Archive for the ‘Soundtracks’ Category

*SPOILERS AHEAD FOR TV SHOWS FROM THE EARLY 2000s*

TV series have a way of getting you emotionally invested in the lives of fictional characters, and music plays a huge role in this connection. I’m not talking about the theme song, or the score. I’m talking about those tracks that perfectly capture that monumental scene, such that they are forever associated. You can’t think of one without thinking of the other. Here are my top picks. (Note: these were the ones that most resonated with me, based only on TV shows I’ve watched over the years.)

Alias – S02E14, 2003

“God Put a Smile Upon Your Face” – by Coldplay

The premise: a thriller-drama about a female super spy turned double agent, Sydney Bristow (aka Jennifer Garner.) The story lines, characters, plot twists, and all the lies, were all so well woven together in this show.

The scene: Sydney and her CIA-handler beau Vaughn (played by the dashingly handsome Michael Vartan) are hanging out at her place, making dinner. But the food never makes it to the table, because they decide to get distracted by their physical attraction to each other.

Why it makes the list: a seemingly innocuous scene where nothing actually happens. Except they’ve had such a will-they-won’t-they relationship thus far, and in this scene, it seems everything is finally perfect. They’re so into each other, they can’t contain it; you can see it in their eyes, their body language, their faces. You can feel the heat between them. This track is a fantastic choice for this scene, because it has just the right amount of sexy and excitement, mirroring exactly what’s happening on screen.

 

Grey’s Anatomy – S02E17, 2006

“Breathe (2AM)” by Anna Nalick 

The premise: a medical drama. I have no idea how/why it’s still on the air 14 (!) seasons later. I cut ties after season 2, because I just couldn’t anymore. Meredith’s face never stopped pouting, George’s hair got obnoxiously curly, and don’t even get me started on the Izzie/Denny story line.

The scene: somehow, Meredith (aka Ellen Pompeo) got herself in a predicament where she was holding on to a bomb inside a patient’s chest cavity. If she let go, it would go off, so she had to slowly remove it, and hand it over to hunky, green-eyed bomb squad leader (ie Kyle Chandler, ie Coach Taylor.)

Why it makes this list: in spite of the show’s shortcomings, its earlier seasons were actually pretty good. Anything went. People died, bad stuff happened. This scene is incredibly intense. That bomb could go off any second. Yet this airy, light pop track is playing in the background, for a supposed calming effect. It’s a perfect distraction, making what happens next completely unexpected. I haven’t been able to trust this song since.

 

Scrubs – S08E19, 2009

“The Book of Love” – by Peter Gabriel 

The premise: a medical comedy that follows 4 friends, JD (Zach Braff), Turk (Donald Faison),  Elliott (Sarah Chalke) and Carla (Judy Espinosa) as they navigate through life, evolving from lost puppies, to strong women/men in charge, all while maintaining their friendships.

The scene: JD finishes his last day at the hospital, walks out and in front of him he sees glimpses of his possible future projected on a movie screen. A montage of yet-to-come events, to the backdrop of this beautiful song.

Why it makes this list: “Scrubs” was one those shows that was kind of like having a best friend around at all times. The characters felt real, their friendships felt real, the love felt real. JD is the sappy, cheesy type, so this finale fit him perfectly. I’d never heard this song prior to watching this episode; now whenever I hear it, this scene is all I see.

 

Six Feet Under – S05E12, 2005

“Breathe Me” by Sia 

The premise: the story of the Fisher family, who owned, lived and worked in their funeral home. Warning: this is a heavy show. It’s dark, raw, emotional, slow and also very well done (just don’t try and binge watch all 5 seasons – it’s too tough.)

The scene: the series finale. The series ended with youngest child Claire Fisher finally getting her life together and leaving her family’s (funeral) home to take on the world. As she drives away, flashes of how all the characters eventually die come through, soundtracked by this equally dark, raw, emotional, slow and very well done song. Easily one of the best finales I’ve ever seen.

Why it makes this list: it was a very character-driven show, so by the end you felt like Ruth, Nate, David and Claire Fisher were family, because you just knew them so well. Their good, their bad and their ugly (the episode where David gets attacked still haunts me.) Not to mention the acting chops on Michael C. Hall, Lauren Ambrose, Peter Krause and Frances Conroy. This entire video comes into view when I hear this song. It still gives me chills, and this scene alone made the entire series worth watching.

 

ER – S06E13, 2000

“Battleflag” – by Lo Fidelity All Stars 

The premise: another medical drama.

The scene: it’s Valentine’s Day and the ER staff are throwing a small party in the hospital. Dr. John Carter (aka Noah Wyle) stops by, and goes looking for a med student he’d asked to treat a patient.

