Thursday, November 24, 2022

Top 50 Albums of the 00s - #12: Sigur Rós - Takk...

Yep, we're counting down the top 50. Click here for overview and criteria.

So the last posting in this series was, [checks watch] nearly four years ago. I have been extremely busy. And nobody, apparently reads blogs anymore. But if Twitter is about to die, maybe it’s time for a comeback? I referenced last time that this list was originally built nearly 10 14 years ago, and it's reasonable to expect that if I were to make it again today, there may be some alterations. Of the albums yet remaining at the top end of these rankings, the shakiest one is Takk…. Sigur Ros was new to me, and when this album arrived it felt like this bold, symphonic intent that was right up my alley – made just to impress me. I played it a lot.
But something has happened in the interim. Two things, I think. First, I eventually didn’t find the depth I would need for an album to stay in heavy rotation and therefor rank up with my all-time favorites. Is that because the lyrics are not actual words? Is it because there are only so many hooks in these songs? Or did I just move on to others things? I had big stretches of time in the 00s when I was single. Now I am married with two children. This is perhaps individual music and I have scant individual time nowadays.

  The second, and I may be wrong here, it feels like the world caught up to Sigur Ros. This kind of powerful, modern symphonic style approach became the norm in movies and car commercials. In fact, Sigur Ros provided the soundtrack for various car commercials. So perhaps they simply cannot stand out as they did 15 years ago.

I of course gave the record another coupla spins as I prepared this post, and it indeed landed flat for me. That said, there are still a few standout tracks. “Glosoli,” which impressed me so much it was the original “I just have to post this youtube and that’s it” entry, is still compelling with its steady build to an irresistible crescendo. 
But the standout is Sæglópur, which starts off innocently enough and then brings in a mix of darker tones to provide a base that it can quickly grow from. In an album reaching for anthemic moods throughout, it’s the one that most achieves it. And honestly is enough to give the record top 50 status almost on its own. It may not fit my life nowadays, but it’s not hard to hear why it once did.

Previous Entries:
#13- Tool - Lateralus
#14- Radiohead - In Rainbows
#15 - Interpol - Antics
#16 - Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
#17 - Jens Lekman - Oh You're So Silent, Jens
#18 - Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
#19 - Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
#20 - The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!
#21 - Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
#22 - Mission of Burma - The Obliterati

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Top 50 Albums of the 00s - #13: Tool - Lateralus

Yep, we're counting down the top 50. Click here for overview and criteria.

So I finally resume this series six and a half years after the last posting. Yeesh. A lot has happened since that time, including moving to a new country with a new job, and then several other new jobs, having two kids, and whatever else. But it was perhaps in small part because of where I was in the countdown. I struggle to write about Tool's "best album of the 00s" because their best record is quite obviously 1997's AEnima. To further compound matters, 10,000 Days is probably Lateralus's equal. This and all my other various blogs have been in limbo since that time, so it's unfair to blame a record for the delay.
Furthermore, much of my list now comes under scrutiny (from me) because some of the records that were in heavy rotation for me back when I began this project have faded a bit. But that doesn't apply to Tool's output.

The album opens calmly enough at the outset of The Grudge which became a frequently broadcast hit solely due to the devotion of Tool's fans. Its crescendo and coda had no business being on popular radio. Yet there it was, constantly, affirming the staying-power of the King Crimsoniest take on alternametal one could ask for. At a time when all music began its decade-long lurch into "we'll have just pop from now on, thanks," Lateralus was a flag planted. More challenging than AEnima, with rhythms continuously at odds with one another plus a small step forward in maturity of themes, the album was practically a dare. See if you can handle this.

I digested it as fully as possible at the time. Indeed there have probably been several breaks in my listening frequency over the years. That's surely in part because they have only been able to release one record since then. Yet the breaks never lasted all that long.

This is not music I share with anyone. I don't even have hardly anyone to talk about Tool with (there were a few in Argentina, but here in Switzerland, nah). But for working, driving, ironing, or just walking around thinking about stuff, its intensity still brings focus to my own. And along the way, I always get a jolt out of taking on the dare.

I can't even recall what my main purpose was in ranking these albums now. I started this nearly 10 years ago. My life has changed dramatically since then, but I've had finishing this list as a to-do in my head for so long, and I'm going to try to make it worth your while. Or at least worth my while since I doubt anyone reads blogs anymore.  

