitzen Trapper is one of these bands that intrinsically reminds me of summertime at home in rural Oregon. The past few summers, I would just loop their albums and soak it in. Consequently, whenever I hear any songs by BT, I get catapulted right back to those days; I’m driving my pickup truck to my job at a local fruit farm on a hot and sunny day, or I’m spending the afternoon floating along the Clackamas River with close friends.

Blitzen Trapper just released their seventh album, the aptly named VII, and I was very excited to get my hands on it and find out what new direction the band was taking with their sound. But as soon as I started listening, I experienced that familiar wave of nostalgia for gravel driveways and strawberry season, even though I had never listened to the album in Oregon or in the summertime.

Perhaps having such a clear nostalgia associated with the rest of the band’s music has made it so anything that sounds Blitzen Trapper-y feels the same as the rest of their older music, and so I automatically associate memories with their music. But maybe it’s some intrinsic characteristic of their sound that just speaks to the Oregonian in me, the part of me that can be a little homesick sometimes. I think it is — I think it’s something about the frequent melodica solos, or Eric Earley’s twangy vocals or maybe the lyrics that tell of the simple joy of returning to your hometown.

I think it’s possible for music to speak to you of a certain time or place, despite having never listened to it at that time or place. There’s something beyond that surface association that we can make after just playing a song on loop for a while — it’s the very characteristics of the music itself that can transport us to the past. It’s like the time or place has its own music; we don’t always imprint it with our own.




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