How to Craft a Musical Time Capsule

I’m a huge fan of albums. One of the hallmarks of my favorite bands is that they’re all capable of delivering a cohesive, album-oriented listening experience.

Albums like Before These Crowded Streets, Sailing the Seas of Cheese, Mantis, Moving Pictures, Animals, Kind of Blue, When I Pretend to Fall… The list goes on and on. These are records that never require you to hit the Skip button. Each song contributes to a beautiful tapestry of sound.

However, now and again I’ll fall in love with a song without hearing the rest of the record right away. Maybe through a friend’s recommendation; maybe a cover by one of my favorite musicians; maybe through the vast expanse of the interwebs.

After a while, I’ll end up with a collection of arbitrary songs with no apparent connection other than the fact that I happened to discover them all around the same time. This phenomenon has been happening to me ever since I discovered what music was, and so I came up with a solution.

After I’ve collected a handful of new music discoveries, I make a playlist and give it a current chronological label, i.e. “Fall 2010 Semester”, or “Summer 2011”, or “25th Birthday”.

This playlist serves two purposes:

The first is practical. Hunting for each song individually is a pain, so a playlist allows me to enjoy an album’s worth of new, unrelated music all at once. This, of course, is the point of a playlist.

The second purpose is more metaphysical. By labeling the playlist chronologically, it acts as a musical time capsule. Years from now, when I go back and listen to it, the songs transport me back to that time in my life. All of the sensory memories — joyriding on the highway, crying in the rain, sighing as the sun goes down — come flooding back in glorious waves of musical nostalgia. It’s a great way to remember who you were and what you were feeling back then.

Naturally, I’m not the first person to invent the time capsule playlist, but I thought it was worth sharing. Revisiting my old playlists always gives me a cathartic sense of comfort and peace, as well as an appreciation from how far I’ve come since then. I recommend it.

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