The Ebbtide on Spotify: Nostalgia

Ebbtide Staff

We’ve all experienced it: The feeling of hearing a song and being all-but-physically sent back in time to an ultra-specific moment.

It’s a powerful phenomenon. But what causes it?

This type of nostalgia is often a positive experience because it involves the frontal lobe of the brain; an area also known as the mind’s “reward center.” According to a 2015 Oxford Academic study, nostalgia is brought on by situations that trigger memory retrieval.

This week, our staff shared their most nostalgic songs — along with the unique stories behind each one. Follow along on Spotify to hear the music behind the words.

Eve Westmoreland, Staff Writer

“Last Train to London” by Electric Light Orchestra (1979)

A lot of artists remind me of the road trips I used to take with my brother, but ELO specifically reminds me of driving down long, empty roads in Yellowstone under Montana’s blue sky.

“Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac (1979)

I can almost feel the bass pounding through the house down to my childhood bedroom when I think of this song. My mother used to blast it late at night at full volume, yet it still has a somewhat eerie tranquility to it that I adore.

“Your Song” by Elton John (1970)

I give full credit to my childhood obsession with “Moulin Rouge!” for this pick. I can still remember snatching “Elton John” from my mother’s CD collection so I could play the first track on repeat on my boombox.

“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver (1971)

This song reminds me of being 6 or 7 and piling into the back of a pickup truck with my cousins to ride from the family ranch into town. We would gather up all the quarters we’d earned from that week’s lemonade stands to buy knick-knacks at the local dollar store.

Nova Clark, Editor-in-Chief

“Night Fever” by The Bee Gees (1977)

It was 2009 when I watched “Saturday Night Fever” for the first time; an experience which inevitably resulted in my becoming utterly obsessed with The Bee Gees.

Even though I was only in sixth grade, I wanted nothing more than to be part of Manhattan’s disco scene — I even had a Bee Gees wristwatch that I would proudly flaunt every day at school.

Among other songs of theirs, I remember listening to “Night Fever” during nighttime car rides around town. As rain hit the windows, I would gaze outside while euphorically visualizing myself dancing in a club with the rest of the band. I could dream, couldn’t I?

“The Grove of Eglantine” by Styx (1973)

In 2014, I went through a second wave of loving Styx which reached its zenith during a vacation my mom and I took to California that August. This song in particular reminds me of our first stop: Palm Springs.

When I hear it today, it conjures up memories of the arid desert heat, the satisfying taste of banana chocolate chip ice cream and the refreshing scent of custom body scrub that I purchased at a bath store.

Beyond that, it encapsulates the pure elation I felt from the moment the plane landed to the train ride back home.

“Carry Me Back to Old Morocco” by Was (Not Was) (1981)

This song will eternally remind me of how much I desperately loved Was (Not Was) back in 2015, as spring slowly gave way to summer.

Taken at face value, the tune has little to do with Morocco. Nevertheless, it awakened in me a fleeting fascination with the country as I adorned my bedroom with Moroccan-inspired decor and even frequented a local Moroccan restaurant — all of which somehow perfectly complimented my infatuation with the band.

From its poignant words to its yearning chorus, the song itself simply sounds nostalgic. Another track that instantly transports me back to this period is “How the Heart Behaves,” a later release of theirs featuring similarly-tragic lyrics juxtaposed against a saccharine ‘90s dance beat that I’d listen to on a daily basis.

“Running From Paradise” by Hall and Oates (1979)

In January 2016, my parents and I got the opportunity to spend the night at Cle Elum’s Suncadia Resort.

As we drove through the blizzardy pass en route to our destination, “Running From Paradise” was one of my top-played Hall and Oates songs. I can vividly recall how seamlessly its dreamlike sound blended with the wintery sight of endless snow-covered trees flying past on either side of the highway.

By the end of the night, I ended up developing a 24-hour flu complete with fever dreams — but it’s a memory that I look back on fondly!

