Favorited ex.fm Songs

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Favorite Use of Music in Movies and TV Shows

This post was inspired by an article on Paste Magazine's site about 15 fictional music buffs they wish would make them a mix cd. It got me thinking about how I have a soft spot for any movie or TV show that effectively integrates music into the storyline or just uses it really well. What's effective to me is pretty subjective just based on artists I like and whatnot, but oh well, I thought a list of my own would be fun. So, without further ado...

Top 10 Favorite Uses of Music in Movies and TV Shows

10) I Am Sam (movie)
The soundtrack to this movie is entirely made up of covers of Beatles songs by other artists. Some of the songs hit and miss to different degrees, but the movie does a wonderful job of letting them provide the background to the film as well as discussing the Beatles within the movie.

9) The Life Aquatic (movie)
It's been quite a while since I've seen the movie. I don't remember actually liking the movie all that much, but I love the way they had Seu Jorge play a character in the movie who could simultaneously provide a soundtrack by singing and playing his guitar. In this case, all of his songs were Portuguese covers of David Bowie songs, which sounds strange, but it definitely works. Looking ahead on this list, cover songs seem to be a common theme to the bottom four entries.

8) The Blues Brothers (movie)
This movie makes it just for having so many great musicians all present in the movie. Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, and plenty of other amazing artists all make appearances in the film. Some of the songs are classics performed by the "The Blues Brothers," while others feature some of the aforementioned musicians. I saw this after taking an African American Music History class in undergrad which made me appreciate the music in the film even more.

7) Weeds (TV show)
And here's the first TV show on the list. This show would make the list solely for its use of the theme song. The song by itself is a quirky little ditty performed by an artist named Malvina Reynolds. That version grew on me as I watched the show, but the real genius was in the fact that for seasons 2 and 3, the show had a different artist cover the song every week for the opening credits. I've never known another show to do that, but it was really cool hearing all sorts of artists like Elvis Costello, Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, Regina Spektor, and even Randy Newman cover the theme. Beyond that, the show also did a really good job of using music during the show, and it introduced me to a couple new artists and tracks I had missed by artists I already knew.

6) The Go-Getter (movie)
This one may seem like a stretch for most people, but the soundtrack was done by M. Ward, and the movie stars Zooey Deschanel. Anyone who knows me knows that they couldn't have come up with a combination I would have liked more. The movie was good but not great, but anytime an M. Ward song came on during the movie I could care less how the rest of it was. Bonus points are in order for this movie leading to the formation of She & Him. Zooey and M. Ward recorded a cover of "When I Get To The Border" for the end credits, which led to them discussing music and eventually forming She & Him. Frankly, I'm surprising myself a bit by not putting this movie even higher.

5) Friday Night Lights (TV show)
I actually discussed this show before on the blog when I talked about Explosions in the Sky. The fact that their music scores the show is a huge reason for its appearance here. Their music just fits perfectly in there, and hopefully it has led to more exposure for them. Beyond just that though, the show surprisingly (to me anyway for some reason) does a really good job with other soundtrack songs. Songs by Iron & Wine/Calexico, The Black Keys, Camera Obscura, Jose Gonzalez, and more (those were just from early season 1) all add to my enjoyment of an otherwise wonderful show anyway.

4) Flight of the Conchords (TV show)
I wasn't too sure where to put this show because it isn't like the others. All of the songs in the show are original songs written and performed by the lead actors (and I believe writers). The fact is that Flight of the Conchords have somehow found the perfect formula for making a funny, yet catchy, and just plain old good song. It's a shame that it all added up to just way too much work for the band and that the show ended after two seasons, but they were a phenomenal two seasons.

This is the first song from the show that I fell in love with. It is just so lyrically perfect.

3) (500) Days of Summer (movie)
If I was just picking favorite soundtrack album, this movie would win for sure. It's a really good mix of artists I knew with artists I didn't know but learned I liked. On top of that, I love hearing Summer (Zooey Deschanel) tell Tom (Joseph Gordon Levitt) about how she loves The Smiths and discussing why Ringo is her favorite Beatle. Additionally, Tom dancing through the streets while Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams Come True" plays is one of my favorite movie scenes ever.

