Amnesiac for the Insomniac

A silent room. The only sounds are my pounding heart and the hum of cicadas. The air hangs still and thick in a cabin crowded with a gaggle of teenage girls. I fumble for my headphones and put them on. I was listening to Bon Iver. That’s when it began.

They say your night routine is your most important routine. Putting yourself to sleep is the moment in which you must treat yourself with the most kindness, the most care. How many times I have read and reread studies proclaiming that texting before bed ruins your sleep, that the internet before bed wires you for a failure of a night’s sleep. There are infinite numbers of these articles, they seem to come out at least once a week. And we click and crave them to explain to us why we can’t sleep. I have no answer for why I can’t sleep.

I started listening to music before bed when I was 13. It calmed down the chaos of my mind, the chaos of my day, my pounding heart. I had albums I would cycle through, most of them were soft indie folk. I listen to these albums to this day and they take me back to those moments: staring at the ceiling of my childhood bedroom, wondering what the future would bring, uncertain of what the big word FUTURE even meant, dreading waking up the next day at 5am to practice violin before AP Calculus class.

Then college came and I stopped being able to sleep entirely. I simultaneously began expanding my musical consciousness. It was no longer indie folk that called me, but the static electricity of dissonance, the rage of feminist punk rock, the fuzzy guitars of shoegaze. I was no longer at band camp staring at the wooden slats of a cabin’s ceiling in Vermont, the summer air brushing against my face, I was in a tiny room listening to the screams of drunken college kids on Wednesday Toads. I decided to listen to Amnesiac in full for the first time.

Radiohead has a very large, extremely varied musical output. It takes years to listen to all of their albums and fully digest them, because each is so incredibly complex you will hear something and feel something new every time. I first heard Amnesiac with my eyes closed, laying down, the room still except for my beating heart.

And that is the best way to fall in love with music. That is the moment when you are vulnerable enough to simply feel what emotion the sound is creating. That is the moment when you are not analyzing, you are feeling. The beauty of art is the way it makes you feel. Amnesiac is an eclectic hodgepodge of sounds: static buzzing, tin pan beats, pounding piano, jazzy saxophone. There isn’t much of a flow between songs. Each song is its own entity, demanding you experiment with your taste along with it. But the piano harmonies on this album have always struck me, the way they create emotional resonance. The way they make me think without thinking any tangible thoughts. The album ended up coming with me during all the important moments, and still comes with me now.

It was my last night at Yale. My window was open and my fan was on. I had just spent the night talking with friends, saying goodbye. My degree was stowed away with my parents. I felt an overwhelming sense of End. I stared at the ceiling of my fourth floor single, listening to “Pyramid Song,” like I had so many nights before, like I still do, like I will tonight. Your night routine is the most important routine.

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