This still kicks ass and you know it regardless of the video's creepiness:

Previous Entries:
#14- Radiohead - In Rainbows
#15 - Interpol - Antics
#16 - Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
#17 - Jens Lekman - Oh You're So Silent, Jens
#18 - Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
#19 - Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
#20 - The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!
#21 - Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
#22 - Mission of Burma - The Obliterati
#23 - Don Caballero - World Class Listening Problem

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Yea I say

Dammit do I miss blogging. One of these days I'll get back on the horse. Likely when the kids have gone off to college in 16 years. In the meantime, this nearly brought tears to my eyes. Just watch and enjoy it. It's from back when the internet was for sharing wonderful things. The salad days.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

RIP Chris Cornell

I’m not going to try to convince you of Chris Cornell’s greatness. By now you either like Soundgarden or you don’t. You appreciate his unique vocal talent or it’s not your thing. I’m only writing this because if I don’t get it out of my head, I’m going to continue miserably ruminating about his death for a long damn time. Instead I should be blasting his music at full volume. Maybe after posting this I can finish brooding.

In high school someone lent me their Badmotorfinger CD not long after its release. That evening, before I got the chance to listen to it myself, my younger brother put it on the stereo without me present. I was tightly wound in those days, and my natural tendency was probably to pick a fight with him over what I would have surely considered an act of insolence. As I neared the room, he was already well into Track #3, “Slaves and Bulldozers.” I was stunned, dropping all concern about who was supposed to play whose music when. I had never heard anything like it. Over the powerful scuffing of Kim Thayil’s distorted guitar came a wholly unique squall: “NOW I KNOW WHY YOU BEEN TAKIN’!” My brother and I didn’t speak, merely exchanging brief glances. My glance asked, “This is real?” To which his replied, “I’m three songs in and believe me, it is.”

You may already know what happened next. “Jesus Christ Pose” blew my damn mind. The most blistering grunge song ever made tears at itself with all four band members going over the top in intensity. The music sets an unfathomable tone of speed, depth, and power in which each note carries aggression to the listener. One minute and 27 seconds in, Cornell’s voice takes the whole affair up two more levels. The band carries on, but feels as though it has receded thanks to his wail punching through at a higher weight class. Of course Thayil’s guitar is merely lying in wait before its own escalations, hitting both high and low. The song has no equal. I don’t even think there’s another band that could try it.

It was obvious that Soundgarden represented unparalleled power. But all that heavy fuzz would not have stood apart without Cornell's ability to range from peaceful comfort to guttural menace to banshee wail, often melding all within the same track. On pure vocal talent, he transformed a solid outfit into a band operating on a unique plane, transcending genre and era.

Cornell’s persona never seemed to be an accessible one. On albums, videos, interviews, and in concert, he seemed to put himself at a distance from the audience. Whereas other rock heroes strove to project a shared life experience, I never felt like I remotely “knew” Cornell. You were never gonna sing like him. You were never gonna look like him. You could be in awe of him, but since he never came across as the arrogant rock star he easily could have chosen to be, the awe was a hospitable one. Despite that emotional distance, there are many reasons I find myself taking his death personally.

Badmotorfinger is one of those formative-years albums that I know better than I know myself. I sometimes surprise myself in realizing that every note, beat, and word live in an unconscious part of my brain. I played the album on the way home from my first date. That date did not lead to a second one. But it must have been even more important to me than I realized because for years I couldn’t hear the album without reliving the high you can only feel on the way home from your first date. The depth of my personal stake in many of the band’s songs only grew in the years that followed.

In college, I discovered that if I played “Entering” before an exam, it heightened my focus and usually increased my grade. This became an every-exam routine for which I received much ridicule, but also a GPA that led to a good job upon graduation. / With my friend Will who I only ever saw at parties, we often belted out “Mood for Trouble” at the top of our lungs regardless of what was going on around us. People hated it. We didn’t care. / Down on the Upside will forever be the not-quite-dirge that accompanied the crack-up of my most important early friendship. Its songs remain crystalized there in that long, tenuous summer that wasn’t all bad, but still carries laments. / I damn near got a Soundgarden tattoo. Maybe I will yet. / I had, for too many years, planned to name a son or daughter Cornell. / My favorite concert t-shirt, now riddled with holes, is this absurdity. I will never part with it. / At a point where I needed to convince myself to get out of a difficult situation, “New Damage” was my best support to confidently make the change happen.

