no. 17 — I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One by Yo La Tengo

I’m almost positive I heard about Yo La Tengo because a barista I befriended in high school posted one of their songs on Facebook, and I, trying desperately to be cool and make friends with the older baristas at my favorite coffee shop[1], listened and loved it[2]. I also think my old high school art teacher had this album on his class playlist.

I remember my first summer home from college, I sat in my childhood bed and illegally downloaded this entire album. It took me the better part of a day to individually put each song into a YouTube to mp3 converter, download it with my horrible hill-town wifi, name it, and place it in the right order. It was a labor of love that made me miss LimeWire. While I downloaded it, my dad was putting the screens into my windows to prepare for summer. Living in Western Massachusetts meant cool nights and massive, buzzing moths flinging themselves at the screens to try to reach whatever light I had on in my room late at night.

That summer was bittersweet. My core group of friends from high school and I were all still close, and we spent the whole time migrating from one of our houses to the other. We knew it was the end of an era, but we didn’t know just how long it would last. I think that was the last summer our group was that big- since then we’ve splintered and scattered.

One night we all went camping, sleeping in tents in the woods behind my house. We went on a night hike to the power lines, we built a fire and got drunk and fell asleep sharing sleeping bags. Later that summer, a friend was plucking at a guitar and starting singing Stockholm Syndrome. His voice was quiet, it felt somber and reflective, nostalgic for a time that hadn’t happened yet but was looming close. I’m still swarmed with that feeling whenever I listen to that song. I think of unrequited love and unfiltered anxiety. I miss my friends, even the ones I haven’t spoken to in years. Despite how out of control my emotions were, it felt easier to be around other people then. Now, my social anxiety has overtaken me. The idea of camping with my friends feels like it requires months of planning, especially in the middle of COVID.

To me, this album is the coffee shop I spent hours at every day that no longer exists. It’s the long drives through farm towns and sitting in my friend’s driveway crying out our pent-up emotions. It’s the friendship I had with people I rarely speak to anymore. It’s the comfort I felt despite the anxiety, depression, and disordered eating that plagued me. It’s an idealized version of the past, but an ideal I felt even when it was my present.

You can listen to the album here

[1] Through the same coffee shop baristas I also found Gary Numan, but that’s another story.

[2]I wonder what percentage of the music I started listening to was because I wanted to impress someone.



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Jenna Sylvester

Jenna Sylvester

non-binary writer and gardener. I'm stressed out.