Archive for the ‘Soundtracks’ Category

90s Irish rockers The Cranberries, had an inimitable lead singer in Dolores O’Riordan. She was cool, badass, and had a voice with many textures, and nuances. Their music was ever present while I was growing up, and they will always be synonymous with that time in my life. Earlier this week, O’Riordan passed away; here’s a look at some of her best work.

“Zombie” – No Need to Argue, 1994

Picutre this: a co-ed birthday party in grade 7ish, circa 1994. Everyone was hanging out in the basement, no parents were home. Some kids were smoking, others were drinking. Some were playing spin the bottle, others were flirting behind closed doors. The Cranberries’ sophomore album, No Need to Argue, had just been released, and copies of the album were in abundance. This song became the official soundtrack of that night, including head banging and slow dancing.

“Liar” – Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, 1993

My first memory of this song is hearing it off the timeless Empire Records soundtrack (it’s track 2 in case you’re wondering.) It’s a movie about a bunch of teens working in a record store, trying to figure out where they belong. It’s about friendship, love, heartache, community, and music. It hit home on so many levels as a teenager, and continues to do so, because it’s always relevant. Thankfully, The Cranberries were along for the ride.

“Dreams” – Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, 1993

Since we’re on soundtracks here, the first time I recall hearing this track was – believe it or not – on the Mission: Impossible soundtrack. I bought it (yes, bought) because in 1996, I was in a deeply loving relationship with U2 and they were responsible for the theme music. Lucky for me, this track also appeared on the album. It’s positive, uplifting, and hopeful; destined to make any listener feel like anything is possible. As a teenager – and even as and adult – this is the kind of music that stays with you.

“Ode to My Family” – No Need to Argue, 1994

This song has so many layers, I don’t even know where to start. The longing, the sadness, the memories, the history; the black and white video, the honesty and depth of the music and the lyrics. It’s so complex, but also so simple.

“I Can’t Be With You” – No Need to Argue, 1994

A completely underrated break-up song. The lyrics are sad and full of confusion, but the music seems more angry. It’s exemplary of all the feelings involved in a broken relationship.

“Free to Decide” – To the Faithful Departed, 1996

A tune for the angsty teenager who just wants to be their own person. The one who refuses to accept things as they are, and listen to nonsensical opinions. The one who, in spite of all the crap that’s happening around them, doesn’t give up. This one was all of us.

“Linger” – Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, 1993

If you’ve ever been betrayed by a loved one, this is your anthem. It’s just so heartbreaking, and makes you want to curl up in a ball and cry. let’s be honest, we’ve all been there.

“Salvation” – To The Faithful Departed, 1996

The first single off their follow up to the hugely successful No Need to Argue, this track amped up The Cranberries’ sound. Rocking short hair (which I may or may not have tried to copy,) O’Riordan was perfect on this track: pleading desperately to listeners to pay attention, so they’d stay away from the perils of doing drugs. My favourite line: “Inject your soul with liberty, it’s free, it’s free.”

“When You’re Gone” – To The Faithful Departed, 1996

This song perfectly describes the confusion one feels, when someone near and dear isn’t around anymore. With all the musicians who have left us over the past couple of years, it feels like my adolescence is slowly dying, and I am filled with this ominous feeling of “who’s next”? To those we’ve lost, and now Dolores O’Riordan too – this one’s for all of you. RIP.




It’s pretty certain most us would like to put 2017 behind us, and move forward to the (hopefully) better and brighter 2018. Musically speaking, 2017 was a decent year, so let’s celebrate all it had to offer (Note: once again, these are solely my opinions, and as usual I didn’t listen to every single record that was released this year.)

Best Rap Album: DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar

I’ll be honest: I didn’t fully get the “hype” behind Lamar until this album came out. It wins because Lamar’s lyrics are smart, honest, and he’s actually saying something. Plus, the album as a whole is a solid mix of rhymes, dope beats, and a whole lotta love.

Guiltiest Pleasure: “There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back” by Shawn Mendes

He’s so plain and vanilla; boring and unoriginal. Yet this songs makes me dance, and I just can’t help it.

Worst Collaboration: “Something Just Like This” Coldplay + The Chainsmokers

Coldplay has been dead to me for some time now. The minute they shed everything that made them them, I cut the cord. The Chainsmokers were never on my good list, because there’s nothing good about them. This is a musical abomination on so many levels.

Best Collaboration – “I Know You” by Craig David feat. Bastille

David’s smooth vocals against Bastille’s rock operatic ones; David’s R&B sound, with Bastille’s rock-electronic vibe. Mash it all together and what you get is beautiful music. Not to mention: Craig David is back!

Best Latin Collaboration: “Mi Gente” by J Balvin, Willy William feat. Beyoncé

The original of this infectious track has over 1.4 billion views on YouTube alone. Add Queen Bey into the mix and it’s completely unstoppable.

Most Surprising Track: “Rockstar” Post Malone feat. 21 Savage

At first glance, Post Malone leaves nothing to be desired. That should teach me to judge a book by its cover. Although he screams drug addict trailer trash, with nasty grills and hair that hasn’t been washed in months, his music is actually pretty good (I can’t believe I just admitted that.)

