Musings musings marissa

Musings /// Odessa and the Power of Music Over Memory

On how songs make memories that stick with you for the good (Odessa) and the bad (Colorado jam bands).

odeassaWhen I dumped my first boyfriend, I did it by holding the receiver of the phone up to my bright-yellow Sony Sport boom box and playing him The Samples’ “Nothing Lasts Forever” while he hung on the line helpless.  It wasn’t a particularly nice gesture, but, in ninth grade, the ability to utter “let’s just be friends” had not yet crossed my mind. Anyway, I’d had it with the fact that his favorite band was Urge Overkill. I mean, whose favorite band is Urge Overkill?

I leaned two lessons that day: that music imprints into your brain next to the memories it goes along with, and that karma is real. Now, whenever I think of the sloppy, all-thumbs moments of my early dating life, I think of that song. The fact that I am stuck with bland Colorado pseudo-hippie jam rock for the rest of my days is entirely my fault, really. Poor ex-boyfriend, and poor me.

There are no significant moments of my life not pegged to a song or record. When I think of my brother, it’s the Sex Pistols for the early days and Chet AtkinsThe Day the Finger Pickers Took Over the World for anything past his high school years; the former being a name so incredibly confusing to me to see on cassette tapes when I’d sneak into his bedroom to snap his hidden stash of cigarettes in half, and the latter being the first real record to make me understand the excessive power of guitar, beyond rock ‘n’ roll riffs, jams and power chords. (For the record, I eventually grew to love the Sex Pistols, even though at age ten I probably assumed it was porn).

There are the boyfriend records (Dave Matthews, Wu Tang, The Cure), sure, but everyone has those. I have soundtracks for each year of high school, graduation, prom, first jobs, first apartments, good meals and tragic occurences; ones that signify different moments in college (the roommate who became my best friend and all-nighter buddy who eventually went rogue and stole my couch, gets the entire Fiona Apple When the Pawn LP, that lucky bitch, because it was the music to her freshman year short film for Tisch that I happened to star in. I pray daily that never finds its way to the Internet). I have an LP for the first three months of dating my husband (U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind), the second three months (David Gray), our brief sojourn living in Los Angeles (Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley band, No Age, Cold War Kids), and everything else (usually Bob Dylan). There are so many more, I could devote an entire blog to the musical moments that make up the very fibers of my existence; screw Instagram, because no gauzy snapshot can ever compare to the way “Little Green Bag” instantly makes me think of every single second as teenagers with my best friend, lying about our age to everyone we met at the Looking Glass bar on Second Avenue in Manhattan, perched at the high wood car tables with $7 pitchers of cheap beer in chunky heels and stringy tank tops. If my house caught fire, I’d probably grab my record albums before my photo albums.

The most recent addition to my musical life lexicon is Odessa’s “I Will Be There,” officially becoming the first song to signify the early moments of my young son’s life, and the realization that, for evermore, love songs would permanently have a new meaning as a parent. The first time I went out after giving birth was to catch Rayland Baxter and Odessa playing an intimate show at Barista Parlor. I was eight weeks postpartum and still not looking like myself, so we stood at the back of the room, afraid we were going to fall asleep standing up, clutching my phone on vibrate in case the babysitter called. I was wearing a floral dress I bought from Target for the weird in-between size after childbirth; though I never wore it again, I will always remember that dress (and I hope to banish what I looked like in it from my memory), though not as well as I will remember that song

I’d seen Odessa around town, particularly at Supper & Song (RIP) in the back yard of Imogene + Willie, and was entranced by the crispness of her voice and the way she was able to create an unflappable mood with her music; oozy atmospheric guitar sounds that make you question the existence of synthesizers, a perfect incarnation of modern folk. And in that moment at Barista Parlor, as she drew out the syllables in the word “one” with unique inflection, I knew that I was experiencing a cosmic shift in my brain; I thought how, maybe in a different place in time, this song could be about a boyfriend, or an ex-boyfriend, but there, in my half-conscious, sleep deprived mind, next to coffee machines and carved wood tables, that this song would always be about my new, tiny son.

And last week, when the single arrived in my inbox, we played it non-stop, and all those emotions of new first-times and floral dresses and promises only a mother could make came back and stayed there. If he ever needs someone, I will be there.

And this song is sure to mean something for you, too. Something different, certainly, but something wonderful all the same.

P.S., Just be glad you aren’t stuck with The Samples.

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