Music - Your Personal Soundtrack

In an episode of the popular sitcom Family Guy, Peter Griffin meets a genie who grants him three wishes, and one of his wishes is to have his own theme music wherever he goes -- what a great idea, especially now that it's so easy to carry your music with you.

I woke up rather early the other morning, and almost immediately after opening my eyes I started hearing the often-imitated crooning of Elvis Presley echoing through my skull. That’s not entirely a surprise -- I was flying to Las Vegas that day, so the fact that a song by the King popped into my head did seem somehow appropriate. I suppose that a selection from Tom Jones or Dean Martin would probably have fit just as well, but for whatever reason for me that day it was Elvis -- and his music was stuck in my head all morning.

”…A little less conversation / A little more action please…”

I don’t know why, but for a long time I’ve always felt like certain moments in life just need a song to go along with them. In addition to being such an avid music fan I also love movies, and feel like no matter how good a movie may be that a good soundtrack can always make it even better. I suppose that some songs have then become the soundtrack for the still-in-production movie that is my life. For example, the opening bass line of The Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin” always reminds me of sitting in an airport or a train station, waiting to leave for a weekend road trip with my friends; Johnny Cash’s somber and regretful “Sunday Morning Coming Down” usually reminds me of the trip back. AC/DC’s anthemic “Back in Black” makes me think of a weekend night when (I think) I’m king of the world, and Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova” always makes me think of that miserable period of time just after breaking up with someone, regardless of who that “someone” may be that particular time around.

”…Someday you will find me / Caught beneath the landslide…”

A little over a year ago, I started taking this idea of a life soundtrack a little more seriously. One day I had to go out to a project site and do an inspection of a narrow utility space that was wedged between the floors of an office building. Afterward, the clothes that I had been wearing were so stained with dust and grease that I decided to just change and throw them away, and I emailed a certain “friend” of mine and jokingly wrote something like “If I had a theme song today, it would be ‘Dirty White Boy’ by Foreigner.” My interpretation was slightly more literal than what the band was writing about, but it didn’t matter. My friend wrote back saying that she really liked the idea of a theme song of the day, and seeing as how I really liked her, I kept doing it -- and did so for nearly a year, even after we went our separate ways.

…Dirty white boy, yeah, dirty white boy…

There were occasions when I picked a song just to pick one, and other times when my selection was somewhat forced. Sometimes I picked a song because I was feeling a certain way and that song expressed how I was feeling, and on other times I picked a song because I wanted to feel differently and felt as though that song could help to get me there. But, more often than not, I felt as though the song chose me more so than I ever chose it -- just like the morning of my trip. Whether it really was some sort of fate, or whether it was just coincidence that I interpreted as such, there have been plenty of occasions in my life where a song has come up on the radio, a jukebox, some randomly generated digital playlist -- or just popped into my head -- and I’ve thought to myself “There could not be a better fit right now.” -- To name just a few:

-- Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane” while driving through a blinding rainstorm in New Jersey?


-- W.A.S.P.’s “Mean Man” on a day when I was in a bad mood and took it out on some friends?

Perfect – unfortunately…

-- Screeching Weasel’s “Hey Suburbia” while driving around aimlessly through the suburbs during the summer between high school and college?


-- Looking at the neon lights of the Strip outside my hotel room window?

…Viva! Viva! Las Vegas…


So what's your "theme song" today?


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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