Why it makes this list: it’s purely personal. I was obsessed with ER back in the day. I never missed an episode, watching it all in real time. No bingeing, no PVR. This was such a monumental episode because it changed the lives of so many characters. It’s an utterly benign scene, so you’d have no reason to expect anything major was going to happen. As things go awry, the music gets louder and louder, until it’s all you hear. To this day, I feel the pain of this scene all over again, any time I hear this track.

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Chris Cornell first invaded my ears back in the early 90s as frontman of Soundgarden – a Seattle band front and centre in the grunge music scene. Those formative years wouldn’t have been the same without that distinctive voice, his voice. Cornell’s vocals were what set them apart from the plethora of grunge bands trying to make it big at the time. His ability to hit such high octaves with perfect control, but also be raw and loud, gave him such versatility, and a sound that will always truly be his own (start video at 0:19) 

In Soundgarden’s early days, even before they “made it big” with 1994’s Superunknown, Cornell lived with musician Andrew Wood, of the band Mother Love Bone. After Wood died of a heroin overdose in 1990, Cornell got together with Wood’s bandmates, and wrote and produced a tribute album, under the name Temple of the Dog. It also featured backing vocals of newcomer Eddie (of yet-to-be-formed Pearl Jam.) The whole idea behind this entire project was friendship, so it’s no surprise I’ve made long-lasting friendships based on a mutual love for this powerful, anthemic track.

Soundgarden inevitably broke up in 1997, like the rest of the grunge bands. Cornell decided to kick off a solo career with 1999’s Euphoria Morning, which fared pretty well. As a solo artist, he also performed covers, appeared on soundtracks, and even had one of his albums produced by Timbaland (which did not fare well with his fans.) Point is, he was always experimenting, always making music, always in our ears. This track appeared in the movie Great Expectations – the one with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. It was the best part of the movie, and revealed a much softer Cornell, reaffirming that he really was capable of anything.

If Cornell didn’t have enough going on already, in 2001 he joined ex-members of rock-metal band Rage Against the Machine, to form Audioslave. A hard rock band, similar in many ways to Soundgarden, just less grunge and more aggression. They were loud, but also musical. By this time, I was in University, a completely different phase in my life. But there he was – still ringing in my ears. This track is so incredibly haunting and proof that no matter how much noise was going on, Cornell’s voice could always rise above, and take the whole thing to another level.

I had the privilege of seeing Cornell play live 3 three times. Once as a solo act at a small venue in Hamilton. I drove through a snowstorm, in pitch black just to get there, and it was worth every second. The 2nd time was with Soundgarden on their reunion tour at an outdoor venue; when the sky turned gray, and they went into “Fell on Black Days,” the rain didn’t even matter. Lastly, a solo acoustic show at Massey Hall: just him, his guitar and a lot of incredible music. I went to this show all by myself, because I couldn’t miss this opportunity. I had goosebumps the entire time, and never felt I was there alone – Cornell, as usual, was right there.

There was never a time in my musical life that Cornell wasn’t doing something, or part of something. Everything he got involved with, somehow became a part of my life. A memory, a mood, a phase. It was comforting to know, no matter what he was doing, it would always resonate with me. When he performed live as a solo artist, the most remarkable thing was not only did fans get to see Cornell, but also Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave. So when Chris Cornell passed away on May 17th, not only was he gone, but he also took Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, and Audioslave with him. As a music fan, that’s a whole lot of music to mourn.

2015 was a pretty good year for music, even better for Canadian music, with Justin Bieber, Drake and The Weeknd dominating everything. As per usual, these highlights (and lowlights) are just my opinion, and have no bearing on commercial success. I also must disclaim that I haven’t listened to every single album/track that was released this year.

Best New Artist – Jamie xx

Okay so this is a bit of a cheat, mostly because Jamie xx isn’t exactly new. He’s resident DJ for incomparable indie band The xx. His beats are infectious and not your standard EDM style. This year, he decided to branch out on his own with his debut album, In Colour. And it blew everyone’s mind.

 

Worst New Artist – Shawn Mendes

I’m generally not one to pop open the haterade on young Canadian artists, but man this guy’s annoying. He’s so average, yet each one of his singles appears all over the radio. I will props him on writing (most of) his own stuff, but it’s just not that good – he’s not doing anything that hasn’t been done before.

 

Best Canadian Album – The Gates by Young Empires

Okay before you all hyperventilate because Drake or The Weeknd didn’t win this, it’s because my goal is to expose you all to new music. This list would be boring if it was predictable, so this is me changing it up. This is a solid album start to finish. It’s musical, thoughtful and shows an evolution in their sound.

