The Music That Made Me: Electric Six

Filed under music is my boyfriend, stuff i like

The other day, Dr. Boyfriend innocently informed me that he’d been listening to Electric Six’s Switzerland album on his iPod, not realizing that I’d go crazy reminiscing about how much it meant to me three short years ago. See, I met my ex-boyfriend Todd during our senior year of college at THE Ohio State University in a German film class, and after we’d dated for six months, he moved here for grad school at NYU. I took an extra year to write an undergraduate thesis and then moved to NYC myself, thinking that we’d both loved karaoke and strawberry shortcake from Whole Foods and riding the subway equally.

It turned out that Todd only liked to sing one song at karaoke, that they built a Whole Foods in Ohio, and that the subway made his claustrophobia act up. So he planned to move back home, and I planned to move with him, because it’s hard here, you know? And it’s even harder when you don’t know anyone but five of your boyfriend’s friends. I started looking at apartments in Columbus, picked out my future dining room table one day while I was shopping on High Street with my best friend, Tracey, and even bought some candles to match the exposed brick wall I imagined my new place would have.

And then I just didn’t go. Todd still went, and my friends must have thought I was the biggest asshole for teasing them with my plans to go with him, but I stayed, and I left our beautiful 350-square-foot studio with its black and white checked bathroom tile in Chelsea and found a sublet in Brooklyn. The sublet was the ground level of a brownstone in Park Slope where the kitchen, living room, bathroom, and one bedroom were on the first floor, and the entire basement was a second bedroom with its own bathroom.

I was rather lonely during that time. I hadn’t really considered NYC my home and hadn’t bothered to accept any invitations to hang out with friendly co-workers, so the only person I had to rely on was a guy from my very first job in the city. He lived in Park Slope and had been the one to convince me to take a sublet there, so I naturally assumed he’d be my tour guide and makeshift boyfriend. We did super-romantic things like meet at midnight for walks in the park (because he didn’t go into work until 11 a.m. and didn’t care that I had to be up at 7), listen to hours and hours of Radiohead (because it’s the only band we had in common) in his one-bedroom apartment (I didn’t know anyone else who was able to afford to live alone in NYC, so it impressed me), and watch the sun set from the roof of the Met (and then go straight to our respective homes instead of continuing an actual date). He’d call me only once a week, and I’d call Tracey eight times a day to complain about it.

The lease was up for the girl I was subletting from at the end of August, and I just assumed that my friend Wen (who I met while working Barnes & Noble, which was my second job for the first year I lived here) and I could just slide right in to a new lease. But on August 29th, the landlord called to tell me he was raising the rent from $2100 to $2800 and that I could get the hell out if I wasn’t happy with it. I begged him for a month to find a new apartment, and Wen helped me move my stuff into the basement bedroom so I could enjoy four glorious weeks of sleeping in a room the size of other people’s entire apartments.

I’d met Kamran (who is, of course, the current Dr. Boyfriend) on September 14th, but I wasn’t spending every waking moment at his apartment in front of a reality TV show yet. Every morning, I’d take a shower in the first-floor bathroom (because the downstairs one had seemed too scary to me after the flooding) and then try to find a corner of my room where I wasn’t visible to Wen on the first floor. The staircase was an open one with wooden bars where a wall should have been, so anyone standing in the kitchen could look down into the bedroom through the bars and see whatever wild thing I might be doing. I tried hanging sheets up with various sticking materials, but nothing ever took, so I resigned myself to hiding in my closet to put my underwear on for a month.

And I’d listen to Switzerland every single morning. I mean every single morning. Wen was always upstairs listening to cool stuff like The Blow from the crappy speakers attached to our TV (since we didn’t have a proper stereo), and I was always trying to drown him out with “I Buy the Drugs”. Which is totally a romantic song, right? “I am your man and I buy the drugs.”

