HOT songs for a cold day

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Ellie Goulding is now the queen of movie and TV soundtrakcs and she keeps coming up with gems. “Beating Heart,” from the highly anticipated soundtrack to “Divergent,” is an instant hit, sure to delight any Ellie fan. With its soaring chorus of, “Want to hear your beating heart tonight/before the bleeding sun comes alive,” this one is sure to be as big as “Anything Could Happen” or even “Lights.” Let’s just hope it doesn’t get nearly as overplayed…

http://www.vevo.com/watch/ellie-goulding/beating-heart-lyric-video/GBUV71400217

This remix of Odesza’s “Without You” by Vindata is must-hear ear candy. Wait for the drop at :50. Amazing.

https://soundcloud.com/odesza/without-you-vindata-remix

Also check out Vindata’s more chill side with “All I Really Need,” a new song from their upcoming EP, featuring nice, easy beats and the smooth, sultry vocal stylings of Kenzie May.

https://soundcloud.com/vindata/all-i-really-need-featuring

Pharrell’s “Gust of Wind,” featuring Daft Punk is sure to be as huge as “Get Lucky.” It feels like listening to a little bit of summer during these especially cold last few weeks of winter. Instantly infectious and sunny.

https://soundcloud.com/everything-will-be-ok/gust-of-wind

And last but not least, a pretty awesome remix of Schoolboy Q’s “Man of the Year,” which has been in my head all week…

https://soundcloud.com/granrapids/schoolboy-q-man-of-the-year

10 best movie soundtracks from the last 10 years

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I discover (and rediscover) a lot of my favorite music from movies. Besides listening to lots of music, watching independent movies is one of my favorite things to do. Here are my ten favorite soundtracks from movies that came out in the last ten years:

1.) Friday Night Lights (2004)

I was vaguely familiar with Explosions in the Sky before “FNL,” but the way in which these songs provided a beautiful and slightly understated backdrop to this movie about the emotionally charged lives of high school football players and their families in a west Texas town made me dig into their music more, and they quickly became one of my favorite bands. I used to shy away from instrumental music, but this soundtrack made me appreciate it all the more.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL178A8B02ED9FD883

2.) Daydream Nation (2010)

This quirky, dark indie drama about a strange romantic triangle between a new-to-town high school girl, her disturbed and damaged English teacher, and a boy who numbs his emotional pain with drugs, that all takes place while a serial killer is on the loose in their town was an absolute gem for its acting, writing, and it’s offbeat soundtrack. This movie is sorely underrated and Reece Thompson, Josh Lucas, and Kat Dennings were superb in their roles. The songs are mostly mid-late 00’s indie rock songs that weren’t super popular and never made it near the mainstream. Emily Haines’ solo work appears a few times, along with Devendra Banhart, Great Lake Swimmers, Beach House, and Stars. Definitely one of my favorite soundtracks ever, this helped me rekindle my love for certain bands I hadn’t listened to in a while.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2B4B9D874E010446

3.) Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008)

The plot of this movie was centered around indie bands, so it made sense that the soundtrack would be a major draw to the movie. It’s certainly what drew me to see it. It made me start listening to Band of Horses, Tapes N Tapes, and the Shout Out Louds a lot more. Other highlights include “Ottoman” by Vampire Weekend and “Speed of Sound,” a beautiful early 90’s ballad by Chris Bell. It was a soundtrack that I had on repeat for weeks on end when I was driving to and from grad school classes.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYmPp3pEgyIm-tVEoj_40TupSFiDJl3L7

4.) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

This soundtrack made the list mostly just for the hauntingly beautiful cover of “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime” by Beck. All the songs pertain to the sun, light, or the sky: “Light and Day” by the Polyphonic Spree, “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO…and the score by Jon Brion is wonderful too.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9A26C61C0D36C198

5.) Like Crazy (2011)

