Today I was at work typing away and listening to Pandora when a song came on, a familiar one that flipped a mental switch. The tune was Loose Fur‘s ‘Chinese Apple,’ a soothing, wandering acoustic tune that took me back to my junior year in college, when I would go to Bristol every Tuesday night in the winter to ski. I would ski hard from about 4-10 and come back to my car to see that my iPod ‘s batteries had died due to the cold. A mixed tape of Evan’s would accompany me during the 45 minute drive back to Rochester, and ‘Chinese Apple’ was one of the standout tracks.

So there I am, sitting at my desk with headphones, and I’d be suddenly transported back, not to that time and place but rather that moment and feeling. A lonely but content feeling, just me and the road with the heat cranking and great tunes blasting during my favorite time of year.

Does this ever happen to anyone else? I can name several songs and albums that take me back to various points in my life, from recent situations all the way back to third grade. There’s The Beatles’ ‘Long long long,’ one of my favorites from the White Album that I played so extensively in my flat in Osnabrück, Germany; notably once at four in the morning when I stayed up all night before catching an early train to take me down to Bad Gastein, Austria. (Funny how both of these memories revolve, tangentially, around skiing. You can see where my mind is these days…) Eager anticipation tinged with some anxiety about the long solo trip ahead.

Then there’s Ben Folds Five’s “Whatever and Ever Amen,” taking me back to the summer after eighth grade and sitting in the back of a VW Passat with my family as we toured much of Southwest England. Specifically, pulling out of a parking lot on to a major street where some gracious Brit flashed his lights at us letting us go through (one of those random, insignificant but very vivid memories that stick with you over the years). And then, Stone Temple Pilot’s ‘Core’, the first album I ever listened to (not understanding any of the lyrics of course). I would sit on the floor next to my parent’s CD player with these old beater headphones for hours, taking in the music. I was no more than nine years old.

I could go on for pages about this stuff. Writing about one reminds me of three others. There’s Animal Collective’s ‘Sung Tongs,’ in my opinion the quintessential summer album. It’s warm, light and upbeat, much like our demeanor as Evan and I made our way in his car across the coast of Lake Michigan on the way back to spending a few days with our folks in the U.P. in July 2005. I don’t think I even liked it all that much (subconsciously, well, looks like that was another story)!

It’s an interesting reminder of the relationships between vision, hearing and memory. I’ve always considered myself a very visual person (still do) but I see there’s a substantial musical component too. Some experiences you’ll remember for a few years, but others with a great soundtrack you’ll remember forever. Not only that but a click of the play button can bring you right back there, if not physically than wholly emotionally. Now that the snow’s coming, I’m going to need pick up that Loose Fur album…