I have no idea why the album hit me in just the right spot at that particular time. Maybe it’s because I was in such a state of oh-my-god-why-did-I-decide-to-stay-here? that I needed the tongue-in-cheek-ness of it to keep me focused on my yay-I-have-the-chance-to-do-whatever-I-want-to-with-my-life-in-NYC! thoughts and to keep my mind off my oh-crap-I-have-no-money-I-need-to-find-a-new-apartment-I’m-not-tough-enough-for-NYC thoughts. It was super-exciting to live in Brooklyn for the first time in this huge apartment and super-exciting to start looking for our next new place in my now-neighborhood of Williamsburg with Wen and super-exciting to be dating this person who felt different than everyone else from the moment I met him, and I really associate the album with those feelings and that time.

And now I have a boyfriend who loves it, too. Kamran and I agree that this is the best song on the album:

And now that I’ve told you my life story, tell me yours. What songs do you associate with certain times in your life? If you’re really motivated (and I hope you are), write your own blog/journal entry about it and let us know in the comments so everyone can enjoy.


  1. 4 says:

    I have songs I associate with times of my life, but none of them trigger anything emotionally, they used to, at least I could look back and feel something, I think I’ve died inside.

    Maybe it was just the drugs, maybe I need something new, you can’t mark time when nothing changes.

    Not much of a story.

    • I had to ask my roommate if it was him who left this comment, but he claims he’s not quite as nihilistic as you are, so congrats.

      I’m still interested in your songs, though.

      • cow says:

        I’ll give you a few. Modest mouse, dramamine, back in early 05 this song seemed to fit the bill when I abandoned the world, later 05 when I tried to come back to the world, autolux, part of my stoner mix of 06, stephen malkmus, kindling for the master, probably the best time of my life, all I did was kill zombies, early last year ghostland observatory, sad sad city, when I started hanging with someone, it makes me think of bernies and comfest that year, and all the strangeness of the time.

    • So excellent! I probably should’ve asked in your blog, but does Ryan have any hang-ups about your ex?

      Also, I’m totally not embarrassed that I used to listen to Yellowcard, even though everyone made fun of me. I thought “Only One” was soooooo good. Oh, man, I just looked it up on YouTube, and it’s still just as good. Gah.

      • Noel says:

        To answer your question, I don’t think Ryan has any hang-ups about my ex. It’s sort of a joke between us: my ex was named Ryan and was from Ohio, and the same is true of my husband. My now-husband just quickly learned to accept that I had baggage, and that’s why I love him! Awwww…

  2. Smail says:

    You do know that Sr. Dick Valentine lives in Brooklyn? You may have even rubbed shoulders on the subway.

    • There’s no way he rides the subway. People like him and Zach Galifianakis never leave Brooklyn. (Which reminds me that I need to add him to my Famous People I’ve Seen list.) I never consider how many rockstars totally live in my neighborhood, though. If I did, I’d probably never see Kamran again for fear of missing out on a Matt & Kim sighting.

  3. Sonya says:

    Hey Lady.. I know I have heard your “still in NYC because”… story before but they way you wrote it, it sounded completely new. Anyways you should listen to Heaven by Fire theft.. it’s good :)


      I’d give you a pass because of the first part of the comment, but I’ll bet you have lots of songs stories that I should hear about.

      • Sonya says:

        Yes, the best story involves Nelly- “Hot in Herre” and awkward bar dancing hahaha… will have to share over coffee or drinks :)

  4. Tracey says:

    Just as you do, I’m sure, I have too many important music memories to ever account for them all. But the one I’m thinking about right now is how, in high school, your dragging me to see Guster and playing Jump in your car while you drove me everywhere made me snap out of my metal-only phase and start listening to new music. It coincided perfectly with hard rock stations disappointing me with Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit, and I needed somewhere to turn.

    • I’m actually going to account for every single one of them. Right here.

      It’s so weird to me to imagine a time when you weren’t listening to Jump and Guster and BRMC and all that with me. It’s also hard to imagine how much my life revolved around Jump at one point, though, too.

      It might please you to know that this weekend, Kam and I were watching The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, and I was totally singing along to the Megadeth songs. So I’m glad for your metal phase.

      • Tracey says:

        It does please me to know that you knew the Megadeth songs, and that you were even watching that film in the first place. You know, the director of that movie also directed Wayne’s World.

  5. Kelly says:

    OK, mine are way lamer than yours, but you asked, so here you go.