One of my favorite movie scores ever. Pianist Dustin O’Halloran’s work was unknown to me before I saw “Like Crazy,” and I instantly fell in love. It’s the perfect “sleepytime” instrumental music that’s memorable and beautiful enough to leave a lasting impression, and I often use it at the end of the yoga classes I teach. Other artists on the soundtrack include Stars (one of their best songs, “Dead Hearts”), Asobi Seksu, and M83.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4DAIxoh5YY&list=PL37FA73384A48C50F

6.) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Ellie Goulding’s delightfully ethereal and pretty chill song, “Mirror,” with its icy vocals and powerful refrain “I was the girl who was on fire,” is the highlight of this stellar soundtrack that brings together so many of the best indie rock and indiepop artists that have gained popularity within the last 5 years or so. Also included is new music from the National, Mikky Ekko, Phantogram, and a collaboration between Sia, the Weeknd, and Diplo. The only song that doesn’t seem to fit is a bizarre cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Lorde. A soundtrack not to be missed.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVPkCwfKsqT-6By5doR5MXf7wG9ASSLd_

7.) Juno (2008)

An especially well put together and eclectic soundtrack of charmingly offbeat indie rock songs and throwback tunes from bands like The Kinks, The Velvet Underground and Buddy Holly that provided the perfect accompaniment for this quirky indie comedy. Highlights include “Anyone Else But You” by the Moldy Peaches, Cat Power’s cover of “Sea of Love,” and Sonic Youth’s cover of “Superstar.”

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3CCEA5A5329C02F6

8.) The Twilight Saga Soundtracks (2008-2012, 4 volumes)

Say what you will about the “Twilight” books and movies (I’m a sucker for just about anything vampire related), but their soundtracks are pretty amazing. The score by Carter Burwell is stunning, and the variety of more “mainstream indie” music that it introduced to a young audience was really well selected. The original songs by Death Cab for Cutie, Ellie Goulding, Angus & Julia Stone, Bon Iver & St. Vincent, Passion Pit, Feist and several others made it justifiable for me to purchase each entire soundtrack and while I always skip a few songs on all four soundtracks I still listen to many of the songs frequently.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0F0D713E8CD65174

9.) Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

The score by DeVotchka and Mychael Danna fits the mood and vibe of the movie perfectly, and it features two whimsical, spirited songs by one of my favorite artists of all time, Sufjan Stevens. The songs all scream “witty” and “quirky,” which is exactly the tone of the movie. The whole soundtrack works on all levels and is just fun and pleasant to listen to.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLD3F8300880159506

10.) Adult World (2014)

The entire soundtrack to this refreshing indie comedy/drama that features stellar performances by Emma Roberts, Evan Peters, and John Cusack, is comprised entirely of songs by Dan Boeckner of the band Handsome Furs. I would never have thought that his music could provide the soundtrack to an entire movie, but it worked wonderfully. You have to see it and hear it to appreciate it. It’s one of the best indie movies I’ve seen in a while (with one of the best soundtracks). See my original entry about the soundtrack a few posts below for the track lisiting.

New M83 on “Divergent” Soundtrack

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While this new track isn’t as immediately catchy as “Midnight City,” or “We Own The Sky,” it is quite beautiful and layered with synth-y adornments and a very late 80’s style sax solo, gradually building to a pretty dramatic crescendo. Check it out here:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/naomizeichner/m83-i-need-you-divergent-soundtrack

Not suprisingly, the soundtrack also features Ellie Goulding with a way more uptempo remix of “Hanging On.”

BEYOND excited for this soundtrack and movie…

https://soundcloud.com/elliegoulding/hanging-on-i-see-monstas-remix

The Lost Art of Listening to An Album

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I rediscovered a band this morning after hearing one of their songs on an indie movie soundtrack and decided to listen to the entire album that the song was on. I had only listened to a small handful of their songs over the years and had relegated them to “good for chill playlists” status. But, this morning, as I was four songs into “Onigara” by Great Lake Swimmers, I realized what a stunningly beautiful, if understated, album it was, and how like so many of us, I have slipped unwittingly into an ADD-style habit of listening to scattered songs or even just parts of songs by a variety of artists instead of savoring one artist’s album as a whole.

