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A Chorus So Sublime: Summer 2012 Movie Soundtracks

Summer is upon us, and one of the best parts of summer, in my opinion, is getting to spend a hot afternoon in an air-conditioned theater watching a summer movie. What always makes those movies even better are the killer soundtracks. I spent last weekend catching up on my summer flicks, and I have to say, already we have some excellent music to fill our ears with thanks to the current crop of blockbusters at the cinema.

For instance, Snow White and the Huntsman, which was nowhere near as good as I had hoped it would be, still proved to have some merit once the credits rolled.  (It had such promise at the beginning thanks to Charlize Theron’s awesomely evil Queen performance, then it just devolved into Chris Hemsworth’s strange muddled accent with Kristen Stewart flitting around the woods as some sort of fairy Jesus.) Despite being fairly bored and disappointed with the film as a whole, Florence + The Machine’s dramatic closing song, “Breath of Life,” was almost good enough to make me not feel cheated out of a movie ticket.

Luckily other movies have far exceeded my expectations, such as Pixar’s Scottish fairy tale Brave. The film was funny, moving, and incredibly lush, and what made it even better was the sweeping score by Patrick Doyle. The bagpipes, strings, and drums do a fitting service to both the story as well as Scotland, and “Touch the Sky” by Julie Fowlis is genuinely grand and uplifting. You can almost feel the highland winds in your face when you listen to this ebullient tune. It’s a fitting theme for a modern yet timeless heroine such as Merida.

Of course, what summer could be complete without a vampire movie? Some are good, some are bad, others are terrible, but luckily Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was every ounce as epic as I had hoped. (What do you get when you take one of the most awesome American presidents and add vampires to the mix? One hour and forty-five minutes of solid badass entertainment, that’s what.) The Linkin Park song “Powerless,” which is played over the credits, is decent, but lately I’m obsessing over Henry Jackman’s score, especially the tune “The Rampant Hunter.” If this music doesn’t put you in the mood to take up an axe and right the wrongs of the world yourself (or at the very least walk in slow motion while looking cool) then I don’t know what will.

It’s hard to believe that June is nearly over, but luckily July’s fresh crop of summer films is just around the corner. Let’s hope that Batman and Spider-Man prove good musical company by adding to the worthy summer soundtracks of 2012.

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I’m Gonna Watch You Shine, Gonna Watch You Grow

This week’s (belated) post is in honor of fathers. Y’know, it’s funny: when it came time to talk about Mother’s Day, I had several songs to choose from that praise moms. However, now that it’s Father’s Day here in the US, I couldn’t find as much selection praising the dads of the world. Apparently to make it in my music library (current song total: 20,973 and counting) you must have some major daddy issues. Almost every song with “father” or “dad” in the title was about pain, resentment, and abandonment. I think that this is a colossal shame, as I know some really amazing fathers. Most notable is my own dad: I am an unabashed daddy’s girl, and I know for a fact that my dad is one of the best people in the whole world. I still look up to him even though I’m (technically) an adult, and I hope that I can be as magical and full of wonder and joy as he is when I get to be his age. He’s one of the funnest people to be around, and every time we hang out we have a blast. Maybe that explains why I never followed my fleeting rock star dreams: I’m too well-adjusted, and I have a great relationship with my father.

If I can get back into songwriting (which I haven’t done in several years, but enjoyed briefly) I’ll certainly make it my goal to write a kick-ass anthem for great dads. Until then, I have at least two songs that always make me think of my father and smile.

It’s hard to go wrong with anything Paul Simon in my book, but this song in particular, “Father and Daughter,” really touched my heart. I remember the first time that I heard it: I was in my car, driving across a bridge, and I heard this song on the radio. I wasn’t paying much attention to it, but then the chorus came on: There could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you. Suddenly I was listening intently. I loved the sentiment, and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that’s how my own father felt (and continues to feel) about my sisters and me. Now whenever I hear this song I think of my dad and feel really lucky and really, really loved.