    Juliana Hatfield’s “My Sister” and “Blister in the Sun” by the Violent Femmes remind me of my best times in college at UAB. Those were sort of our sorority’s songs, and everyone knew it, and we thought we were so cool when we’d show up en masse at some club and the DJ would stop whatever he/she was playing and switch to “Blister in the Sun.” It was probably as close as I’ll ever get to feeling like a celebrity.

    • Hey, those are both great songs. And I don’t know why, but when I read your comment, I totally imagined you and Mere at a club, doing the dance that Cher and Tai do at the Valley party in Clueless (about 6:45 in) while everyone watched:

      Tell me that’s pretty much exactly how it was.

      • Kelly says:

        Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what it was like, actually. Complete with the shoe.

        See, Mere loves to go to rock shows. LOVES. IT. I do too, but I’m not quite as obsessed with smashing my body against the front of the stage, staying until the last note reverberates off the walls, etc.

        Once, we went to some show – I can’t remember who was playing. Anyway, we were on the front row, happily rocking out, when a mosh pit suddenly broke out around me. Mere hightailed it, but it was several seconds before I could make my way out of the homoerotic display of angst and testosterone. And in the process, I lost my shoe.

        Moshed against my will AND I lost a shoe. No Elton or Travis to make up for it, either.

        TO THIS DAY, I bitch about that shoe, especially when Mere makes fun of me. “And thanks to YOU, MERE, I had to hobble through the parking lot of the Five Points Music Hall WITH ONLY ONE SHOE.”

        I’m surprised I didn’t get the ebola.

  6. Kelly says:

    And another thing, this post is so well-written it, like, made me have feelings. And I don’t particularly like having feelings. The only feelings I care to acknowledge are Happy and Rage.

    Therefore, you owe me a drink. Because what are you supposed to do when you have feelings? Pour booze on them, that’s what.

    • I totally ready that as “the only feelings I care to acknowledge are Happy and Reggae.” And while I hate reggae, I was pretty amused.

      I’m very interested in what this made you feel, though.

  7. kylie says:

    i doubt it will surprise you to learn that my entire life is soundtracked. i’m trying to come up with an example that doesn’t make me sound like a sad bastard, but nothing is coming to mind. my favorite moments are always radiohead ones.

    oh, i have a good one. i was in 9th grade and i had gotten a detention for tardies and as extra punishment i was forced to walk to my grandma’s house instead of being picked up. it was a sunny fall day and as i walked past the identical, picturesque suburban houses i listened to ok computer.

    “no surprises” came on and i suddenly felt like everything in life made sense, and as soon as the song was over it all went back to being muddled and frustrating again.

    that’s one of my clearest memories of school, and also one of my clearest memories of what it is that makes me love music and art in general – the illuminating, clarifying, transformative effect it can have on you and your perception of the world. there is no logic in moments like that, they’re simply inspired.

    • Man, you’ve really f-ed up my day. You reminded me of going to see Radiohead in 2001 in Cleveland with this boy I totally loved and all of his cute boy friends, and they opened with some song that totally blew my mind when paired with all the lights of their backdrop. 58hours tells me it was “National Anthem”, but I’d swear it wasn’t. And it was the best night, and I can’t find anything about it in my old, old journal, but I can’t imagine that I didn’t write about it, and now I’m going to spend the next 8 hours trying to find it.

      Anyway, not to take away from your story. I completely know what you’re saying about the power of music to make me feel one way or another and how I can manipulate myself into feeling excited or sullen simply by switching bands on my iPod. It makes me a little sad the way I used to listen to nothing but, like, Damien Jurado and Sunny Day in college because I was all into making myself feel morose because life was so easy and I had to put myself down to write seriously. But now everything’s so serious, and I have to listen to Ladyhawke to keep from killing myself. (You know, kidding.)

      But the funny thing is how a whole lot of us share these feelings about the power of music, and yet we’re all listening to different stuff. I laugh at people who say that My Chemical Romance means something to them, but what the hell, crap like Bush means something to me.