Spotify and Pandora are the norm these days for music listening, and during the past year, I made the switch from actually buying music on itunes to just streaming on spottily for several reasons. It’s cheaper, it gives me instant access to a much wider array of music than itunes or shopping at a record store would (do those even exist anymore?? That’s a whole separate article.), and it’s a social network where I can see what my friends and colleagues are listening to. This relatively new style of music networking has served both personal and professional purposes for me, helping me not only to find new bands to listen to for my own personal pleasure that I might otherwise have never heard of, but also to create playlists for my yoga and fitness classes with more ease.

Instant access to a wide variety of songs and the ability to see a running ticker of songs that everyone who I “follow” is currently listening to has definitely led me to pause a song or album part way through just to hear and maybe “star” a song that I saw. Which then leads me to look up similar artists, star some of their songs, find more similar artists, etc. until I forget that I was in the middle of listening to an album. I’m finding that this instant gratification culture of music listening we’ve embraced has lessened the sacred art of sitting down to listen to an album, and it makes me sad and nostalgic for the days of CDs and liner notes.

About ten years ago, when iPods and iTunes were becoming the norm in the music world and people were slowly shifting away from buying physical copies of albums at stores, I vowed that I would never stop my weekly ritual of going to Newbury Comics on Tuesday to look at all the new releases, browse through all the used CDs, and spend way too much money on music. Several years later, when I began to amass a collection of more chill/instrumental music and hip hop for the purposes of teaching yoga to music (yes, I teach yoga to hip hop…sometimes), I slowly shifted toward downloading more songs and albums on iTunes because it was more convenient and I did not necessarily want to buy a whole album of songs by artists like Slow Dancing Society or (god forbid) Pitbull. When I shifted to teaching yoga full time, I stopped buying CDs altogether, and it seemed like by that point, almost all the indie record stores had gone out of business and even the bigger retailers were phasing out CDs.

I still get just as excited when my favorite bands release new albums, and once in a while if a band offers a prerelease album/merch combo sale, I will wholeheartedly support them and buy their physical CD and leaf through the liner notes, reading all the lyrics as I listen, just as I did in my high school days. But now that I’m older and busier with a career that has me constantly on the move, I simply don’t have as much time as I used to to sit down and listen to albums in their entirety. And now that information travels so much faster and we’re exposed to so much more of it in an “on demand” fashion, many avid music fans probably find themselves in the same boat.

Despite these shifts in the world of music, I still value the (lost?) art of listening to an album by an artist I love, without skipping any songs. The days of buying records and CDs may (sadly) be over, but now when I get a notification from Spottily that one of the bands I follow has released a new album, I still get as giddy with excitement as I did when I would see the “upcoming releases” listed on the record store’s chalkboard. And even though playlists and artist radio stations have replaced albums for many listeners, I still sit and listen to my favorite artists’ albums in their entirety. It is and will always continue to be something sacred, at least for this music lover.

“I Myself Cannot”: The top 10 albums I just can’t get into

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1) Sufjan Stevens- The Age of Adz

Aside from the absolutely beautiful “Futile Devices,” which makes me sigh and become teary eyed every time I hear it, I find the rest of this album to be largely unlistenable. Most of the songs are painfully dissonant and cacophonous, and I find myself skipping through them. It’s a departure from his already quirky style that he popularized on “Come on Feel the Illinoise,” but not in a good way.

2) Bjork- Medulla

I feel similarly about this album as I do to “The Age of Adz.” It’s pretty tough to listen to and kind of jarring in its dissonance. It came after the masterpiece album “Vespertine,” and her heart wrenchingly beautiful soundtrack to “Dancer in the Dark,” so I had high hopes. But experimental and different do not always equal pleasant to listen to.

