A synesthetic flashback tour

Another Uncommon dispatch answered. This time, Which album do you know best?

This prompt sent me on a synesthetic flashback tour through my iTunes archive of CDs frantically converted into MP3s one summer home from college, so I apologize for not being able to pick one. The albums I know most intimately brought me back to the places and devices where I got to know them. I have visions of rocking out to No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom and Weezer’s Pinkerton in the privacy of my room on the Aiwa three piece speaker system that has moved around with me since middle school. And I picture the Christmas where I voraciously devoured the new Fiona Apple album When The Pawn… on my Philips CD player, shielding my moody teen self from family and wallowing in her carefully crafted lyrics that (of course) spoke directly to my unrequited crush.

Other albums have a vivid association with driving around in my crank-sunroof Volvo, like listening to Guster’s Lost and Gone Forever on constant repeat with my best friend and drumming along on my steering wheel bongo. I flash back to the moment a friend showed me that the speakers on my inherited car had been left/right imbalanced, and subsequently having my mind blown by the second half of the pinging electronic introduction of “Such Great Heights” on The Postal Service’s Give Up. And then I see the strip of road I was driving down when I first heard the arresting spoken poetry of “Hey Pretty” on our local independently radio station. I subsequently devoured Poe’s Haunted album and loved it for its strange, palimpsest of layered sound and narrative exploration. And then years later, discovering its book counterpart House of Leaves and hearing the words I had listened to so many times—”There’s someone knocking in the wall/was it like an echo/ ba da ba ba”—whispering from the page. Certainly uncommon, and appropriately uncanny.

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