  8. Tessa says:

    You know, I don’t know the Electric Six and I’m not going to click on those bits you’ve posted just yet, because:

    When my then-dear, dear friend Tricia was moving from Georgia to Florida, I was absolutely distraught, and so was she, and we needed something seriously cathartic and horrific and true and deep — and our high school was putting on some play about the Holocaust, so we decided to go see it, and it was just kind of bad, and we could have kinda giggled if we hadn’t been relying SO MUCH on it to carry our agony faithfully through to another level of acceptance and growth.

    And tonight has been a seriously intense night for me, and I miss my best friend more than any other person has ever missed her best friend, and she needs support more than any other best friend has ever needed support, and I need to cry, and if your clips don’t make me cry, I’ll just feel worse, but not in that true, deep worse way — but like an eggshell half crumbled and half clinging to the skin of the white.

    • You know it offends me to hear you claiming to be missing your best friend more than any other person has ever missed her best friend, but I suppose I do fly home to see mine, like, once a month now, so I’ll let it slide.

      These videos won’t make you cry, but rereading your comment may. It was so beautiful, and I feel bad that my blog gets to hold on to it instead of yours.

  9. anne says:

    Red Hot Chilli Peppers One Hot Minute makes me re-live a ife-defining relationship. From Falling into Grace to Tearjerker. The ups and down of dealing with falling in love, to drug addictions, to trying to put him behind me.

    Most indie/emo bands (before emo was emo)from 1997-2000 make me think of the OSU college radio station and more specifically, the summer of 1998. Especially Built to Spill, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Neutral Milk Hotel.

    Paul Simon’s Graceland brings me right back to long family car trips between Chicago and Cleveland.

    • I can’t believe you listened to the OSU radio station. I DJed for it my junior and senior years, but I was so sure that not a single person was listening and was sort of lax about the whole thing. I’m sure there were a hundred times when I forgot to turn off the mic while a song was playing or forgot to ever push play and just had a bunch of dead air. I really wish someone had pushed to make that thing more a part of student culture. Your emo band choices are rad, though.

      Do you think you could write more about this life-defining relationship? You know I’m interested. (As are all of your adoring fans, I’m sure.)

      • anne says:

        I was the Underground’s Personnel Director for a time. I also had a half-hour Movie Hour show for a quarter on Fridays. My now husband also had a show on Saturdays. We are all music snobs, yay!

        To protect the totally-not-innocent (and super guilty), I will only say this. The station manager at that time may or may not have been the aforementioned life-defining relationship.

        He was wonderful when we met- super smart, involved in activities, about to graduate, traveled, lived abroad growing up, nice to his mom, etc. He dissolved into drugs and lying and stealing to feed his addiction. Now I realize that I was probably one in a line of girls over the years that fell for him and got screwed, but at the time I felt super alone and sad. He lied about his past and what he was really doing all the times he wasn’t were he was supposed to be. It felt like I knew everything about him, and we were very close. Too close for me to see obvious signs. One day, the truth all came out. I tried to work on our relationship for a few months, but eventually it was way beyond my abilities to help him. I don’t even know now if I was ever that important in his life, which makes me a little angry too.

        So at the end of college, I did poorly in school but learned great life skills- like all about withdrawal symptoms and pawn shops! I lost $$ (as did our friends/roommates) and a lot of self-respect. He eventually left town, taking our dog with him. The most life-defining part was that he left me with trust “issues.” That’s putting it mildly. I also assume everyone around me is on drugs if they start acting irresponsibly ;-) It was quite a learning experience. It was total foreshadowing that Trainspotting and Basketball Diaries were my favorite movies!

        Also, I will totally not admit to routinely checking to see if he has a facebook/myspace/new public record.

  10. Mark says:

    “This video has been removed due to terms of use violation.” :(

    So, you can watch the sunset from the roof of The Met????
    Seriously, you can watch the sunset from the roof of The Met???
    (I’ve been to The Met many, many, many times; never tried to get on the roof though; didn’t know I could.)

    I play kickball; it’s like a league thing. I play for “a cause,” though I’m not sure what ours is. We’re undefeated! (4 – 0) ANYWAY, last night, the “red team” (The Fifth Graders) sang power ballads from the ’80s, like “Living On A Prayer,” and played beer pong, while we, the “grey team” (Playground Legends) sat & talked quietly. It was impressive how every single one of them sang loudly in unison to each song.