Emma Dortsch, Copy Editor

“Tangled Up In Me” by Skye Sweetnam (2004)

This song takes me back to my best friend’s room in fourth grade. We would sit at her computer desk after school and watch Skye Sweetnam and Avril Lavigne music videos for hours, wishing that we could be scene kids. “Tangled Up In Me” always made 10-year-old me — in my pigtails and Minnie Mouse glasses glory — feel super badass.

My “alternative” phase marked the beginning of my own music exploration when I realized that I could listen to anything I wanted, not just what my dad played in the car (although I’d eventually circle back to his classic rock anyway.)

“Fireflies” by Owl City (2009)

I remember feeling like my life had changed when I first heard “Fireflies” on the radio in fifth grade — even though nothing actually happened. It would always start right as my mom dropped me off at school in the mornings, though, so I could never listen to the whole song before getting out of the car (which kind of ruined its enlightening effect.)

Still, I was so inspired by it that I got my mom to go out and buy the “Ocean Eyes” album, and to this day I know every single song on there by heart.

“Shangri-La” by Electric Light Orchestra (1976)

The first time I heard “Shangri-La” was on a summer evening in 2017 on the way back home from a dentist appointment my dad had in Everett. The beginning of the song immediately tugged at my heartstrings and filled me with the bittersweet feeling I often associate with nostalgia.

It wasn’t until a year later that I actually started to listen to ELO on a regular basis, despite having grown up with “Mr. Blue Sky.” The following summer, I was especially captivated by my still-favorite album “A New World Record.”

While I love all of the album’s tracks, “Shangri-La” will always stand out as the song that’s had the greatest impact on me.

“Lovely Day” by Bill Withers (1977)

This was a defining song of the road trips my family and I would take in Thailand while visiting my dad, who lived there for most of my teens. My dad had a flash drive containing hundreds of songs that he’d play on shuffle, and each time “Lovely Day” started, he’d make everyone sing along.

We’d all pick different voice parts when it came time for the chorus, and eventually settled into roles: my brother, sister and stepmom would chant “lovely day” over and over, while my dad and I took on the challenge of holding “daaaaaay” for as long as Bill Withers did. It was a feat that we didn’t always achieve, but it made for some good memories.

Larissa Odabai, Marketing Manager

“Saturn” by Sleeping at Last (2014)

Although this song came out years later, the second it starts I’m 6 years old again, sitting on the front porch of my grandparents’ house in Iran.

Grandpa promised I could stay up past bedtime to watch the Perseids — so there we were, each with a glass of hot milk and honey in hand, as he told me stories about the constellations in the sky while we waited for the meteor shower.

The lyrics remind me so much of him and the circle of life. Especially the first lines, which get me every time: “You taught me the courage of stars before you left/ How light carries on endlessly, even after death/ With shortness of breath/ You explained the infinite/ And how rare and beautiful it is to even exist.”

“The Blue Danube Waltz” by Johann Strauss (1866)

In Vienna, every New Year’s Eve at midnight, a live orchestra plays “An der schönen blauen Donau” by Johann Strauss. It could be considered a tradition — and the perfect way to end and begin a year if you ask me.

One memory that always puts a smile on my face is my last Silvester (New Year’s Eve) in Vienna. I always used to go out and celebrate this day with friends, but as I grew older all I needed were fireworks and Ein Prosit (a German toast) surrounded by family.

So in 2019, before I left Austria to move here, that’s exactly what we did. My parents, brother and sister-in-law sat around the firepit on our balcony, watching the colors light up the sky as we danced our own version of the waltz to this song.

“What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong (1967)

The very first time I danced with the love of my life, we were sailing down the Mississippi River on a steamboat. A jazz band was playing this song live, but Louis Armstrong’s version will forever remind me of that magical night.

Erin Krogh, Visuals Editor

“Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” by The Beatles (1969)

I think these are the first songs I remember hearing during my childhood. I don’t know if they were sung to me or if they were just on during car rides, but I have such positive memories when I hear them or sing them to myself.

