June 19, 2006

soundtracks to our lives, v. 1.0

Before I go on any trip, I try to think through the soundtrack for my travels. Typically, I try to capture the mood of the city or region that I'm going to and then find a new release that has caught my fancy. Sometimes this works out, others it isn't so good, and even others there is an organic culmination of people and music that seems to make the music and locale inseprably committed to each other.

One recent example of this was a trip up the Puget Sound that Sarah and I took with Andrew Mathias and Kelley Kirker. I had just purchased the Garden State soundtrack, as had Andrew, and as we drove along Whidbey Island, we got fixated with Frou Frou's "Let Go". We listened to that song over and over, and then a few more times. It has been ingrained in my mind forever that this song is for driving two-lane highways along coastal waterways in the Pacific Northwest, much like its intended use in a film like Garden State (which by the way, is the song that seals the love story between Zach Braff and Natalie Portman).

So what did I listen to when I was in New York? Well, here's what has now been permanently associated with flying into LaGuardia Airport, riding public transportation, and navigating the many city streets and glamorous Manhattan shops:

Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere
I don't typically by hip-hop/rap albums, but this one seemed too good to pass up. Definitely a throw back to Marvin Gaye flavored soul. I read one review that described it as what would have happened if Marvin Gaye had made What's Goin On? with today's modern technology. I couldn't agree more! Actually, I would add that Marvin Gaye would also have had to use today's post-modern approach to production, with crazy shifts between styles and start/stop timing. Standout tracks: "Go-go Gadget Gospel", "Crazy", "Just A Thought", "Transformer" (just can't get that one out of my head!)

If you haven't had a chance to see them on television, don't miss the below video from the MTV Movie Awards!

Josh Ritter, The Animal Years
If you've read Paste Magazine for any period of time, you start to pick out the staff's favorite artists. One of these is clearly Josh Ritter. Even though this is the only CD I have purchased of his, I feel like I know his career track fairly well just from reading about him. This album is all at once raw and elegantly crafted. I think it attests to Ritter's ability as a songwriter more than it does to quality production and stand-out performers. The band knows how to back him up and give just the right canvas for his songs to take flight. There is an intimacy here. The characters that he sings about he has clearly inhabited. Being from Moscow, Idaho (the home of Douglas Wilson and New St. Andrew's College), I wonder what sort of religious climate Ritter grew up with. Nonetheless, the opening track "Girl In The War" is an interesting conversation between the Apostles Peter and Paul, dealing with each of their writing styles. An overall strong album, I have a feeling I will continue to follow Ritter's career. Stand out tracks: "Girl In The War", "Wolves", "Lillian, Egypt", "Thin Blue Flame"

Simon and Garfunkel, "The Only Living Boy In New York"
This is not a CD that I purchased for my NYC trip. Rather, it is one that has shown up on a few of my CDs, most recently the aforementioned Garden State soundtrack. Not to be outdone by Mr. Zach Braff, this has now become a part of my own soundtrack. I think I listened to this 10 times on repeat during my train rides into the city. Beyond the fact these guys are one of the groups that seem to embody New York to me (another being Billy Joel), this song seems to soar above the skyscrappers with its vocal flourishes and organ swells. I loved this song before my trip, but I think that it is now a part of my traveling vocabulary.

So with all of this discussion of music fueling the memories of my life, what songs or albums have become connected with your life? Please post your comments. I plan on making this a fairly regular thread, and I will be encouraged to discuss this more if I see people getting in on the fun with me!

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