    (Something in my constitution prevents me from doing stuff like that. This one time at a “ring dance” in high school, all the guys ran up to the dance floor and raised their rings, clamoring together, jumping on one another, making these deep, masculine resounding “ooooooooh” noises. I just sat back with my date and made fun of it. I just can’t. Fall ’07, I saw Obama speak in Washington Square Park. At the end of it, he started a chant: “Fire it up!” “Ready to go!” People all around me chanting. I just couldn’t. I’m, like, physically repulsed by conforming to group behaviors like that.)

    ANYWAY, I don’t identify with power ballads or much of anything from the ’80s at all. Prince, MJ & Madonna don’t resonate with me; though I’m sure Devo, The Talking Heads & Violent Femmes would if I ever really opened myself up to them. I was a child of late ’90s alternative rock radio & punk rock stuff in high school, though my dad sort of laid the foundation with regularly playing Beatles songs on the guitar throughout my childhood. I emerged into really liking Bob Dylan & Elliott Smith in my sophomore year of college. I’ve kinda stuck with that. I don’t generally really care for what my friends have cared for, musically. I’ve bonded with a very small handful of people over strong musical interests. Later on, I came into really liking Mirah, Regina Spektor & Modest Mouse. I like people who structure songs and sounds how they’re not necessarily supposed to, but still organize stuff together so it’s still simple & poppy & accessible.

    • I found another one to post, so watch it while you can.

      The roof is open late on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s pretty awesome/unforgettable, especially when they have a cool exhibit up there. Here’s the very little info I found about it on their site. Take your neighbor there, ifyouknowwhatImean.

      Um, yes, I feel entirely like you do when it comes to strange ritualistic group behavior. Although I don’t feel that way when it comes to church services, come to think of it; I love singing in unison and reciting prayer in unison and things like that, but maybe only because it’s respectful and not cheesy/wannabe-ish.

      I was listening to my parents’ folk music in the 80s and early 90s, so Prince and Madonna are still totally foreign to me, and I only know Michael because of the popularity of his stuff in recent years thanks to the 80s revival. I know alternative 80s/90s stuff like The Cure/Smiths/Clash because when I finally did get into rock in the mid to late 90s, the local indie radio station played all of the old stuff, too. Going to the 80s night at one of the bars in Columbus when I go home to visit my family is sort of weird for me, because my best friend is dancing especially hard to the B-52s and Prince, and it just sounds horrible to me.

      Anyway, yeah, it seems like it worked out for the best for you, although I’m surprised to hear you call Modest Mouse “poppy”. The Moon and Antarctica was sort of a life-changing album for me, but I thought (and still think) it’s so weird.

      How do you feel about this? And, you know, this?

      • Mark says:

        I am definitely 100% more of a Shins person than a Sounds person. I’ve always had a strong preference for real instrumentation over synthesized dance beats. It must relate back to my vastly preferring my dad’s guitar playing to the Madonna/Prince/MJ noise that’d come out of my sister’s boom box, and the fact that I started listening to music when Kurt Cobain and the wave of music that came with him washed away all that synthesized stuff from rock music for a good while in my formative music-listening years.

        I am very “to the beat of my own drummer” about a lot of words. One example is my liberal use of the word “nonsense,” and I guess another is this “poppy” thing. In thinking it over, I can’t really decide what music I wouldn’t consider to fit my definition of “poppy.” Most everything seems to fit. All I can think of is really heavy hardcore noisy classic rock, or, well, obviously classical music, and certain bands that sometimes make music that just deviates so much from pop that it trends toward the not accessible at times: Radiohead, Tool, NIN. And I suppose you wouldn’t consider indie bands like Fugazi to be “poppy.” Still, there is something very “poppy” about a lot of Modest Mouse songs, even if their style is “weird.” Lonesome Crowded West is basically the only album my elementary/high school friends can all agree on as being both great and a personal favorite of all of ours. There’s a core group of four of us & we all have pretty divergent tastes.

        I need to write an all-encompassing journal entry that explains the “french girl” neighbor. Something happened. She quit her job & went back to Paris about a week & a half ago. I have another neighbor in mind who would definitely appreciate the rooftop Met thing; I am definitely going to mention it to her.