Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


Not/Quite Remembering: A Musical Odyssey Pt 4

Posted on October 6, 2010 at 12:40 PM

I was hoping, by this point, I would have had the final part of my Musical Odyssey complete. It would have been 20 songs that, I feel, define my life. No, not songs that are my favorites, but 20 that represent various feelings, moments and eras. In fact, as I’ve been slowly, ever so slowly, compiling it, some songs I’m actually not a fan of or are tunes that I don’t consider my favorite from a particular artist.


As expected, it’s a daunting task. It makes me think of the speech by George Clooney in Up in the Air in what you would put in your backpack to define your life. What are the essential elements that, when you see or think (or in this case hear) them, people would then understand you as a result? After three weeks, I have a whopping six songs chosen and about 50 more that I simply can’t decide on and another 50 that will eventually be put on as I think of them. It’s progressive, difficult and honestly I don’t have an end date in sight.


However, the final part was also meant to incorporate music I currently listen to. If you’ve read the previous three installments, broken down by decade, you know the history I have with songs. What do I still listen to? What have I left behind. In other words: what are my favorites? Well, I have my MP3 player here and my computer music eternal drive open and ready, so let’s take a look:


Not/Quite Remebering: A Musical Odyssey Part 4

 What I Currently Listen To

Still Listening To, from Previous Not/Quite Installments

Let’s start with the old bands from the previous parts that I still listen to on a regular basis.


1. The Beatles – A given. Need I explain?

Wait you want to know what era of the Beatles I like? Am I being an asshole by asking questions on your behalf though you probably don’t care? Well I’ll answer either way. I far, far prefer the latter years of the Beatles. Of course, “later years” is kind of a dumb thing to say when referencing them. They weren’t even together for ten years. But albums such as Revolver, The White Album, Abbey Road and Let It Be I listen to on a regular basis.

For years, John Lennon was my favorite Beatle. Then I started listening to each one’s solo work. That eventually gravitated towards George Harrison as my favorite simply because his album, All Things Must Pass is probably the best album any of the Beatles did during their solo years.

2. Van Morrison

Though not as much as in college, I stil listen to Van the Man quite a bit and certainly always have him in my player. Moondance I’ve already gone into, but the albums Astral Weeks, The Philosopher’s Stone (unreleased tracks) and Tupelo Honey are all favorites as well.


This actually brings up a thought: 1970s “folky” type rock is something I listen to pretty regularly. Things like Crosby Stills and Nash and Neil Young (separate and together) or maybe a James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel here and there. Regularly? No. That’s why they’re not on this list, but I do enjoy those types of sounds.

3. Radiohead

A given, really. Radiohead is probably my favorite band at the moment. There’s not an album of theirs I don’t like and I know a majority of their songs front to back. They’re creative, artistic and able to implement all sorts of various sounds and ideas into the canvas of their music.

4. The Smashing Pumpkins

Both for nostalgic purposes and the fact that the Pumpkins were probably the best rock band of the 90s. Yeah, I know Nirvana and Pearl Jam and others were big too, but The Pumpkins managed to be consistently good and endure the awfulness of the late 90s music scene with some fantastic albums, such as Adore and Machina, before their eventual demise. Their latest album isn't quite them either, though it's far from horrible. More of a "let's start getting on the right track" album to me, the creativity and ambition just doesn't quite seem there yet.

5. Stone Temple Pilots/Green Day/Nirvana/Pearl Jam/Red Hot Chili Peppers –

Not a  whole, whole lot of listening to them as much as I used to, but I still enjoy their music and have them in my playlists regularly. These were the bands of my particular generation and, naturally, I tend to listen to them regularly. As much as Smashing Pumpkins (or as fondly)? No...but they’re still there.


6. Guns n Roses

Between Use Your Illusion I and II and Appetite for Destruction, as far as flat-out rock music, next to Zepplin, I probably listen to Guns n Roses the most. I admit, though, it’s pretty much just those three albums for me.

Speaking of other rock, I don’t listen to metal or heavy rock that much any more. I don’t necessarily turn the channel when Metallica, which I used to listen to a LOT, and Megadeath come up, or even Judas Priest for that matter. But I’m  not out there buying new albums and really don’t put them in my player that much anymore.

7. The Flaming Lips

From The Soft Bulletin on, I have to have The Flaming Lips in my playlist. I don’t have much more to say about them, I love their approach and style and energy.

8. The Shins

I briefly mentioned The Shins (on a side note, Broken Bells is fantastic), and they’re still something I tend to listen to pretty often. That type of sound, a relaxed, acoustic-style, is certainly in my category of “like.”

“Indie Rock” has become its own genre, though it’s still just rock (kind of like “Alternative” in the 90s). There’s a lot of current bands I listen to that probably fall into this category, but I’ll go through some of those below.

