by Hannah Stephenson

This past winter, while packing for a cross-country move (the kind that makes your belongings look instantly less attractive, since they’re going to be lugged two thousand miles away), I decided to sort through my dusty, teetering pillar of CD’s. Maybe you recognize this sacred rite of the digital age: the ceremonious digitization of old and beloved music.

I’d already excised most of the music I wanted to keep and implanted it into my iTunes (“I think you’ll like it here, Full Moon Fever and Out of Time…”), but these were the CD’s I could not abandon. Most were some of my earliest CD purchases (first CD I bought with my own, “hard-earned” allowance money? The Cranberries’s Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?).

Bjork’s Post, with its candy-colored cover (I used to listen to “Hyperballad” while getting ready for school in the morning), which came out in 1995. Poster Children’s Junior Citizen, also from 1995. Rancid’s 19-song …And Out Come the Wolves (I had a picture of Tim Armstrong in my locker!), from 1995, and Oasis, Radiohead, Filter, Better Than Ezra, all from 1995.

So why was I buying so many CD’s in 1995? And why are these albums still so memorable and meaningful for me?

In 1995, I turned 13. I have always stayed up late, and in 1995, I’d stay up and watch MTV. Suddenly, this felt important. I desperately loved 120 Minutes with Matt Pinfield (which debuted in 1995)–I’d watch it with a notebook close by, so I could plan which bands to adore.

I also associate these songs with a feminine type of getting ready, a cross between play and getting dolled up. I’d sit in front of my CD player in my bedroom, listening to songs, painting my nails pearly sea foam green or stringing little glass beads onto fishing line to make necklaces. I’d listen to music while showering, gauging how long I’d been in the water by what song was playing (“Champagne Supernova” was almost eight minutes long, and signaled the end of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?).

Does puberty activate some music-loving section of our brains? Or is it that this is when our tastes form–we’re teenagers, and our preferences instantly appear to us, powerful and persuasive? I became curious about music at 13. New songs to love, and new ways to say who I was through what I listened to.

The Mixtape I Would Have Made for You When I Was 13:


“It’s Oh So Quiet,” Bjork

“Good,” Better Than Ezra

“Ruby Soho,” Rancid

“String of Pearls,” Soul Asylum

“He’s My Star,” Poster Children

“Head Over Feet,” Alanis Morissette

“Don’t Look Back in Anger,” Oasis

“Time Bomb,” Rancid

“Army of Me,” Bjork

“Hey Man Nice Shot,” Filter

“Hyperballad,” Bjork

“Street Spirit Fade Out,” Radiohead


In these interludes, poet and singer-songwriter Hannah Stephenson invites you to eavesdrop on the music bouncing around her brain. She’d love to hear your thoughts, your inner soundtrack, and what band inspired that shrine in your bedroom.


  • Comment by Del — August 8, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

    I am going through a declutter phase at the moment – just momentarily distracted on the computer!!! I have a stack of cassettes and CD’s they will probably never be listened to again but I understand how you feel. They are hard to let go of, we worked hard to get them and they shaped our lives. iPods are very convenient but I still love the thought of choosing an album from the shelf.

  • Comment by Anthea — August 8, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

    mmmmmmm… maybe we should all make compilation playlists from stages of our lives and tor it that way…..

  • Comment by marissa — August 8, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

    matt pinfield only hosted for 4 of the 14 years that 120 minutes aired on mtv. i really liked the period before he got the gig where actual bands featured on the show were hosting!

    ANYWAY, your mix tape picks kickass! :) thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  • Comment by Trekky — August 8, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

    Wow, have not heard filter – hey man nice shot for years. I loved them & even got to see them in ’96 supporting smashing pumpkins :)

    I turned 16 in 1995, music was possibly the most important thing in my life then. I still buy cds, pour over the inlays, can NOT bear to throw music away! I try to see as many gigs as possible (3 in the last week). Whilst a lot of my friends seem to have grown out of music (or grown up?) being such a big part of their lives, it remains super important to me. Bring back the mix tape! :)

  • Comment by Hannah Stephenson — August 8, 2011 @ 11:05 pm

    Del–I also love the idea of music (and books!) on a shelf.

    Marissa–I didn’t know that about 120 Minutes! Glad you liked the songs.

    Trekky–WHOA—Filter and Smashing Pumpkins?? Amazing! Listening to new music (and live music) is important to me, too.

  • Comment by Jessica — August 8, 2011 @ 11:58 pm

    Hannah, your13-year-old self had excellent musical taste. My 13-year-old self’s mixtape would have been worthy of the bin and may or may not have contained some Debbie Gibson.

  • Comment by Anthea — August 9, 2011 @ 12:35 am

    hehehehehehe Jessica, I’m not going to confess what was on mine… ‘may or may not’ hehehehe


  • Comment by Anthea — August 9, 2011 @ 12:36 am

    P.S. how i looooved soul asylum… xx

  • Comment by cathy — August 9, 2011 @ 4:55 am

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  • Comment by theaxx — August 9, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

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