Perhaps it’s unsurprising, given how close I am to my dad, but A Little Princess has always been one of my absolute favourite children’s books. I recall watching the Shirley Temple movie based on the novel and loving it as well, but then Alfonso Cuaron came out with his film version and took my breath away. I can’t watch it without feeling waves of super intense emotions, so when my favourite remix artist, Pogo, came out with this song, “Whisperlude,” based on the movie, I literally sat transfixed in front of my computer screen as tears welled up in my eyes. After that I immediately popped the DVD in and rewatched the whole film, then I went and spent the day with my dad. It’s pretty amazing how Pogo can recreate all of the drama and wonder of a gorgeous and complex film into a remix less than four minutes long. It’s yet another reason why I am in awe of him, and another song to add to my repertoire of feel-good father tunes.

Happy Father’s Day, and thanks to all the great fathers of the world for being awesome!

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Break My Heart Again: Songs For Love Gone Wrong

Hallo once more, little earbuds. Miss Pink has actually been doing pretty well lately. I’m feeling healthy, and slowly but surely I’m getting through my huge backlog of projects and general stuff-to-do, such as catching up on emails with friends. In doing so, I discovered that one of my pals is going through some heartbreak right now. Of course I was sympathetic (because who hasn’t experienced that in some form or other?) but words just don’t feel like enough when it comes to matters of the heart. So In honor of my friend, today I’m bringing you another playlist: Top 5 Songs For Love Gone Wrong. Warning: Here there be F-bombs, so if adult language offends you, better skip this week’s post.

5.) Peaches – F**k The Pain Away

Who can resist Peaches and her electroclash-punk aesthetic? She tells it like it is, and even when her words are tongue-in-cheek, they leave a sting. What’s even better is this fan video of Miss Piggy singing “F**k The Pain Away,” because both Piggy and Peaches are total badasses.

4.) She Wants Revenge – True Romance

The name of this band alone should clue you in to the fact that a song titled “True Romance” might not be what it seems. “I know that you never loved me, I know that you never cared at all…” There are so many vengeful gems from She Wants Revenge, but this one takes the cake for love that’s gone sour.

3.) Dandy Warhols – We Used To Be Friends

Back before Veronica Mars was on the air I found myself in the most upsetting roommate situation of my life to date with someone whom I once considered a close friend. Since I tend to invest as much of my heart into my friendships as I do into romance, it was a very scarring moment in my personal history. Luckily, during this period I caught the Dandy Warhols performing this song on SNL, and instantly I had a theme for my pain. Just listening to this tune on repeat automatically made everything a bit better.

2.) Future Bible Heroes – I’m Lonely (And I Love It)

Even though this song is over a decade old, I miraculously discovered it on the same night that I was replying to the very friend who inspired this playlist. As much as I adore Stephin Merritt, I must admit that I haven’t explored his side projects as thoroughly as I have Magnetic Fields. Since previously I only had two Future Bible Heroes songs in my musical library, I’m delighted to have an entirely new catalogue to explore (small as it is, being a side project and all). As soon as I heard the plethora of electronic beats urging me to dance I was in love, but the beyond awesome lyrics take this song over the top. If there’s a more joyful song about heartbreak out there, I haven’t heard it. And I’ve heard a lot.

1.) Nine Inch Nails – You Know What You Are

As much as I’d love to end on a positive note like song #2, when it comes to pains of the heart, the guy I always turn to first is Trent Reznor. This entire list could have been populated with Nine Inch Nails, so extensive is his repertoire of anger and disappointment. What I really love about this particular song is how it takes pain and sadness and channels it all into pure unadulterated rage. In my personal experience, there is no song that can trump this one when it comes to the primal desire to scream “F*** YOU!!!” at whoever has lied to you, cheated on you, or let you down in your life.

