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In high school, there was a girl on the fencing team (which, yes, I was on) who was a year or two older than me and was, by fencing team standards, pretty cool. She was captain of our team and worked on the literary magazine and wrote things like “turquoise,” “scarves,” and “the name Vincent” as interests on Facebook. So I was slightly disillusioned when I saw that her favorite Facebook quote (which I obviously use as the final test of a person’s character) was, “Find good people who care about you and surround yourself with just them. If you can’t find them at first, find good music and fall into it. Let it hold you until they come.” (Apparently, Davey Havok said this. I don’t know who that is.) In high school, I thought that this was just the most idiotic, pretentious, meaningless quote ever.
It still might be. But, looking back on it, it is also right. And I know that because best band evah, “The Strokes”—and particularly their debut album, “Is This It”—is that for me.
I only got this particular album back in middle school because my mother read an article about the Strokes and decided that I should listen to them. (She was trying to steer me away from profanity-laced rap. True story.) And thus the Strokes accidentally became the first band that I really listened to on my own, independent of what CD’s my parents brought on car trips or what was on the radio.
But accidental or otherwise, this album did for me what Davey Havok (whoever he is) said good music could: It held me. It held me when I got flustered and forgot my books all the time at the beginning of seventh grade, when I came home from soccer practice (this in and of itself was a feat), when middle school and thirteen year old girls were as awful as they are in the movies.
And I never got tired of that feeling—of being able to find home in a piece (or pieces) of music. I like all of the Strokes’ albums, but there is something about this particular album—their first, and, consequently, my first encounter with them—that feels at once safe and angsty and free and every other thing that I want to feel. The best part is that what this music evokes changes as I grow. Part of me will always go back to being 12 and disappointed with the world when I listen to “Take It or Leave It,” but only a part. Because all of me is there in some form. (I don’t know, you guys—it’s “Hard to Explain.”)
A friend of mine wrote a really excellent tumblr post about how there are certain songs that she can’t listen to because of what they remind her of (txtxCJ). And this should be that for me, because, in a way, this album reminds me of everything I’ve ever been and believed, and I’d probably rather forget some of that. And indeed, there are artists to whom I cannot listen because they’re too tied to some point of my life or past point of view (I’m looking at you, Alanis). But the point is that “Is This It” has never and will never be that. Because every time I hear “Can’t you see I’m trying? I don’t even like it. I just lied to get to your apartment” (the first lyrics on the album, obvs), I find all of me in the music.
Because it held me until I found good people, and even past that.
All of which confirms my original belief: That girl on the fencing team was so cool.