This is the sixth-most-played song in my iTunes library (after, among other things, “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” and the Beastie Boys). It’s a cover of another song, which is number eight.
It’s weird to me that they’re both in my top ten. They’re both very much tied to strong emotional periods in my life, they way you have when you’re in high school freshman year of college, and you Feel with a capital “f.” The first song is a cover of the second, originally by The Knife, a weirdass Swedish band that wears bird masks and makes electronic music, which I was introduced to as a junior in high school by the boy who would later turn my heart into ground beef.
It was the summer after my junior year of high school, and it was one of those summers that actually mattered (and the last time I would have a free summer before being shunted off to Nerd Camp I, Nerd Camp II, and employment for different kinds of personal growth). Most of my friends were a year older than me, and I got sucked into their celebrations of having graduated in between being mad at my parents and brewing wine in a Nalgene in my closet (memories!). There was a lot of drinking Two Buck Chuck and finally feeling like I had people who liked me enough that they wouldn’t shun me if I danced around them, and taking long-exposure glowstick photos, and singing along to Kimya Dawson in the car without a whole lot to worry about.
Eventually, though, freshmen year of college happened. Narrated by a lot of The Knife (and the Avett Brothers, as I’d picked up the banjo), I began to date the ground beef kid. I was introduced to Bones and gin and awkward dorm sex. Life was good! Six months later, when I got dumped over Gchat, The Knife–along with pretty much everything from that junior summer–got put away. The Avett Brothers stayed and Bright Eyes climbed into my most-played list. I spent a lot of evenings knitting myself back together in front of some very understanding friends, and eventually–after drunkenly crying on a porch in Athens–moved on.*
I still don’t listen to the original version of the song much. Unless I’m dancing, the synth noises are grating to me and remind me of an awful New Year’s party during which I was repeatedly kicked in the shins and had to pull a Swede out of a flowerpot. But this version, an acoustic version by José González, I like. Now that I’m removed from feeling so completely, shatteringly, like I was never going to have what this song was talking about, I like it. This version, particularly, makes me think of those same friends, now removed from the garage apartment and settled in little shoebox student apartments of their own.
If I was even more self-indulgent sappier, I’d make some connection between the two different versions of the song and my life changes. Maybe there is. I have made new memories, and I listen to the acoustic cover now more than I ever did the original. Life moved on. But mostly, the song just reminds me of exactly what it was like to be 17 and really, really happy. It’s a snapshot.
* When that guy dumped me, I headbutted a piano. Engineers!