Music and Maturation

The clatter of CD cases and the whir of the car radio was followed by the first notes of whichever Rolling Stones or Dire Straits song was first on the mix tape I’d selected to accompany the day’s car ride. My prepubescent interest in music was noticeable, surrounding everything from Steve Martin’s banjo to Tears For Fears’ synths. Much of my childhood and early adolescence was soundtracked by Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” and Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” while driving through rural Maryland, scenes straight out of an early 2000s movie where the young protagonist still possesses a curious and childlike innocence.

Endlessly listening to “dad rock” wasn’t necessarily by choice, but it grew to become one. My parents didn’t allow me to have a cell phone until my freshman year of high school, which meant a pink mp3 player loaded with my dad’s music was my vessel of choice for long bus rides home from even longer middle school days. One day, a girl next to me asked if she could listen along. I was playing The Beatles, most likely “Octopus’s Garden” or “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” which were two of my favorite Beatles songs at the time. She didn’t like it, and gave me the headphones back.

My coming of age experience with music wasn’t a scene phase or an unhealthy obsession with Taylor Swift, but was rather spurred by the introduction of social media, namely Tumblr, into my life. Countless nights were spent scrolling through the art-focused site, reblogging black and white gifs and baby pink hearts, and thus beginning what would become a deep dive into the trove that is indie music. My interest was first piqued by one of the more popular reblogs of 2013, a gif of an animated black line turning into the silhouette of a woman. After a bit of searching, I saw that it’d come from the music video for Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know?” -- a wildly popular song amongst angsty “tumblr girls,” a group that included myself.

The curious chorus, “Crawlin’ back to you (do I wanna know?)/ If this feeling flows both ways,” somehow resonated with 14-year old me, and I was instantly hooked. Alex Turner’s sultry English voice became my lullaby, unmatched by anything I had previously heard from my dad’s vinyl collection. I’d go on to spend hours poring over their discography, noting the development of sounds that each album made. It was enough to intrigue me, fascinate me, and engulf me in waves of curiosity -- what else is like this? It was a quest that led me to hear, see, and experience some of the strangest, most beautiful things art can offer.

My coming of age was entirely shaped by music and my own exploration into art. Arctic Monkeys, despite now carrying a bit of a corny connotation, was the foundation for the future of my understanding of music. My first real concerts (Tame Impala, Beach House, and Bon Iver), or my first time buying my own CDs (“AM,” “Modern Vampires of the City,” and “Turn Blue”), are unforgettable moments in my adolescence. The aforementioned “deep dive” into indie was accompanied by an obsession with learning about everything from the 60s to the 90s, including art, music, and movies.

I found solace in the music world, listening to “god tier” albums and reading music blogs religiously. There was something comforting about learning more, reading about how Carrie Brownstein named Sleater-Kinney or conspiracies of how Elliott Smith actually died. Music permeates everything I do; I buy concert tickets, read biographies and Wikipedia pages, and join Facebook groups. I learned ukulele and got a light blue Fender Mustang, playing Frankie Cosmos songs in my attic on hot summer nights. I go to art exhibits about The Velvet Underground and fawn over pictures of young Nico. It’s all part of the journey, one that shows something new at every turn, each road a display of different scenery.

My coming of age wasn’t always smooth sailing. High school brings its own problems to the table, and weighs on the mental health of impressionable students. Sometimes, music was the only way to confront the unconfrontable. It became the best confidant, closest friend, and deepest enemy. As cliche as it sounds, I can’t imagine my life without music. I’ve gone through every stage of my life with albums and songs as grounding forces to my growth and understanding of the world. It finds me everywhere, whether that’s noting a movie soundtrack or dancing (and probably singing) to the song playing in a restaurant. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words about concerts, albums, and artists -- and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Humans’ innate appreciation for music goes beyond our ancestral, earliest creation of drums orchant-like singing. It’s inside of us, coming out at the most surprising of times and manifesting in the most primitive ways. Possibly, this appreciation stops at an enjoyable tune on a commercial or whatever is playing on the radio that day. But maybe, just maybe, the appreciation spirals into something that is entirely your own.

By Allison Foster