I Heard You in Every Song, So I Changed My Music Taste

by Sydney Tate Bradford

Listening to Indie Rock again on a two-and-a-half-hour drive home was devastating, to say the very least. It tugged relentlessly at each compartmentalized memory of our future — and while this sounds extremely dramatic, I have nothing redeeming to say for the self-induced hyperventilation party I had in my beloved desert khaki-colored Subaru (shoutout to any fellow travelers who may have witnessed this character arc).

What I love about this genre, no matter how painful it has become, is the way a drawn-out guitar riff can hint at such emptiness and fullness in one fell swoop. The type of tunes you could add to a playlist for small gatherings with close friends and know it would be appreciated amongst myriad genres — maybe a nod of approval or an utter silence of acknowledgment that overtakes the group — either way, there’s potential for this music to mean something substantial. And to anyone who disagrees, I could likely agree with you, too.

Timing is key — as I’m hinting carefully, I haven’t been able to engage with this music for over a year now in the ways I did previously.

A love letter to certain albums turned into a love letter to you, unashamedly. We discovered new artists together, dreamed of mini-road trips to cheap shows, and played my trenchant twenty-hour ‘love sounds’ playlist practically on repeat. It was all very romantic, and not once considering the possibility that we would ever be apart.

What was love to us then is not love to us now. We discovered codependency together, dreamed of overcoming our plights hand in hand, and eventually, I moved away.

It wasn’t until I saw you again that I realized I’d tabled particular character traits or tendencies in music taste. I still loved those songs, but it hurt to be reminded of how we cherished them in union and idealizing. With you eventually discovering new artists in the same genre, and me, entirely avoiding any hint of reminiscing as a safety measure.

As we move throughout our lives, our styles undoubtedly change in whatever natural capacity. Discovering new clothing options, new ways to express ourselves, and new subsets of genres we’ve always liked. After our relationship, I was on a wave of self-discovery that spanned all categories. I never saw it as escapism, but I am so unusually grateful that I kept a distance from this space that unequivocally belonged to us before now.

The Jephries are an Alaskan-based three-person Indie Rock group with two albums out so far. Their album Holland is one you shared, noting more than three songs as “absolute favorites,” understandably so. Over and over it was suggested that I listen. Over and over, I said, “maybe, sometime.”

After an entirely overwhelming few weeks, I decided it was the moment I needed to delve into self-reflection, and their music was my company of choice.

It was a whirlwind, again, to say the very least. Simple chords and sure talent already struck deep emptiness in my heart — so when lamenting lyrics made their debut, there was nothing else to do but cry for what once was. This was also the first time I considered what could’ve been — and even with the absolute acceptance that it couldn’t (or just wouldn’t) be — I wanted the time to utterly fall apart for all the hurt I’ve endured without you this year, and how I wish I could share even an inkling of that experience.

Timing is key — and maybe most of these tunes will sit there, unplayed, until I feel sadistic again. Maybe this genre doesn’t have a place in my life without you. Of course, an appreciation for music is not dependent upon a relationship, yet I simply cannot separate the two. It isn’t a wish of mine, but I'd be remiss to consider a change in music taste without considering a change in mindset.

There’s no sense in constantly reliving the past when it’s clear what’s healthiest for us both. Unfortunately, the idea of love is not enough to sustain a partnership riddled with pain, and thinking we could overcome harmful habits was only exacerbating the outcome. Growth with a partner is a beautiful experience in this life — it’s just that ours came a bit too late.

I was deeply wounded and unproud of my ability to show up in our situation, and severance from this relationship was necessary for each of us. Those tunes became nostalgic instead of present declarations of commitment, and any slight reflection of their yearning made me feel more cavernous than ever.

What I love about this genre hasn’t changed one bit, but my ability to listen while processing the end of our all-or-nothing romance decreased 1000%. If anything, I feel a bit stronger about the music’s capabilities in terms of emotional impact (that fated drive home and album-listening moment only proved the implications). It’s too soon to say, but maybe my change in music taste can be the one constant to hold on to.

Our preferences in melodies ebb and flow as much as we allow — I hope to revisit this genre in full when it’s emotionally safest, but for now, I’ll continue in an attempt to uphold personal boundaries, and know it’s okay to indulge sometimes, too.

To any fellow travelers who witnessed this story arc, I’m facing reality head-on. I’d never mind an altered perspective when it comes to “our music,” but for now, it reserves that crash and intimate title. And in the ways that work best, I have to figure out how to move on.