The first time I heard it, I was 16 years old sitting by a pool at my grandparents’ house in Austin, Texas. I remember thinking it was cool how I discovered Ben Kweller in Austin, because Kweller himself is a notable member of the Austin community. I didn’t realize it then, but this would be a moment that I would remember for the rest of my life, and consequently, it would divide my life into two distinguishable parts: before I heard Ben Kweller, and after.
Several big-time albums dropped in 2006: “Define the Great Line” from Underoath, “Future Sex/Love Sounds” from Justin Timberlake, “Continuum” from John Mayer and The Kooks’ debut effort and their “Inside In/Inside Out” album are a few worth mentioning. While there are some modern classics that came out, Ben Kweller tops my list because of the personal influence it’s had on me as a creative and as an individual living a narrative that coexists with the narrative in the album.
This album has shown me that music can be raw and honest, and that the most fundamental parts of life are worth singing about. It’s inspired and encouraged me to pursue the same kind of relatable but original artistic expression. For these reasons and many more, I continue listening to it year after year.
The opening track, “Run,” is so inclusive. It’s relatable and impossible to miss. It opens the door for the audience to create and relive cherished memories. “Run” moves into “Nothing Happening,” and the honest narrative continues on a personal level through the down-to-earth sounds of piano-led pop, with hints of influence from the likes of Bob Dylan and The Beatles. “Sundress” follows, and the sincerity behind every note and lyric continues to climb.
Later, the ballad “Thirteen” shares a story about love in a way that is simultaneously stripped of all exaggeration, yet fairy tale-like in its endearing honesty. It doesn’t just tell the audience that love exists; it allows them to believe that it does and to celebrate that it has actually been found.
Of course, not everyone will feel the same way that I do about this record, but what’s great is that many people make these kind of connections with music. Some would say that’s the purpose of making music.
People resonate with certain albums for different reasons. David Soto, drummer for Houston, Texas underground projects Loved by the Martyr and Earth Overhead, formed a connection to Andy Mineo’s debut album, “Heroes for Sale.”
“The first time I heard it was three-and-a-half years ago at my friend’s house,” he said. “What’s funny is I didn’t really like the track when [my friend] showed it to me. I didn’t like either track actually, but the more I listened to it, the more I realized how good the music actually was.”
For Soto, the album had an impact on him because of the circumstances at the time he first heard it.
“One of the reasons that the album is so meaningful to me is because one of my childhood friends passed away that summer a couple of months before I heard that record. The music helped me through that tough time,” Soto said.
Ellie Oliver, a junior acting major who just wrapped up “Nice Girls: A Musical Parody,” remembers the moment her dad bought her Elton John’s “Greatest Hits.”
“I don’t know what it is about that album, but the music is just so good. It’s always stuck with me,” Oliver said.
Senior audio recording major Alex Mills, worship leader for Senior Chapel, recalls the first time he listened to “Lonerism” by Tame Impala and “The Medicine” by John Mark McMillan.
“I first heard [“Lonerism”] four years ago in Smith Hall. I bought it when I first moved in,” Mills said. “The record got me into psych rock. I heard “The Medicine” when John Mark was touring for it and came to my church in 2011. This record showed me that worship music has a vast sense of genre.”
We don’t have strong connections with every band or album we hear, but in the moments we do, the soundtracks to our lives are created. This is why we listen. This is what makes music worth sharing, singing along to and writing about.