There are obviously many, many more songs out there of every genre that cover this topic extremely well. J. Geils Band’s “Love Stinks” is always a classic choice, as is any version of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” (My personal preference is the upbeat 90s cover by Saint Etienne, because nothing gives melancholy the middle finger quite like being peppy.) Then there’s the newer indie classic, Gotye’s ode to faded romance, “Somebody That I Used To Know.” The Kills provide great, crunchy tunes that always make me wanna take a road trip and stay in run-down motels, and their ditty “F**k The People” is excellent not just for heartache but any ol’ time you feel like you’re surrounded by stupidity. Along those same lines, Combichrist’s “What The F**k Is Wrong With You?” is an industrial/emb version of the same feeling. And who could forget Amy Winehouse (rest in peace), the gal who seemed to truly understand when life gets messed up, with her song, “Love Is A Losing Game?”

The list goes on and on, and will continue to grow every year, because heartbreak is universal. I take solace in all of the great music created to cope with such harsh and uncomfortable emotions. How about you? What’s the song that you keep in your back pocket, the tune that you know will be the first to beat on your eardrums when your heart gets chewed up and spit back out? The choices are out there, and as vast as the channels of the human heart. As it should be, because great art is one of the only benefits to great sorrow, or so this music lover believes.

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Acetaminophen, You See The Medicine

I finally made it out to the doctor yesterday to get my sickness taken care of. Unsurprisingly, my ailment is still a mystery. They took some blood (a lot of blood, actually) and they’re running some tests. Hopefully I’ll have an answer soon as to why my digestive system seems to hate me. Until then, I decided to cut the chatter short and bring you a Top 5 list, which I haven’t done in yons. Today’s musical medication: Top 5 Medicinal Songs. Listen twice daily for best results.

5.) Bon Jovi – Bad Medicine

I’ll admit that I’m not a huge Bon Jovi fan. Most of their songs are too “stadium rock” for my tastes. However, this song is pretty rad to blast in the car on a warm summer day with the windows down.

4.) Thompson Twins – Doctor! Doctor!

The Thompson Twins have so much more to offer than just a good song to make out to while sitting on a table above sixteen flaming candles. This is classic new wave awesomeness.

3.) Hooverphonic – Shake The Disease

I was torn between posting this version of Depeche Mode’s frustrated love song or the original. However, I was smitten the first time that I heard Hooverphonic’s excellent cover, so as much as I enjoy any and all things Depeche Mode, I had to give props where props are due. Plus trip-hop is so damn sexy!

2.) The White Stripes – Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine

Arguably the best song on a really stellar album, this track reminds me why I was completely obsessed with The White Stripes for a good chunk of my twenties. And the lyrics are killer.

1.) Garbage – Medication

Garbage are undeniably fierce (I dare you to deny their ferocity!) so as soon as I decided to make this list I knew that this song would be my number one. It really is the perfect musical embodiment of how it feels to be sluggish and in a drug-induced haze, still sick and perhaps even worse off than before you took the pills that the doctor prescribed. One listen is all it takes to hear that Shirley Manson really gets it.

And that’s my Top 5 Medicinal Songs. Being sick really sucks. But great music makes everything just a bit better.

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My Return To Never Never Land

It’s been kind of a funny day. Ever have one of those oddly timeless days where you seem to be in a bubble, neither moving forward nor backward, just kind of floating merrily along? I have so much to do today, and slowly I’m getting things done, but I’m also very zen about everything, which is not like me at all (though I wish that were the case). At any rate, of course my trusty iTunes is shuffling up random songs here and there, when all of a sudden “Alice” by Pogo begins playing.

It was one of those inexplicably perfect moments in time where music and melody carried my zen mood even further along, elevating it to a new level of bliss. You may recall me writing about Pogo earlier in this blog’s life. I’m still completely over the moon for this guy’s work. He has this amazing way of taking sounds from the films that shaped my views and memories, indeed often my morals and dreams, and making them into incredibly soulful and lovely works of audible art. I usually listen to “Upular” whenever I need a punch of energy or joy, so “Alice” coming on randomly today wasn’t exactly like rediscovering an old favourite. It just felt like slipping on that perfectly comfortable sweater that has been just out of view in your closet, the one that you didn’t even realize you were missing until it’s snuggling warmly around your body.