9. Aimee Mann

Probably my favorite female artist. I first was exposed, as many were, thanks to the Magnolia soundtrack. She’s consistently great in her writing with introspective lyrics and thoughtful musings of life. Though Lost in Space and The Forgotten Arm are great albums also (her new one isn’t bad either), her work on Magnolia still is the best.

10. Nick Drake

During my Van-fest in college, tons of singer songwriters came my way. Some I still listen to, but only one I really must listen to and that is Nick Drake. Both his albums are some timeless, poetic and musically interesting pieces.

On a side note, you can throw in the likes of Elliot Smith, Bright Eyes, David Gray, Ben Folds, Sufjan Stevens and Iron and Wine into that regular listen to category as well, though not quite as much.

11. Beck

More specifically, though, I listen to Sea Change and Mutations. Beck shows a side of a singer/songwriter in those albums. I’m actually not fond of his more electronic sounds, but I don’t hate it either.

12. Nine Inch Nails

One of the few artists here that really consistently puts out new and interesting material and for so long as well. Trent Reznor will always offer up something, anything, intriguing or interesting. The recent soundtrack to The Social Network by Reznor is astounding.

14. Journey

So sue me. Journey had character and personality thanks to its amazing lead singer.  Journey is my guilty pleasure, along with something like Foreigner, Boston and Chicago.

15. Oasis

Indeed I do still listen to What’s the Story Morning Glory quite a lot. They wouldn’t be on this list if it wasn’t for that album (their follow up to that one is something I listen to a little here and there too). Outside of that, I don’t listen to a lot of this band, but this album I listen to enough to more than acknowledge them.

16. Muse

Probably my favorite current band second only to Radiohead. Muse is everything I love about rock. They’re insanely talented, bring memories of the bombastic and variety styles of Queen mixed with the artistry of something like Pink Floyd. Muse is just unabashed, fantastic progressive rock music and, like Radiohead or the Beatles, I have a majority of their full albums (not just select tracks) that I listen to from beginning to end.

17. U2

Talk about a band that endures. I mentioned U2 only in passing before but specially the albums War, The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby are just some damn fine albums and their “hits” are some favorites as well.

18. The Strokes

Just stripped down, catchy and addictive rock. The Strokes remind me that, though I certainly love the likes of Radiohead and Muse, sometimes a basic rock-minded sensiblity is every bit as good. They helped usher in this new type of sound that also got me listening to the likes of the White Stripes, The Dandy Warhols, The Kooks, Arctic Monkeys, Modest Mouse, Wolfmother and Spoon.

19. Tom Petty

Petty’s music, its univeral appeal aside, just hit me right at the right time with some of his biggest hits through the 80s and into the early 90s. Turns out, they’re still pretty damn good too.

20. Weezer

Last but not least as far as music I’ve already covered and still listen to today, Weezer, like the Pumpkins, defined my growing up and I’ll put in the Blue Album, Pinkerton and the Green Album regularly....however I really don’t listen to the new Weezer material all that much. I have it, sure...I have a lot...but I’ll listen to their new stuff and just want to listen to “Say it Ain’t So” or “Pink Triangle” again instead. It’s weird.


Notice something? Yeah, I don’t listen to a lot of rap anymore. I still have a lot, sure, and I do like some dancey hip-hop, such as Justin Timberlake, but that’s it. But as a regular rotation of things on my playlists? Not as much. Pretty much the ones I covered in the Musical Odyssey, early 1990s material, is about it and even that sparingly. Beastie Boys, Notorious BIG and Dr. Dre...and not much else.

Now on to things I really didn't touch on...



Music I Didn’t Mention

Below is music I listen to regularly that didn’t really get covered in the previous Musical Odyssey installments but I also listen to regularly or are worth noting about me listening to.


1. The Rolling Stones

Didn’t get to really go into a lot of classic rock, but I love the Rolling Stones. The albums Let it Bleed, Metaphorphasis and Beggars Banquet are probably my favorite, and I have about three or four “hits” albums that, though they don’t have everything I like, really helps cover the eras I do enjoy. Their bluesy, eventual punk-inspiring sound is appealing to me, but I also think their songwriting is just some of the best out there with Sympathy for the Devil just one of the most brilliant (and personal favorite) songs I’ve ever heard. Their first song I remember hearing was Ruby Tuesday, another favorite.

2. Led Zeppelin

Goes without saying. If I’m going to say I like the likes of Queen and Muse, you better bet I’m going to like Led Zeppelin. What can I say that hasn’t been said to death? The voice. The solos. The timelessness of their sound....Zeppelin is the purest definition of rock music.


3. The Doors

It might surprise people to see the Doors on here, Jim Morrison was certainly a nut, but there’s a good number of songs of theirs that I can’t help but love. Light My Fire, People are Strange, Touch Me,  Hello I love You, Alabama Song...I may not listen to their full albums as say the Stones or The Beatles, but I do enjoy quite a lot from them.

