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Ben Folds Five - Air

Confession: this was one of the first songs I remember downloading from Napster, along with the rest of the Godzilla (1998) soundtrack. Old as that sentence makes me feel, it doesn't actually seem that long ago. I was eighteen and in my first year of college and technology had delivered, genie-like, the possibility of free access to almost-unlimited music. I was not discerning, to say the least. The Godzilla soundtrack is probably--no, definitely--better than the movie it accompanied, but it's still only a decent soundtrack overall. Though there were a few songs on there that deserve to be remembered more fondly than they are: the Jamiroquai song (Deeper Underground) was pretty catchy and weird, the Wallflowers' version of Heroes was totally tolerable, and even Puff's Kashmir-riffed song was all right! Not the best soundtrack songs in the world, but far from the worst.

Ben Folds Five's Air, though, is actually quite good. Like a few of the songs from "Whatever and Ever Amen," there is a kind of diffuse melancholy in Air, mysterious tragedy, yearning, etc., which to me was utterly in harmony with what I was feeling as an eighteen year old on his own for the first time. Put this on a mix with some live Radiohead songs (Big Ideas, back when it was still called just that and, say, the old version of Motion Picture Soundtrack) and you're all set to pursue the business of brooding silently. Something about this song in particular served to inoculate me against my intense homesickness by helping me summon up memories of home (where in my last year of high school I had listened to "Whatever and Ever Amen" almost every night before going to sleep), and eventually I got over all that shit and did whatever it was I did that year (failed Econ, mostly; also pined for a willowy girl). This is still a wonderful song.

[BUY Whatever and Ever Amen (Remastered Edition)]

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