So I went on good ol’ YouTube to rewatch the video, and that’s when I discovered one of his newest gems, “Bloom.”

Say what you will about Disney, but a whole heaping lot of us grew up on those films, myself included. Watching even the tiny snippets of the films in this video almost brought me to tears. It makes me feel tender and hopeful like I did as a child, and that’s something that I don’t get to feel that often in every day adult life (even if you’re a particularly magical individual like yours truly here). I really don’t know how Pogo does it, but his music touches me in a way that few modern-day artists can. Maybe one of these days I’ll try my hand at crafting ye olde fan letter to tell him as much. Regardless of whether that happens or not, I’m very grateful for his musical brand of nostalgia. It’s important to have things that can take you out of your daily grind mentality and put you in a headspace that’s a lot more clear, simple, emotional, and beautiful. I hope that you have something like Pogo in your musical library, dear little earbuds, to remind you of all the good things in life.

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Gritty Goth-Tinged Rock Gives True Blood: Volume Three Its Bite

Yesterday True Blood: Volume Three was released, aka the soundtrack to season four. Though I may have entered the game late, I am now a 100% dedicated Trubie, so I bought the album as soon as it was available. I’m quite liking it, though not as much as Volume Two. Then again, I’ve been listening to that one for many months, and this album is new, so it might need some time to marinate. I didn’t immediately love the last one, to be honest, but now I do. As for the latest offering, there are some gems that stick out immediately on this new collection of tunes for the southern supernaturals among us.

Nick Cave and Neko Case do a sultry-yet-peppy lil’ cover of The Zombies’ “She’s Not There.” (Quentin Tarantino fans might recognize pieces of the song since Malcolm McLaren did a melancholy take on it for the Kill Bill Vol.2 soundtrack.) Then there’s the Karen Elson/Donovan version of “Season of the Witch,” how very appropriate for this particular season of True Blood. And of course, you can never go wrong with Siouxsie and the Banshees, so I was pleased as punch to hear “Spellbound” during the closing credits of episode eight. However, my current fav track on this album is “Me And The Devil” by recently deceased poet Gil Scott-Heron.

This song has just the right mixture of menace and groove that I come to expect from a gritty southern show about blood and creatures that roam the night. I think that it gives a good overall taste of what season four is about. Speaking of which, I keep reading rave reviews about the current season, but what do you think? Do the witches add or detract from the lives of Sookie, Bill, Eric, and all of our other fav True Blood characters? Which has been your favourite season thus far?

I’m not loving season four as much as season three, but who knows, maybe next week’s season ender will knock my socks off. At any rate, as far as the soundtrack goes, it’s a worthy purchase, in this Trubie’s opinion. The rockin’ cover of “Burning Down The House” by The Used isn’t included, so be sure to find that one separately. True Blood: Volume Three will certainly give you musical food for thought while biding your time until the finale this Sunday, because as every fan knows, waiting sucks.

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My Love Is A (Billy) Ocean

Hey, you, get into my car!

Remember when singing and dancing with cartoon characters was not a career death knell but instead the height of technology and entertainment? How about when gold lamé and oversized white trench coats were in fashion? Sometimes I catch these old videos and I have to sit back and marvel. What were we thinking in the Eighties? It’s so dayglo and garish, and yet so completely awesome at the same time. This particular ditty always seemed to play on the radio whenever my sisters and I were swimming in our backyard pool. My mom would blast the radio and catch some rays while my sisters and I danced in the water and created new diving board jumps and had the grandest time. To this day, most of Billy Ocean’s hit singles, and many other songs of the era as well, are what my sisters and I call “Pool Songs.”

For some reason “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” popped into my head yesterday and simply would not leave me be. Thanks to the magic of YouTube I’m currently grooving to “Caribbean Queen” and feeling an overwhelming urge to grab a bathing suit and do a cannonball. Or a watermelon, which my uncle David was always the best at. Whoever splashes the most water out of the pool wins!

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