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Scene music critics reveal their personal tastes

Liam Farrell | Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Nick Hornby wrote in his brilliant book 31 Songs that “sometimes, very occasionally, songs and books and films and pictures express who you are, perfectly. And they don’t do this in words or images necessarily; the connection is a lot less direct and more complicated than that.” One of the most impressive abilities of music and simple, sometimes incredibly inane rock and pop songs is to transport their listener back to a specific place and time and allow them to recall exactly how they felt. Day after day, week after week, music is my own personal time machine.

The best songs, the ones that stick with me, are the ones that I can place within a specific time and place. Coldplay’s Parachutes, the first side of Sigur Ros’ ( ) and just about every U2 and R.E.M. song ever written has its place on my own personal timeline. Like Hornby’s character Rob in High Fidelity, my music collection is less a definition of musical taste than of autobiography.

Last May I was in the Dublin airport coming back from a semester abroad, and I thought the perfect last purchase in Ireland would be a CD. After glancing through the racks I picked up Idlewild’s The Remote Part, an album and an artist I had never heard of. It’s always a dangerous proposition to buy something costing over 10 euros on impulse alone, but I gave it a shot.

Once it hit the third track, “American English,” I was sold on it. The rest of the album was very good, but that third track had me hitting repeat all the way from Ireland to New York, and I still listen to that song about once a day. The driving beat, the pulse, the beautiful refrain that promises to “keep singing a song about myself / not some invisible world.” Every time I hear that song I am brought back to the moment I walked through JFK and saw my girlfriend, Caitlin, running toward me after months of being apart, and in the words of the song, “I won’t tell you what this means / ’cause you already know.” Other songs I listen to may be better, and Idlewild will probably never be loved by millions of people, but almost no song can bring me back to better memories.

Contact Liam Farrell at [email protected]