 

Best Soundtrack – Empire

Empire is a one of a kind TV show. Entertainment mogul Lucious Lyon and his sons taking over the music industry, whilst dealing with their family drama that goes layers deep may not sound appealing, but it is. Even if the show doesn’t interest you, the music alone is worth tuning in. The talent on this show is commendable, seeing as they all (apparently) sing their own stuff, plus it’s loaded with guest stars galore. It’s just so addictive.

 

Best Remix – “The Hills” by The Weeknd feat. Eminem

Whether you’re a fan or not, you can’t deny The Weeknd’s musical abilities. His flawless voice, its velvety smoothness is purely eargasmic. As if this track wasn’t fantastic enough,  when you add Eminem’s rhymes on it, there’s just no contest.

 

Worst Remix – “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar

It’s high time we all get over Taylor Swift. She’s becoming a little too high maintenance, what with wanting to trademark everything she touches and taking her music off streaming services because she wasn’t making enough money. So imagine my surprise, when Kendrick Lamar joined her on this petty track. I mean, come on: his album is called To Pimp a Butterfly, and he’s from  Compton! This collab is adding zero value to his street cred and makes no sense at all.

 

RIP – Scott Weiland

This was a pretty personal one for me. I spent a lot of my teenage years cozying up to Stone Temple Pilots. “Plush” is one of my all-time favourite tracks, and one of the first I learned on guitar. He also fronted supergroup Velvet Revolver. He had such a unique voice, such a presence, but also such a big drug problem. The 90s wouldn’t have been the same without him.

 

Artist who Broke the Internet – Adele

When she released “Hello”, everyone fell apart. Millions and millions of views on YouTube. TV appearances, announcing a tour, shattering so many sales records, and continuing to do so. She may not be your style, but how can you not belt along to her lyrics? It’s so therapeutic.

 

Artist You Want to Befriend – Alessia Cara

A cool 19-year-old  singer-songwriter from Brampton, ON, who got signed to Def Jam Recordings. Her big hit “Here” tells the tale of the not-so-cool high school girl who ends up at typical teen party because her friends wanted to go. It’s smart, it’s honest, it’s funny and I seriously want to hang with her.

 

Best Choreography in a Video – “Hotline Bling” by Drake

This was a no-brainer.

 

 

Best Live Show – Foo Fighters at Fenway Park

I’ll extend this out to the entire leg of their tour where Grohl had to perform while sitting on a chair/throne because he broke his leg. In spite of that, the level of performance they gave was monstrous. He didn’t get tired for one second during the near 3 hour set. No complaints, no holding back. They played the crap out of their music and it was just such a joy to be a part of it.

 

Most Disappointing Album – A Head Full of Dreams by Coldplay

It’s no secret I’ve had a volatile love/hate relationship with these guys. Their last album Ghost Stories saw them maybe turning a corner, but they’re lost for good now. It’s basically a dance/pop album which is incapable of tugging at any heartstrings – something they used to master.  Basically, Coldplay is trying to latch on to the latest EDM trend, to make their music more mainstream. They also have dancing monkeys in their video; it’s just sad now, really.

 

Guiltiest Pleasure – “Sorry” by Justin Bieber

I know, I can’t believe I’m admitting it. It’s just so darn catchy.

 

Most Underrated Artist – Lianne La Havas

Lianne dropped her second album Blood this year, and it seemed like no one noticed. She’s got a beautiful voice, full of emotion (think Lauryn Hill and India Arie put together.) Everyone needs to pay more attention to her, starting now.

Most Transformed Artist – Daniel Johns

He used to lead singer of 90s grunge band Silverchair. Heavy guitars, loud lyrics, long hair and apathy written everywhere. Now all of a sudden, Johns resurfaces as some hunky, electro-pop star, that makes his voice do things fans of Silverchair never even thought possible. See for yourselves.

Worst Break-Up – Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale

My inner 90s child’s heart broke when this news surfaced. They were supposed to be the music couple that made it all the way, the ones that lasted. They met on tour back in the 90s – she with No Doubt, he with Bush. It was so perfect in so many ways. And now it’s been ruined. As has my belief in humanity.

 

Best Summer Song – “2 Heads” by Coleman Hell

Hell is from Thunder Bay, and this track is fun, different, and makes you dance along to that country vibe. It just feels like summer.

 

Album of the Year – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by  Florence + the Machine

There’s just something about Florence’s voice, artistry and her drama. She can sing any song, and give you goosebumps doing it. Every track on this album will probably change your life somehow. It’s worth a listen.

 

Song of the Year – “Don’t Wanna Fight” by Alabama Shakes

This track is an addiction. Gets you on a crazy high, feeds your soul, and makes you tingle all over. Brittany Howard’s vocals have so much fire in them, and once you add the funk in their music, you have sheer perfection.