Written and illustrated by Cat Braza
You know when this particular song comes on, it’s going to be stuck in your head for the rest of the damn day. First, there’s a bit of iconic whistling in D major, rhythmically backboned by folksy tambourine. Then, Jade Castrinos croons, “Alabama, Arkansas,” and you’re rapidly swept headlong into an Americana-streaked exchange between two lovers. “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros has become something of an anthem for home and love, once snagging #18 on American alternative music charts. The infectious love song has even received high acclaim on Pitchfork.com, the oft-cutthroat online mecca for indie music news and critiques.
My favorite part of “Home” is when Alexander confesses, “While you were smoking a cigarette that you thought was going to be your last/I was falling deep, deeply in love with you, and I never told you until just now.” The image of a “last cigarette” strongly resonates with me—it was present when one of my best friends smoked her last before quitting, and it occurred on a particular night I remember very well. Everyone will have other favorite lyrics in the song, because they’ll associate with different moments that stood out to them in their lives. “Hot and heavy, pumpkin pie./Chocolate candy, Jesus Christ./Ain’t nothing please me more than you.” Or perhaps, “Jade? Alexander?/Do you remember that day you fell out of my window?” (To placate your curiosity: Yes, the two lead singers, Jade and Alexander, were actually dating and in love when they co-wrote this song and jumpstarted the band.)
The memories a person associates with this particular song might speak volumes about what the person considers “home.” After all, music functions as a second home for many of us, so what better place to seek sanctuary than our headphones, sound systems and albums—especially for a song titled “Home?” So, I asked people to share with me, “What memories do you associate with the song ‘Home’ by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros?” The result you’ll find here is a celebration of one song’s almost magical influence on an array of human experiences.
“I associate that song with walking to the train station along a particular street in Japan called Blue Street, and standing on the platform watching the trains go by as I waited for mine to get to the station.”
“Every time I hear that song, I think about my two best friends from home. On one of our last days of senior year, we were driving into downtown Minneapolis, the city all lit up at night, and that song was blaring. We played that song driving back to our high school during open lunch, as well on the last day. We knew we were all separating, but when we are together, it’s home. Everything just feels like it’s in balance. Lindsey, Olivia, Sarah and I have been friends since elementary school. Also, when Lindsey and I were leaving for college, driving once again to Colorado, she requested a radio station to play that song. The DJs wished us luck in our future, but to know that Minnesota will be home. This song actually means a lot to me.”
“This band performed for my friend in his hospital room when he was fighting cancer. About a year ago at Bonnaroo, he was pulled out of the crowd at complete random to tell a story, and they ended up bringing him up on stage.”
“My last year of high school, I was pretty miserable and struggling socially. I raised the money to do a study abroad program for my last semester of senior year, and I spent it traveling and studying in Central America. We had a CD with about 10 songs on it that we listened on a sweaty, cramped bus ride. ‘Home’ was one of the songs, and I loved it every single time I listened to it, even after the thousandth time.”
“That song always brings back memories of spending time with my sister, dancing around and singing in her car. We’d love to ‘trade’ songs back and forth, and that’s one I contributed…I just can’t help thinking of the time in my life that I was in. I was…very much into folksy bands.”
“This song brings [me] utmost joy…whenever I hear it, whether it be the beautiful whistling at the beginning, the incredible raspy singing voice, or the mid-song conversation…It takes me back to my years as a little camper at the summer camp I have been going to since I was 10. There was one year that my two favorite counselors performed this song for…an open mic night. But they remixed the song and put in lyrics that specifically corresponded to the special bond you form with other people while at summer camp and also how massive of an impact camp has on you as a human being.”
“I used to fucking hate this song. In my sophomore year drawing and painting class, it was always playing in the background, and I didn’t get why everyone in my class seemed to dig the folksy crooning and whistling so much. Fast-forward three years to freshman year of college, when I hadn’t heard the song in quite a while, and my roommate made the song her morning alarm sometime around block three. You would think that having this song as an alarm would’ve made me loathe it even more. Instead, it not only delivered me some peaceful nostalgia about having attended an arts high school, but it also cemented my growing feeling that maybe CC was ‘home’ for me. Songs come and go from your life for a reason after all. Now when I hear ‘Home,’ I think of November mornings at CC—and also of long, frustrating afternoons painting.”
“I think of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia reflecting the sunset, which is strange because the Schuylkill River is only home to radioactive catfish and the dead bodies of local homicide victims.”
“The song ‘Home’ reminds me of driving around with friends when we first got our driver’s licenses, and we would sing along to this song as we turned to make our drive to nowhere even longer.”
“I remember driving through Iowa with my ex, me in the passenger seat and the song playing from a mixed CD she made me. And I remember thinking I was home right then.”
“Honestly, this song is a big reason for why I’m still here. It’s always been a happy [and] safe place song. At one point last semester, I considered transferring…one night I was at a live music shindig with a lot of bands on campus. They played this song, and I knew it was right for me to stay. This is home.”