October 4, 2013

Remix of the Week: Comfort Music

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A recent article in the Daily Sun (and another from the Wall Street Journal) highlighted the work of a Cornell professor tracking the link between music and nostalgia. I’m a firm believer that music is strongly connected to memory. Ask me about the song “Montana” by Youth Lagoon, and I automatically think of my favorite TA.  Mention “What a Feeling” by Peter Luts and Dominico, and I’m brought back to my days playing soccer in the most Jersey-ish of New Jersey high schools. However, play “Come on Eileen” to me, and I will probably just get really irritated (seriously, I have never played “Sweet Caroline” or “Jessie’s Girl” to annoy someone; why am I the exception?).

This week was really stressful for me. I’m sure this week was really stressful for about 95% of Cornell students (Hotelies: you were the group left out in that calculation). During weeks like this, I stop looking for new music and turn to my “comfort” songs. I generally have a pretty fast turnover rate for music; I’ll listen to a song really repetitively for about a week or so, and then it will get shoved into the endless abyss of my iTunes library (or, if it’s really bad, then some unshared Spotify playlist). Few songs make it past this initial week, but those that do are given a coveted spot in a secret (spoiler alert: it’s 100% Justin Bieber) “Top Plays” mix in my iTunes.

This secret playlist is my life: every song has some sort of emotional or nostalgic significance. These are the songs I listen to in crisis, the ones that I use as a coping mechanism when I’m completely overwhelmed. The day of my senior prom, I had a pretty major emotional breakdown (I’m cringing at how Jersey that sounds), and in order to calm down I plugged in my headphones and listened to “Gender Bombs” by The Stills — to this day my favorite song of all time — on repeat at an eardrum-crushing volume.  Maybe this is some kind of Pavlovian conditioning.  If I initially listen to a song when I’m completely relaxed, will my body automatically associate it with a tranquil state?

You might think I’m an emotionally unstable music-hoarder (the latter part is 100% true). Nonetheless, the point of all this is to make you realize the personal significance of this week’s remix. It might not be my favorite song, and, technically speaking, it’s nothing groundbreaking. However, I believe this song has the capacity to elicit a strong emotional response from the listener; it is my coping mechanism.

So who are these artists? MS MR is an electropop duo from New York. They mysteriously emerged on the scene about two years ago with “Hurricane” as their debut single. Like so many artists in this subgenre, they began as an “anonymous” group and gradually released music off their debut EP. As is too often the fate of these electropop bands, they started out strong, but as the hype surrounding them increased, their music became less inventive. While “Hurricane” is a beautiful, brilliant song, the rest of their album Secondhand Rapture is pretty disappointing. My knowledge about Hazy Mountains does not extend much beyond his Facebook page. Julian Prott is a German producer who has done a few remixes of pretty well-known indie bands, including MS MR, Daughter and Rhye.  My first listen of Prott’s remix of “Hurricane” was life changing. Ethereal and soothing, my mood immediately changed. No hate to MS MR, but I believe this is how “Hurricane” was meant to sound. While it doesn’t deviate too much from the original, it adds a dreamy quality that I wish MS MR had incorporated. In fact, when describing this remix to my friends, I often say that it sounds like a hazy mountain. It’s fuzzy and blurred, yet it has dramatic builds to the chorus. Definitely give this one a listen. Even if it doesn’t help you in times of crisis, it’s a pleasant song for a sunny day.