2) Garden State (movie)
This was one of the first times I really noticed music in movies. It set the bar for the type of movie/music integration I looked for. Sam (Natalie Portman) telling Andrew (Zach Braff) to listen to The Shins because they will change his life is just pure gold. This film introduced me to The Shins through that scene (as I'm sure it did thousands of others), and came at a perfect time when I was really starting to expand my musical tastes. As I've gotten older, Zach Braff has started to annoy me a bit. I think it's mostly due to his character on Scrubs being way too self-centered (it's probably not a real rational annoyance), but I can't deny that between that show and this movie, he has a heck of an ear for good music.

1) High Fidelity (movie)
I toyed around with the idea of putting something else here, but if we're talking about how music is integrated into movies, what's better than a movie where everything is filtered through a lens that relates it to music. There is talk of making the perfect mixtape, there are live performances, there is a band trying to make it, there are guys hanging out in a record store talking music. The actual songs in the movie aren't my favorite by far. That's not to say I don't like them, but I enjoy the music from spots 2 through at least 6 better. But something about just hearing other people talk about how much they love music is comforting to me, and even if I don't connect with that same music the way they do, I connect with their connection to it (I can't decide if that's more or less confusing than it looks typed out).

(There is way more swearing in this scene than I remembered, but there are just so many things to love in there)


Honorable Mention
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (book)
This one didn't really fit in the list since it was a book, but the main character makes a mixtape during the book. I don't remember much of what was on it anymore, but I recall that the first and last song he put on it was "Asleep" by The Smiths. I didn't know The Smiths at all when I first read the book, but this led to me checking them out, and they are a favorite band of mine now, 8 or so years after first reading the book.

Veronica Mars (TV show)
I just finished watching this show recently, and I really enjoyed how they would throw band posters into the background of scenes in characters rooms and around school and stuff. Also, as I posted a while back, as soon as they played "Poison Cup" by M. Ward they had me.

Juno (Movie)
This is another movie with a large focus on music. I wasn't familiar with Kimya Dawson or The Moldy Peaches before seeing the movie, and I'm still not a huge fan, but I can't help enjoy the songs during the movie due to the character's love of them.


Alright, this post got way too long, and that's all I've got in me for tonight. For anyone that actually made it to the end, what did I miss? Anything you would have put on your own list?

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Lookback at April - June New Music

Well since I did a post about new releases from January - March, I figured I should probably do one for the second quarter of the year.

Top Albums April - June 2011

1) Bon Iver - Bon Iver
I wrote a post about this album before it actually came out, but I've really enjoyed it. Justin Vernon had really big shoes to fill after "For Emma, Forever Ago," and I think this album is a great step toward doing that. He didn't try to recreate the same album again. Instead he took some chances, experimented a bit, and the result is great. Individual songs don't stand out to me as much as they did on the last album, but that may come with time, or I'll just enjoy the album as a whole. Either way, this will be near the top of my year end list.

2) Explosions in the Sky - Take Care, Take Care, Take Care ($5 on Amazon)
I wrote about Explosions in the Sky recently, and I honestly didn't plan on putting them this high on my list, but after re-listening to the album, I can't help but just love it.

3) Ezra Furman & The Harpoons - Mysterious Power
This is a band that nobody can say lacks energy. I enjoyed their last two albums, and certain songs in particular, but this album feels like the most complete to date for the group. Highly recommended for anyone that wants some wild, rockin' tunes.

4) Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys
It's ridiculous to think that Death Cab for Cutie has been churning out tunes for 13 years, but they have and this is another solid addition to their discography.

5) The Head and the Heart - The Head and the Heart ($5 on Amazon)
Technically this album came out last year, but it was self released to not many people, so it gets counted under its bigger reissue. Pitchfork gave the album a ridiculous 3.8 out of 10, but they also gave Mumford & Sons a 2.1 last year. Both are really enjoyable albums even if they aren't groundbreaking and hip enough for Pitchfork (which I do read and enjoy sometimes, but certain things about it still bug me).

The Best of the Rest
The Antlers - Burst Apart
The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?
The Kills - Blood Pressures
The Very Best - Super Mom Mixtape (free download here)
My Morning Jacket - Circuital

The Vaccines have the distinction of having one of the best names ever for a debut release. They had the hype machine churning in full force well before this release, and it's a fun pop/rock offering that they came out with. The first song on my mix below is by them and will probably warrant a post of its own at some point. The Very Best is a rapper from Malawi and a producer from England I believe, and the album is quite a bit of fun (plus its free, so you've got nothing to lose). The other albums here (as well as some that aren't listed) I've enjoyed, but I probably need to listen to them more.

