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Carol's Story: A journey into her musical storage locker

Let’s play a game. It’s called iTunes Roulette. Many of you may already know this concept by another name- more simply, iTunes Shuffle. And I’m not talking about shuffling your Taylor Swift playlist. I’m talking about putting your entire library on shuffle and seeing what comes out.

Carol, with one of her favorite musicians, Bess Rogers.

Carol, with one of her favorite musicians, Bess Rogers.

I prefer this method to Spotify Radio or Pandora, because let’s face it- iTunes is where you keep the music you really like regardless of what anyone thinks and the music that really means something to you. The self-editing of creating a playlist does not apply in iTunes Roulette. This is the journey into your musical storage locker; your harmonic attic. It’s where you keep your wedding song and the song you and your first girlfriend made out to (hint, they are NOT the same song, or the same girl). It’s where you keep the song that was on repeat for your summer road trip. It's where there is the song that was on repeat the night you drove three hours around your neighborhood wondering if life was worth it. This is the minefield of the music lover because memory is a powerful thing.

Let’s start with something good. You always start that way, don’t you? With a current, up-beat song that you are really into at the moment. You think, innocently, “ Surely iTunes will sense my current mood by the first track I select. Let’s get going!”

First up, “Mona Lisa” by Little Daylight. This band was one of those great live show finds where you end up falling in love with the opening act. This was the song that convinced me, maybe five or six songs into their set, that buying their record then and there was entirely necessary. Their synth-heavy 80’s homage girl-pop sound is exactly my jam right now. This song takes me back two short weeks to my first show at 930 Club as a Pittsburgh to DC transplant. Although a new memory, I know this is one that’s going to stay with me.

Next up, “Stop” by the Spice Girls- who were, let’s be honest, one of the defining pop bands of my childhood. Any time one of their songs comes on, I am instantly taken back to being 10 years old. Especially songs from the Spice World record, or should I say, cassette. I played that cassette so much I literally would not let my mom put anything else in the car stereo one summer for a full three hour car ride to the beach. Windows down, sun in the sky, and Spice Girls on the radio. Those were the glory days.

While I’m coming out of memory lane, iTunes Roulette switches gears with “Panic Switch” by Silversun Pickups. I’m regress back to a summer show circa 2010 at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia. It was about a thousand degrees (as a hot day always is in your own memory) and the outdoor stage was right on the glistening river. Scenes of a steamy day turning into night as the sun set behind the band intersperse themselves with scenes from the “Panic Switch” music video in my mind- dark faces lit up by colored lights and one incessant bass lick.

Next in the omniscient iTunes queue is “Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare” by Matt & Kim.  This one is tricky because it’s one of those bittersweet memories. For whatever reason I will always, always remember the following moment with this song, no matter how many times I had heard it before or after. I was in undergrad at the time and I was walking with my iPod on. It was right before Christmas break. I was on campus and it was freezing (but really freezing this time, not just in my memory. It was Pittsburgh after all.) The night was dark, the air was sharp and I was having a particularly bad day. The reason for which escapes me now. Classes were over. It seemed everyone else had gone home. Only a few buildings on campus has lights on. I came down the steps, turned the corner abruptly toward the library and, almost quite literally, ran right into the love of my life at the time (unbeknownst to them, of course, because what’s the point otherwise). We exchanged a few candid words and went our separate ways. I remember seeing my breath as I exhaled into one of the biggest smiles on record.

It’s funny how music can bring you right back to that place, that feeling, that smile. It brings you back in a way that I have not experienced, or at least not as intensely experienced, through any other medium. That’s what music does; it’s a 3 to 5 minute memory that will always be there on cue. From my first cassette to my newest digital download, they have become, cliched as it may seem, the soundtrack to my life. These songs are me; they are in me. And that’s my music self. My music is myself.

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