4. Simon and Garfunkel

Their first “Greatest Hits” album was something given to me by my parents many, many years ago, as in I was about 15 or 16. I really loved them from that point on.


5. The Talking Heads

During my years of “discovering” music while in college, The Talking Heads were actually first exposed to me in a film class as we watched the film “Stop Making Sense” (still one of the best concert movies you’ll ever see). From there I picked up a greatest hits CD...then a few albums...then David Byrne’s very nice album "Feelings." Yeah, I'm a fan.

6. The Clash

About the only "punk" band I listen to still. I used to listen to NYD, The Ramones and Sex Pistols here and there, but only The Clash have endured the years for me. Rock the Casbah still my favorite song of theirs.


7. Jazz

It occurred to me I really didn’t talk about Jazz enough. I love jazz, and I’ll often put on jazz, whether it’s individual albums, compilations of best ofs, almost constantly. Between the jazzy sounds of a Davis or Monk and the singer’s such as Nick Drake or Van Morrison, you can tell I certainly listen to a more laid-back type of material.

8. Pink Floyd

I can’t say I’ve listened to an entire Pink Floyd Album, and yes, yes I know that’s the point of Pink Floyd and I should be shot, but there’s about 15 songs of theirs I just love and listen to pretty often.


9. They Might Be Giants

Another fun, guilty pleasure band. When I want to be in good mood, They Might Be Giants tend to put me in one.


10. Daft Punk

DP has been around for ages, and I’ve liked them for quite a while.


11. Depeche Mode

Not sure why I didn’t bring these guys up. Their music was a pretty big part of my vision of the 1990s rotation of music and actually had a pretty big influence into the sounds I eventually would come to enjoy (the sounds of Radiohead, for example). Out of all the bands I neglected to acknowledge in my decade pieces, these guys were probably the biggest oversight.


12. Kings of Convenience

Pretty regularly for these guys. I just enjoy the soothing, almost Nick Drake/Simon and Garfunkel sound of them.


13. The Verve

Like Oasis, there’s only one album of theirs I liked (in fact they only have two), but it was pretty big then and I still listen to it today.


14. Keane

I discovered Keane completely by accident. I remember seeing the CD in stores a lot but never knew what it was. I then went on Amazon and “Keane” came up in the suggestion menu when I was looking at some other artist (I think it was Jack Johnson, though I’m not sure because I don’t listen to Jack that much anymore). Anyways, I just listened to the samples and ended up really enjoying what I heard and still do regularly.


15. The Psychedelic Furs

1980s, baby. Between these guys, The Cure, The Smiths, Hall and Oates and Oingo Boingo, I have turned from someone who wasn’t fond of these sounds and now like them. When we get to the next section about current music, you’ll probably find that many bands I currently enjoy have strong 1980s rock influences.


16. Joy Division/New Order

How on earth did I not bring these guys up. I suppose it’s because I only really, really got into them about three years ago, but Joy Division is a damn good band I listen to regularly.


17. The Velvet Underground

Lou Reed and Company (side note, Lou’s solo Transformer also something I listen to regularly), made some damn good music back in the day.


18. Ben Harper

An incredible talent with the album Burn to Shine a personal favorite. From that album on I really liked his work, I have his earlier stuff also but not quite as fond of it.

19. Coldplay

Did I mention Coldplay? Maybe I did, I don’t know, but yeah, I still listen to them pretty consistently to this day. Now that I think about it, I think it was Coldplay that got me into the likes of Keane, Death Cab for Cutie and Five for Fighting as well.

20. Rage Against the Machine

Sometimes, I just want to get angry and intense. Rage is about the only “hard sounding” band that does it for me anymore. 

21. REM

Maybe not quite as much as I used to, but REM was one of the bigger acts I listened to during the 1990s, mainly because they were such a big act to begin with. Up through Monster I listened to quite a lot and Automatic For the People is a pretty big mainstay in my rotation of music I listen to. They haven't sustained


Others: Queen, ELO, David Bowie, Blur, The Cure, Duran Duran, Elton John, Def Leppard, The Police, Peter Grabiel, The Deftones, Old Michael Jackson, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix Experience, AC/DC, The Who, The Band, The Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival are some other bands I tend to listen to on a regular basis, though not quite as big on now or in the past as much. More individual songs that anything.


What’s the New Stuff?


There's a great music scene out there that really helps small bands get noticed, and I'm one to notice them. These aren't really all permanent, which is why I don't have a lot to say about them (they may eventually be, and some are close like Badly Drawn Boy, Iron and Wine and The Arcade Fire so they may move to the second tier above at some point soon) but current, fairly new bands/artists that I've come across and have enjoyed.