3) Ryan Adams- 29

“29” was the last in a trilogy of Ryan Adams albums he released in 2005, starting with the double album “Cold Roses,” which was the strongest of the three. Aside from the haunting “Nightbirds,” that shimmers in the most mesmerizing way on the refrain “into the ocean….” it sounds like Adams’ creativity, inspiration and songwriting skills were a little washed up when he got to this album.

4) Bright Eyes- The People’s Key

After the incredibly well crafted “Cassadaga,” this album just felt sloppy and poorly put together. I remember putting it on repeat for at least a week in an earnest effort to let it grow on me, but it never did. Several of the songs are catchy and upbeat, which is atypical for Bright Eyes, but the whole thing just comes across as a little messy and overproduced. The did the “plugged in” and electronic thing much better on 2004’s “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn.”

5) Sonic Youth- NYC Ghosts & Flowers

Sonic Youth was my absolute favorite band in middle school and high school, and I remember rushing to the record store when “NYC Ghosts & Flowers” came out during my junior year, then shelving the CD in disappointment when I just could not tolerate listening to more than a couple of songs. Sonic Youth are a band known for their dissonance, experimentation and cacophony. Usually these elements work in the most beautiful way on their records, but on this particular release they just fall flat and sound either lazy, uninspired or washed up.

6) Arcade Fire- Reflektor

It’s great when a band can evolve and try something that takes their sound in a totally new direction after a Grammy win, but I think Arcade Fire just sound a little full of themselves these days and are frankly overhyped. This album fails to match the intense melodic and lyrical passion found in “Funeral” and “Neon Bible” or the well thought out conceptual construction of “The Suburbs.” I’m shocked by the number of stellar reviews this album has received. Fingers crossed that their next album will take them back to their roots.

7) Ben Folds- Songs For Silverman

“Rockin’ the Suburbs” was a hard act to follow, and unfortunately Ben fell a little flat with “Silverman.” It’t not a bad album but it falls flat overall and lacks the hooks, humor and overall punch that made all of his previous work so alluring. I’ve tried really hard to love this album, but it just never grabbed me or stayed with me the way that all of his other albums immediately did. He comes across as having slipped so complacently into fatherhood and middle age that he’s asleep in the suburbs….

8) Incubus- If Not Now, When?

Like Ben Folds(Five), Incubus is another band I’ve loved since high school but have pretty much lost interest in. Their sound has completely lost its edge, to the point of coming across as boring, bland, and much like that of more standard “lite rock” bands. They’ve done softer, more understated songs and ballads in a breathtakingly beautiful way before (see “Love Hurts” and “Here in My Room”), but this softer, slick sound that they put forth here just sounds contrived and lifeless.

9) Weezer- Pinkerton

I feel like I’m committing musical sacrilege by putting this album on a “worst of” list, but try as I might, I could just never appreciate it or enjoy listening to it. Whenever I think of or hear the words “sophomore slump,” this is the first album that comes to mind. I know that many fans revere “Pinkerton” as Weezer’s finest album, and it seemed cool and trendy to lather it with praise and adoration. But I just don’t get it. It has always come across as messy, jarring and a bit narcissistic. Almost like a hastily slapped together collection of B-sides.

10) Dandy Warhols- The Odditorium or Warlords of Mars

Honestly, everything that the Dandys have released since 2003’s “Welcome to the Monkey House” has sounded like absolute half baked crap. This is the album where an amazing band that used to provide me with so much ear candy started to go downhill…fast. Lazy and sloppy don’t even begin to describe it. It really is like listening to nails on a chalkboard. They should have called it “The Dandy Warhols Let Us Down.”

Beck’s “Morning Phase” May Be His Best Yet

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Every once in a while a new album stops you dead in your tracks upon first listen just by its sheer beauty alone. “Morning Phase” by Beck is definitely one of those albums. It is 47 minutes of perfectly crafted bliss that you’ll need to listen to without pause.

Beck has gone through so many phases and incarnations as an artist, ranging from funky/freaky/experimental (think “Midnite Vultures”) to more somber/morose/reflective (think “Sea Change” and songs such as “Nobody’s Fault But My Own). This is Beck at his finest; the music is mature, melodic, pensive, orchestral and altogether pretty chilled out.