Albums I Am Looking Forward To In The Next 3 Months

7/12 - William Elliott Whitmore - Field Songs
9/13 - Mates of State - Mountaintops
9/13 - Cymbals Eat Guitars - Lenses Alien
9/13 - A.A. Bondy - Believers
9/13 - Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
9/13 - Jonathan Wilson - Gentle Spirit
9/20 - Megafaun - Megafaun
9/27 - Wilco - The Whole Love

Either I'm dropping the ball watching for upcoming releases, or July and August are not kind to good releases. I'm really excited for the William Elliott Whitmore and Wilco releases anyway.

A Mix of My Favorite Songs from the Past Quarter of the Year

Just like I did last time, here's a mix of my favorite songs from the past quarter of the year thanks to the wonderful site 8tracks.com. Last night, I was listening to the mix before posting it on here, and after it finished it just randomly started some other person's mix which I kept listening to and really enjoyed. I noticed they have several others on there also, so yay for new music! (Seriously, if you like hearing new music, it's a great site to check out). Anyhow, here's my mix:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I wish we'd never met, then met today

I've got my recap of the second quarter of the year post almost ready to go, but the actual writing of it will take longer than I want to do right now, so it'll have to wait for another day. In the meantime, I've got the line from the post's title stuck in my head, so here's a short one.

"Backwards Walk" by Frightened Rabbit is a song that tends to get lost in the shuffle when I pick a favorite from the album because Midnight Organ Fight is about as close to perfect as one can get (at least to me). One day my favorite is "The Twist," then "The Modern Leper," then "Poke," then "Old Old Fashioned," and so on. However, "Backwards Walk" does have the advantage of having certain lines that just get stuck in my head and won't leave. Tonight it's the line "I wish we'd never met, then met today." That wishing that you'd met someone at a different point in your life than you did is something I've thought about many times, thinking that just maybe things would be different if that had been the case. Maybe you wouldn't have drifted apart, maybe you'd be closer than you are if you just had the knowledge now that you didn't have then. Anyhow, enough of being a downer. Here's the song, and if you aren't familiar with the whole album, I really can't recommend it enough. I mean that.

Tom Waits at his finest

Anyone who knows me and my musical leanings very well is aware that I'm a huge Tom Waits fan. I did name my blog after a line in one of his songs after all... Well earlier today I stumbled across another blog that posted mp3s for a live show he performed in Germany in 1977. I haven't had a chance to listen to all of them yet, but I did check out this version of "The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)," which is one of my favorite Tom Waits songs, and it was too wonderful not to share.

The Piano Has Been Drinking

The first track, "Step Right Up," is also really good. Here's the link to the full set of mp3s if anyone is interested.

Tom Waits Live in Germany in 1977

As always, enjoy!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July

Here are two (sorta) 4th of July themed songs to enjoy today:

"Independence Day" by Elliott Smith

"Song for America" by Destroyer


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Explosions in the Sky

I've been meaning to write a post about Explosions in the Sky for quite some time, and while I was listening to their album yesterday, I realized that a weekend centered around people watching "Explosions in the Sky" seemed like the perfect time.

Anyhow, I've been listening to the band a lot more recently because they provide the soundtrack for the TV show Friday Night Lights, which I was watching obsessively before I got sidetracked trying to finish Veronica Mars and have since resumed. The band is from Texas and plays ambient post-rock music. What that entirely means is a little beyond me, but they just seem to do the perfect job of creating an atmosphere that just makes you feel in a particular moment, completely absorbed by the songs. I don't listen to a ton of instrumental music, and I know some people don't like it, but I highly recommend Explosions in the Sky.

While they may not have lyrics in their songs, the band has some of my favorite song titles. Here's a video for "Remember Me As A Time Of Day" that is my favorite song of theirs and one of my favorite song titles ever (It takes a little while to pick up, so don't give up on it too early!):

Their new album "Take Care, Take Care, Take Care," one of my favorites thus far in 2011 is available from Amazon for only $5.