Emotional Avalanches

There seems to be a lot of backward-looking music these days

Triple J, Australia's youth radio station, had their Hottest One Hundred on the weekend and, while we were listening my brother observed how many more tracks this year were covers or remixes.

I told him how my new favourite critic had a similar observation of Tiktok's trend for earworms made from snippets of nostalgic tunes. 

Ted Gioia has written that younger audiences find it comforting to hear the same songs, as well as bemoaning the limit this places on music discovery.

It prompted me to reflect on those pop songs that I'd hated hearing until, after memorable moments on dancefloors, they became triggers that allowed me to re-experience ecstasies.

So I'm now experimenting with making memories.

On the weekend I tested the role of music in becoming a soundtrack for moments (or making moments from soundtracks?) when I drove my son from home.

He's moved to the city to start uni and we packed stuff into his car and drove for hours to a much larger town.

As we were leaving I thought to grab a CD for the drive and reached for my favourite purchase of 2022, The Avalanches' latest album.

While I've been a longtime fan of the group, I didn't immediately jumped on their last couple of albums.

It wasn't until 'Red Lights' popped up in the credits of a TV show that I remembered I was going to give them a listen, then it was a pleasure to hear their return to form.

Given the gap between albums for The Avalanches (and the diversity they like to show while playing live), I'd had doubts whether they would still meet my expectations.

It's great to find things where you left them!

So, anyway, my son and I were driving from home and the mood was tender.

Rather than listening to the radio, where you run the risk of news headlines, I thought music would be better for reflection.

The album "We Will Always Love You" is kind of a twist on the theme of The Avalanches first album, "Since I Left You" in being about distances.

Where the original trumpeted the joys of travel, this return-to-form is about missing people.

While we listened to it, I think we got to the third song, when my son asked "Did you have to pick an album about leaving?"

I told him that this is how memories are made and that I wanted to remember this trip with one of my newest favourite albums.

I recounted the ripple-down-my-spine that would accompany listening to The Bird after I saw them live, or how the songs I thought were drivel would weirdly become irresistable gems on certain dancefloors.

Then, as we passed a harvested field of stalks with red dirt showing through, a dust devil spun toward the road and I remembered how my Wiradjuri friends would say those show when spirits are visiting.

I'd heard that at a farewell for a friend and now began to wonder if she weren't giving us a wave on our journey, then the tears sprouted from the corners of my eyes.

We listened to the beautiful music.

Anyway, when it came time for me to leave my son and return home, I left the CD with him.

I hope he'll put it on while watching a sunset and know that we're seeing the same sight.

In the meantime, I can tweak the raw nerve of his absence by listening too. 


One more bit of The Avalanches theme of our weekend, while my son and I were indulging in our shared love of shopping at secondhand stores, we found a copy of Koichi Oki's "Yamaha Superstar" for six dollars.

My son bought it and we listened to it on my mother's old gramophone.

He enjoyed it, but that shouldn't be a surprise since it's all covers!