1. Wolf Parade

2. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

3. Passion Pit - not for everyone, but their studio album is fantastic I found.

4. Wolf Mother - If they can get a good lineup, the lead guy has an ego I hear, they could make some waves.

5. The Airborne Toxic Event - great debut album, have my eye on this one.

6. Phoenix - Out of France and with two really solid albums. Enjoying it.

7. The Radio Dept. - Probably won't be in my rotation long, but I am listening to them quite a bit lately.

8. Badly Drawn Boy - out of the UK, first came with About a Boy Album and has consistently made solid albums since.

9. Broken Bells - Shins frontman plus Danger Mouse. New. Interesting. 

10. Coconut Records - Jason Schwarzman is a nice little musical artist, especially seeing as how it's just him on the album for the most part playing all the instruments.

11. Explosions in the Sky - A great instrumental band.

12. Feist - Much in the vein of, say, Norah Jones and other almost haunting-like female vocalists.

13. Interpol - Has really, really grown on me over the years.

14. The Arcade Fire - Their latest album, their third, is damn fine.

15. Iron and Wine - Relaxing, acoustic sounds.

16. Kasabian - Haven't disliked an album from them yet.

17. Metric - More a great example of the laid-back, downbeat sounds I listen to. Could easily have put the likes of Zero 7, M83 or Ratatat here as well.

18. Regina Spektor - A mainstay.

19. Shiny Toy Guns - Slowly fading out, but still listening to.

20. Sparklehorse - The most recent with the guest singers is, thus far, my favorite album of 2010.

21. Vampire Weekend - Just a solid, poppy little indie rock band. 

22. XX - Very recent and very catchy.

23. Andrew Bird - Bird himself has been around for a bit now, but his solo career only recently. Great stuff. Come to think of it, Ray LaMontagne and Jose Gonzalez can be thrown into the mix also.

24. Silversun Pickups - The Smashing Pumpkins for the new generation. Same sounds, just good rock.

25. Last of the Shadow Puppets - I love unique sounds, and these guys have it.

26. The Decemberists - These guys, and for that matter Spoon, Moving Units and VHS or Beta, are really solid bands that are slowly getting lost in my rotation. They'll be gone soon, but all really good bands.

27. Miike Snow - Closing out the final bits here with really new artists that I'm just starting to listen to. So here they are: M83, Wintersleep, Akiko Tsuruga, Rogue Wave, A Silent Film, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, Ghostland Observatory, Working for a Nuclear Free City, Band of Horses, Mumford and Sons, A Silent Film, Florence and the Machines. They're all pretty new, nothing for me to say just yet on them.

The Genres

If you can tell from all this, there's really only about three primary styles of music I listen to: Indie Rock (especially electronica infused rock such as XX, Radiohead or Sparklehose), Classic Rock or Classic Rock sounds, and folky/acoustic singer/songwriter types. I listen to very, very little "hard rock" but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy things fast-paced, showcased by Silversun Pickups or Daft Punk. That's just not who I am anymore.

The only time I ever listen to rap or hip hop is if I'm out with other people. Even the stuff I used to listen to I still put onthe backburner. R&B ,other than mo-town or the likes of Al Green/Marvin Gaye, I also tend to not really listen to that much anymore. Classical music was something I tended to listen to a lot more in college than I do today also, but I will throw on some Mozart and Beethoven if I need something instrumental while writing.

That also brings up something: one hit wonders. Yeah, especially from the 1980s, I love just listening to campy little one-hit-wonders, from Take on Me to Dexy's Midnight Runners to Jermaine Stewart and Right Said Fred...yes I just said Right Said Fred, would you rather I say Chumbawumba? Everyone loves those one-hit wonders...Chumbawumba aside, and there's no way to really list everything here, now is there? Then you have those come-and-go bands from the 90s that I listened to growing up but just barely remember until their songs come on the radio, like Savage Garden, Cowboy Junkies (Sweet Jane a personal favorite cover, however), Third Eye Blind, Spin Doctors, The Wallflowers, Semisonic or Collective Soul. I'll listen to them here and there, but they're not regulars either. Then you have the bands I don't listen to that often, though I still like, that I just got burned out on such as Nirvana, The Killers and Dave Matthews. Great bands, but I don't listen to them regularly.




Now is that EVERYTHING? No. Of course not. I listen to a lot of music. Hell, right now I’m listening to Mute Math and I didn’t even put them up there. I have an external drive with 200GB of music, so there’s no way I’m listing everything I have, but I can list everything I’m currently listening to the most at this stage in my life. Some have endured the decades and get rotation, others listed here (especially under the current band section) will probably be replaced in a year or so.

So, eventually, I need to do as promised and find 20  songs to define my life. Sheesh...that's going to be tough. Months I've been thinking and only three or four have I felt really do so. This "soundtrack to my life" project is easier said than done, but I will get it done....someday.



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