“iMi” by Bon Iver (2019)

In the summer of 2019, I went to see Bon Iver at The Gorge. I hadn’t listened to his album too much, but right before my partner and I headed into the venue, we watched a New York Times video called “Diary of a Song” which deconstructed how “iMi” was made and who helped create it.

When we got to the stage, it was the first song Bon Iver played. We both started crying immediately, and to this day it’s the best concert I’ve ever been to.

“Cheerleader” (Felix Jahen Remix) by Omi (2014)

“Cheerleader” reminds me of one of my childhood best friends. We went to college together and when it came out, we both loved it. As time went on I found that most people hated the song, but whenever I hear it I think of her and I’m so happy!

Leuel Bekele, Staff Writer

“Walk It Out” (Remix) by Unk (2007)

I love Andre 3000’s part on this remix. It evokes fond memories of the 2000s and watching “Class of 3000” on Cartoon Network.

“Go DJ” by Lil Wayne (2004)

This song is part of the soundtrack to one of my favorite PlayStation 2 racing games, “Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition Remix.”

“Good Morning” by Kanye West (2007)

The earliest music video I can remember watching was the video for this song on MTV when I was 4 or 5.

Kirk Meyers, News Editor

“Sleepwalking” by The Chain Gang of 1974 (2013)

This song originates from “Grand Theft Auto V,” a game that accounted for more than half of the time spent with my friends in 2013, who I’m surprisingly still friends with — likely due to the many afternoons after school and evenings after dinner we’d spend playing it for hours on end, laughing till exhaustion.

“R.I.P. 2 My Youth” by The Neighbourhood (2015)

I fondly remember this song from the library of my younger self. It contains sentiments that I still hold dearly and strongly after six years, and I often revisit it during my most reflective moments.

“Controlla” by Drake (2016)

This song came out in 2016; a year I think many of us remember fondly. I was 16 at the time, hence 2016 stands to be one of the most formative years of my life. To this day, I can clearly recall numerous memories that I believe eventually accumulated into who I currently am.

“Coax and Botany” by Gus Dapperton (2019)

I discovered this song by Gus Dapperton when my family and I went on vacation to Thailand in 2019, and he’s now my favorite artist. Whenever I revisit this song or any others off of the same album, I’m transported back to Thailand’s hectic-yet-vibrant markets, swarmed with all of the sensations I formerly felt.

Yita Rivera, Online Editor

“Payphone” by Maroon 5 ft. Wiz Khalifa (2012)

I like payphones; they remind me of when I was young. My friends and I would ride the bus to the mall where we’d buy pretzels, cassettes and movie tickets (which were only $1.50 back then), but one of us always saved some change to call home.

I was too young to get a job and I only received 10 dollars per week for helping out around the house, but I wanted a music collection. My grandma told me to keep coins in my shoe like she did so she could come get us if we needed her. Sometimes she’d hang up on me, forcing me to make a collect call, but she’d always come.

Today, whenever I’m out with my husband and I see a payphone, I make him pose for a pretend call so I can take a picture.

“I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas (2009)

This upbeat song would always make me feel excited to go home after a long day’s work.

“Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler (1988)

This song always makes me think of one of my uncles. He wasn’t a famous person, but he did land some cool gigs in Hollywood. He was in the movie “Beaches” (which makes me cry every time I see it) and I still have an old director’s chair cover that he gave me.

“Let’s Get it On” by Marvin Gaye (1973)

My spouse and I spent so much time picking out the perfect wedding song. He wanted to do a George Jones and Tammy Wynette country duet and I wanted something classic, so we finally agreed on Billy Joel — then he had the DJ change it to Marvin Gaye without telling me.

I was so embarrassed because he just put it out there for everyone to hear. I started laughing at him, then we just danced.

SCC Psychology Professor Dr. Don Christensen contributed additional sources to this article.