Most Disappointing Track: “Walk on Water” by Eminem feat. Beyoncé

This wins this category because in spite of its huge potential, it falls flat. The content of Em’s flow is pretty good, but his delivery is lazy, slurry and sounds a little too much like Macklemore (sorry Em!) Bey’s chorus makes the track listenable, but otherwise, it’s a bit of a snoozefest (I can’t believe I just admitted that.)

Best Indie Track: “Nobody Else Will be There” by The National

It’s moody, dark, and puts your stomach in knots. Everything a National song is supposed to be.

Worst Indie Track: “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man

It’s so catchy that it very quickly becomes too catchy, which automatically makes it intolerable. It’s just trying too hard.

Best Club Track: “Unforgettable” by French Montana feat. Swae Lee

I dare you not to bust a move right now.

Best R&B Track: “Skywalker” by Miguel feat. Travis Scott

One of the best tracks off Miguel’s release War & Leisure, it shows off his velvety vocals, a sick beat, and also appeared on HBO’s smash hit Insecure.

Best New Artist: Amy Shark

Delicate vocals full of vulnerability and soul, Australia’s Shark is a singer-songwriter who has managed to dominate radio waves, in spite of the fact she’s only ever released a 6-track EP. Look out for her in 2018.

Worst New Artist: Cardi B

There are just so many things about Cardi B that, despite my best efforts, I just can’t.

Best Track from an Ex-Member of One Direction: “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles

This track wins mostly because the sound is just more to my liking. A little more rock ‘n roll, a little edgier. Niall’s offering was too cheesy boy band pop; Zayn’s was too over the top and all over the place.

Worst Track from an Ex-Member of One Direction: “Strip That Down” by Liam Payne feat. Quavo 

Payne just isn’t vocally strong enough to be a solo act. Everything about this screams someone who’s a little too keen on changing his image. Newsflash, Liam: it’s not working.

Best TV Soundtrack: Big Little Lies

It has everything from Leon Bridges, to Alabama Shakes, to Martha Wainwright. Oh, and this killer theme song.

Best Movie Soundtrack: Atomic Blonde

Question: what’s better than watching a stiletto-wearing Charlize Theron kick ass to the sound of new wave/rock/pop/punk 80s music? Answer: nothing.

Best Canadian Album: Everything Now by Arcade Fire

I will agree that Arcade Fire is definitely an acquired taste. But once you get into them, there’s something unique about the way they make music and put it all together, that sets them apart. This wasn’t their best album, but a solid one nonetheless.

Best Comeback: N.E.R.D.

It’s been 7 years since N.E.R.D. released an album, and 16 years (!) since their anthem “Rock Star” was released. This year’s No One Ever Really Dies is such a force, both musically and lyrically; there’s nothing out there that sounds anything like it. Bravo.

Worst Comeback: Theory of  a Deadman

Technically ToaD put out an album in 2014, but let’s be honest – it’s been at least 12 years since they released anything anyone heard, and, frankly, it should’ve stayed that way. They are, and have always been a poor man’s Nickelback.

Most Underrated Artist: Billie Eilish

Ms. Eilish released her debut EP, Don’t Smile at Me, this summer. At only 15 years old (!), she blew me away.

Most Overrated Artist: Ed Sheeran

Look, I know it’s easy to come down hard on Sheeran, but it’s just as hard not to. His music is formulaic, his vocals aren’t anything special, and he’s a ginger. Somehow, he’s heralded as the best of the best, and his smugness exacerbates with each accolade. I will never understand his appeal.

Best Cover Song: “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by London Grammar 

The key to a good cover song is to maintain the integrity of the song, while putting your own spin on it. London Grammar has done exactly this with The Verve’s 1997 classic. Grammar stripped it down, and made it more haunting. As far as covers go, it’s perfection. Not to mention, lead singer Hannah Reid kills it on vocals.

Worst Cover Song: “You Get What You Give” by Felix Cartal

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you’re going to cover a song, make sure it’s a song that’s worth covering. The New Radicals’ original from 1998, wasn’t a good song. It was mediocre at best. Then completely changing the sound from pop/rock to techno is an even worse decision.

Best Live Show: The xx

I’ve been to my fair share of concerts, and I can say without a doubt, The xx came out on top this year. Their music builds up so subtly, until it takes over and pulls at every emotion inside your body. The only option you have left is to dance off the emotional wreck you have become – it’s the best way to heal.

Worst Album: Reputation by Taylor Swift

Swift needs to take a chill pill. Her attempt at shedding her “good girl” image is so predictable, and so not working. No one believes her to be this villainous vixen (except maybe her millions of fans.) She tried to throw shade at the Kardashian-Wests, her music gets worse and worse with every album, and she needs to stop with the red lipstick.

Album of the Year: I See You by The xx

This album has the ability to make you feel things you never thought you could feel; it’ll make you hear things in ways you never thought possible; it’ll break your heart, sweep you off your feet; it’ll understand you like your best friend, and hurt you like your past love. All while making it impossible to resist dancing like no one’s watching.

Worst Song: “Take a Knee…My Ass” by Neal McCoy

This requires zero explanation.

Song of the Year: “Performance” by The xx

The first time I heard this song, it permeated through my skin, invaded my soul and sunk my heart; time actually stopped. The story it tells is one that resonates with us all, and its honesty is so real, it hurts. In a good way.


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.