It definitely recalls several elements of his 2002 masterpiece, “Sea Change,” in the best possible way. I closed my eyes after hearing the opening notes of the first track and was immediately transported back to the bookstore where I worked during the summer after my freshman year of college, where we had that album in heavy rotation. My immediate response to “Morning Phase” was that it’s a “less depressing ‘Sea Change.'” The tracks are definitely sunnier and feel lighter overall, while still using much of the same composition and conveying a similar lulled reflectiveness as “Sea Change.”

It’s hard to choose even a few standout tracks; each one is so well crafted and beautiful and must be listened to, so go ahead. Treat yo’ self…

http://www.npr.org/2014/02/16/274773496/first-listen-beck-morning-phase

“This Charming Man”: An Iconic Band Turns 30

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If I could credit just one thing for getting me through the emotional turmoil, uncertainty, and sometimes alienation that I felt in my high school years, it would most definitely be the music of Morrissey and the Smiths. Chances are if you were slightly “odd” in your teenage years and didn’t really fit the mainstream mold, you probably listened to the Smiths. Morrissey’s largely maudlin, dramatic approach to singing and songwriting resonated with me upon first listen as a high school sophomore, and I quickly became enamored with him and his music, sometimes spending hours alone in my room listening to Smiths albums with my headphones on.

The Smiths were a sort of gateway band for me, leading me to discover other British bands from the 80s such as Joy Division, the Cure, and New Order, and eventually the “emo” bands that became more popular during my last two years of high school. It made perfect sense that Saves the Day, (one of those “emo” bands after one of whose songs this website is named and arguably my favorite band of all time) recently covered a Smiths song on their acoustic tour. Morrissey’s music has struck a chord and made a powerful impact on listeners and other musicians who have felt misunderstood, disenfranchised, highly emotional and introspective, or just plain “different.”

Now 30 years after the release of their self-titled debut album, The Smiths and Morrissey continue to influence generations of musicians and fans. Most recently their song “Asleep,” was featured in the movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” which will continue to create a rebirth of their iconic music for the next generation of listeners. I recently played “Asleep” in a yoga class I taught and remember having a conversation with one of my high school students about the movie, the book, and the Smiths. It’s hard to believe that it was 13 years ago that I read “The Perks” as a high school senior and wrote a paper on Morrissey and the Smiths for one of my classes. Much like the story’s protagonist, Charlie, I met some great friends through listening to bands like the Smiths, and they helped me find my voice, break out of my shell, and deal with some personal crises. Whenever I look back to junior and senior year and remember the places I hung (out often by myself), the coffee shop and bookstore where I worked, or the afternoons I would sometimes skip class, I often hear the Smiths in the background. I can still visualize the Smiths lyrics I scrawled in my notebooks for class and the poetry and sketches that were often inspired by those lyrics. I’m pretty sure I still have the cassette version of the Smiths’ self titled album that I used to play when I drove my dad’s old Volvo that predated CD players somewhere in my parents’ basement. It’s surreal to think that that cassette tape is 30 years old, almost as old as me.

30 years have passed and artists are still covering the Smiths in concert and on tribute albums. Bands today still credit the Smiths as one of their most powerful musical influences. Something about the enigmatic, eccentric, slightly depressing but oddly “charming man” that is Stephen Morrissey has captivated fans and musicians alike and has certainly influenced many a piece of art, from books to movies to songs and albums.

Unlike some bands from the late 90s/early 2000s that were popular when I was in high school, and also unlike several 80s bands that were more popular during that time, the Smiths have definitely stood the test of time. Their music was truly unlike anything else that was being created during that era, and it has left such a mark on generations long after the one who was in high school in the mid-late 80s. I’d bet that just about anyone who was an avid Smiths fan in high school still digs back into their catalog for nostalgia’s sake from time to time and that just hearing the first few notes of any one of their songs will transport that listener back to a time and place that they can visualize in full color and high definition.