By Kris Kielich
Starting around late September and lasting until about the end of January, the nostalgia hits me. You can call my best friend and ask him how much I go on and on about all the great times from my past. Unlike most, I don’t see it as a sign of acting like I’m having a mid-life crisis, nor am I trapped by my memories. I still live in the moment, but I enjoy looking back and remembering times when I felt truly happy. It’s images and feelings; places I’ve gone and things I’ve done. It’s the small things: late nights with friends, high school sports games, and concerts of the past. This isn’t a nostalgia of romance (which is in a category all its own) but one of enjoying the fun of the past. So in that spirit, here’s a list of my top five songs ABOUT this kind of nostalgia, not songs that make me personally nostalgic. And again, no lost love songs here, that’s a separate list altogether.
5. "Stressed Out" – Twenty One Pilots
“Wish we could turn back time to the good old days.”
Yes, yes, yes here come the “so cliché” comments. I’ll take it. For every that this song has been overplayed, it still captures something very real. The generation I find myself in, and even the bubble I’m personally in, is one where in the past we cared little what others thought of us, or at least less than now. But now, we care too much how others view us. And now we’re living in what I call “the anxiety generation” because of these realizations. This song touches exactly upon that in such a simple and succinct way. I mean, it’s the title for God’s sake. We weren’t stressed out, and now we are for a whole host of reasons. But beyond the what’s changed for the worse, we still can look back to better times growing up making memories with family. I think the song reminds us of that in spite of its other messages to a generation lost within themselves.
4. "Growing Up" – The Maine
“Photograph, oh give me something to remember.”
Looking back on the memories you’ve made with your best friend always seems to bring a smile to your face, doesn’t it? You’re young, and perhaps not every decision you made was the best one, but you’ll never forget the results. The Maine’s “Growing Up” celebrate everything we love about forming a true friendship with someone. It’s about the moments you don’t forget, even when you perhaps move away and start new lives apart. Those moments don’t dissipate with time. To quote Metallica, if I may, “the memory remains.”
3. "Eugene" – Sufjan Stevens
“What’s left is only bittersweet. For the rest of my life admitting the best is behind me.”
Approaching nostalgia from the point of view of a mourning man is not easy, but Sufjan Stevens in all his talent pulls it off in a beautiful eulogy to the fond memories of his childhood and of his family. A death that’s close to us forces us to remember all that was good and joyful about our time with the person we’ve lost. In in that remembering lies the miracle of memory and nostalgia in the first place. There’s no escaping the loss of a loved one, but we can travel back in time with them, even for a brief moment, in our own mind. And there they live on forever. But beyond the grief, the bright guitar and opening stanzas show us that Sufjan is definitely remembering some wonderful memories growing up in Eugene, Oregon. Once again, we pull goodness from tragedy.
2. "Sovereign Light Café" – Keane
“I’m going back to a time when we owned this town”
Just as much as memories of events or people, places can really throw you back to your experiences of growing up, especially your hometown. Keane’s “Sovereign Light Café” is a wistful look at the places we remember going with friends and loved ones and how much a part of our fabric as people those places are. If you’re in for a triumphant punch of post-britpop AND hard hitting nostalgia, this is worth your time. To this day I defend that Tim Rice-Oxley is one of the most sentimental songwriters working today, and singer Tom Chaplin is a force of nature when it comes to singing.
1. "Sidewalks" – Story of the Year
“The town that we lived in. The memories shaken apart from the weeds that grow over the sidewalks.”
So, how do you bring all of the nostalgic feelings from the past songs into one? Story of the Year does it brilliantly in “Sidewalks.” The thing about all of the previous songs is that for me, while all are great, they lack the instrumentation that really sells a sense of looking back and nostalgia. The acoustic guitar in this song seems to sound like the pulse of life for a teenager: fast, frenetic, and wonderfully melodic. The emotional delivery of the lyrics about remembering the moments and images that stick in your mind about your hometown growing up is longing and passionate. Seeing the little things that make your town unique, as well as experiencing touchstone moments with your friends; these are the things that make you smile years after you think you’ve forgotten. That’s what this song captures so well.
What are some of your favorite songs about nostalgia?
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