Mind Over Matter: Songs for Sitting in Nostalgia, by Megan Harrison
My nostalgia comes and goes in waves.
Memories tucked into the back of my mind reemerge at the change of each season: during cozy winter evenings, rainy spring days, sun-kissed summer afternoons and chilly autumn mornings.
Nostalgia is a feeling that overtakes us throughout the year, with different emotions and memories fighting to take the surface. It’s easy for us to turn toward memory lane and wish for moments back.
Music fuels my nostalgic spurs of thought. The opening notes of a Lumineers song transport me back to computer science class my sophomore year of high school. I get chills when I hear certain instruments begin before the rest of a song, as I recall my high school graduation or the first flight I took during my semester abroad.
I think sitting in our nostalgia (every once in a while) is important for our growth and for making new memories. Hearing the songs or lyrics that encapsulate our feelings? That makes it even better.
Because I am a firm believer in tying music to memories, I’ve curated a playlist of songs that make me nostalgic: both for the amazing things I’ve experienced and for every memory I have yet to make. I hope that these songs (whether you love them already or they are completely new), make you more comfortable with paying respect to your nostalgic sentiments while also appreciating the memories you’re making every day.
“Mind Over Matter” by Young The Giant (2014)
This song is almost angelic. The guitar and vocal harmonies weave between one another to create a perfect home for feelings of nostalgia.
I associate “Mind Over Matter” with winters and early springs. One night of February my freshman year of college, it was dusk and raining. I walked around campus after a late class, then this song played. The rain wasn’t an inconvenience. Each raindrop brought a brighter reflection of the traffic lights to the street.
This song is warm, but not quite like the sun; it’s as if someone wrapped you in a tight hug. It brings comforting hues of gray and baby blue. It’s perfect for the homely memories, the soothing ones.
One lyric specifically shouts nostalgia: “And when the seasons change, will you stand by me?” This lyric is largely why I feel nostalgic at the transitional periods between seasons the most.
I highly recommend listening to the “in the open” version of this song to truly embrace the meaning and every emotion. It isn’t available on Spotify, but it is on YouTube. It’s a stripped down acoustic version that scratches your brain in the best way. Both versions, however, are some of my favorite examples of this kind of music.
“III. Telegraph Ave. (“Oakland,” by Lloyd)” by Childish Gambino (2013)
"Telegraph Ave." feels futuristic, almost reminding me of a video game.
The seventh track on Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet album can take us anywhere. I basked in the notes for the first time in high school. I love the way he included a song inside the song: static of a stereo strategically placed that mixes into perfect harmony.
This song shifts me into the driver's seat of a red convertible as I am driving through a brightly saturated sunset. Its range in pace and R&B elements throughout make it an enjoyable nostalgic soundtrack.
I am also reminded of each bus ride to volleyball games and the gym’s electrifying ambiance that later followed. This song is perfect for summer or early fall memories as it carries the energy of vibrant colors and creates a grin we can’t shake.
“Green Light” by Lorde (2017)
Lorde expertly crafts music for those of us experiencing nostalgia and growing older.
“Ribs” and “Liability” are typically what people would expect to hear in this playlist, and while I love them both, “Green Light” adds a lighter appeal to these feelings of change.
This song encapsulates summer, but in an earthy way. I think of lake days with my friends back home, or of my roommate and our friends cramming into our sardine box of a dorm room to watch TV together.
Yes, this song also plays at a pivotal moment in New Girl, which is one of my friends and my favorite shows; regardless, the swift tempo sparks a feeling of excitement I can’t quite explain.
Each lyric works in tandem as it leads me in a dance between my early teen years and the future. It makes me yearn for my teens. But, it also makes me think about the fun that lies ahead, specifically in the rest of my 20s.
“I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons (2012)
Any folksy, string heavy song like this one makes me sentimental.
It’s something about the instruments and the way the singers’ voices rise and fall with such intention. This song puts me in the shoes of Rapunzel in the Kingdom Dance scene from Tangled, dancing barefoot on marble as a band performs in front of me.
It also transports me back to a trip I took while abroad to Galway, Ireland, where live music brought the streets to life. This song is a gentle sunlight peeking through the clouds. It’s singing and dancing with friends, skipping through crowds as you hold hands and giggle.
This nostalgic feeling is never one of sadness. The sentiments come with overwhelming happiness that blooms in the chest. It’s one of the best songs for thinking of our friendships and all of the time we’ve spent with those people.
“The Kids Aren’t Alright” by Fall Out Boy (2015)
I end these recommendations with a personal classic.
I know that at least some of you went through the same “emo,” phase that I did in middle school. Twenty One Pilots, Panic! At the Disco, Fall Out Boy… I walked past a Hot Topic the other day and was immediately reminded of the time period. It’s been funny explaining my old Spotify playlists to new friends, but I won’t pretend I still don't like some of the old hits.
This song, specifically, knocks the wind out of me with the nostalgia I feel. The drum beats are slower, but the vocals pierce through the air with ease. I’m immediately brought back to the halls of my middle school, where I met two of my best friends. I can remember this song playing through my headphones as we embarked for our Washington, D.C. trip the summer after eighth grade.
This song made the list because of its ability to connect with youth. I see the end of springtime, soft shades of green and orange. It keeps me entangled with past versions of myself as I age, new memories slowly falling in line with the lyrics.
As the seasons do change, or as time moves forward, I hope you take the occasional minute and listen to your nostalgia. I hope that these songs bring great opportunities for you to do so, as they did for me.
Sink deeper into the nostalgia with the accompanying playlist on the RedHawk Radio Spotify!