2016 was, among various other unfortunate things, the year of the personally-touching celebrity death. David Bowie’s sudden demise was a shock, followed later by Prince, Phife Dawg, Muhammad Ali, Sharon Jones, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and many of our other favorite people we never met. But my father passed three days after Bowie. It’s something I’m still coming to terms with, and surely will be struggling with for a long time to come. For the rest of the year, none of the names on that extensive obituary list mattered all that much to me. But Cornell’s definitely does. I have vacillated between feeling angry and wistful since the moment I heard the news.

I now realize he was my favorite rock singer. In fact, I don’t even know who would be second, but I know that there is a wide gap between him and the rest. He could do a piercing Rob Halford, but also had that foreboding growl. Over time he cultivated a soothing croon. All of these very different voices were extremely alive. I’ve recently gone back and listened to everything he ever made. There’s not one song on which he sounds distant or in any way like a ghost from the beyond grave.

What his death has done for me is made me realize that I am not connected to music like I was. This snuck up on me. Until I moved away from the US, there was no more important hobby in my life. I probably averaged at least one show per week while living in Chicago. Not only have I lived in concert-deprived areas for the last nine years, I now have two small children and extremely limited babysitter availability. The lack of time, community, and maybe just the usual “getting old” are all factoring in. Music has become something to accompany work when possible, and not much else. I never expected that to happen. Losing a favorite voice reminded me how much that voice used to matter to me. So I’ve been listening with more attention lately.

I have rediscovered his non-Soundgarden material, and it’s better than I had recalled. One song is now standing out in particular. From his last album, “Only These Words” is obviously an ode to his children. It is perhaps a bit trite, but catchy as hell. Most importantly, it shares a sentiment any parent can immediately relate to; it reminds me of not just my daughter but how she makes me feel as her dad. Listening to it defeats any anger I feel about Cornell’s suicide and replaces it with overwhelming sadness. I’m still broken up about my dad, and I can’t seem to detach that from this story. But he lived to 91 and was at a true point of contentment in his life. Cornell left three kids behind. What a tragedy.
(And if that song alone doesn’t make you well up, try out this duet with his daughter. Damn it all.)

My friend Dan recently published an interview he did with Cornell back when King Animal was released. He comes across as a man at peace with where his career has gone. “Our music is going to go on,” he says. Indeed his legacy feels complete across two major bands plus various side projects and solo work. The music lives, and so in a sense his voice does too. And before too long I suppose I will listen to his records and feel the highs I used to. I hope so. Because right now, while I appreciate how good those records are, they all make me feel sad.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Top Ten Songs that Own the Movie

This feature is double-posted over at the always excellent Scene Stealers where there is likely to be more conversation, so pop over there if you have a comment!

Welcome back to a look at the highs and lows of movie music. Three weeks ago we covered the Top 10 Movies that Stole the Song. Today we continue with Top 10 Songs that Own the Movie. We'll have the 10 Worst Movies Named After Songs, finally The Top 10 Movie Singalongs in this space soon. So let’s continue with the rock and/or roll!

Whether for cross-marketing purposes, artistic goals, or simply because they can, most big-budget films are released with a new radio-friendly single. This is often by a well-established artist who can simultaneously sell some records and put more fannies in movie theater seats. When this symbiosis works, the industry gets a blockbuster movie with a very popular music video to boot. How much additional success came Ghostbusters’ way thanks to Ray Parker Jr.’s catchy theme song? But sometimes the hit is so monumental (or the movie so flimsy) that it overshadows the film completely. These movies may now be forgotten or simply viewed as sidekicks to the massive hits they spawned. For every flick on this list, there’s a good chance anyone watching is just hanging in there to hear the tune. There were a lot of options that didn’t make the cut, so leave your favorite omissions in the comments.

Some quick notes on the rules: Existing songs picked up for the movie do not qualify, so, very sorry to you, Mrs. Robinson . The movie must truly be overshadowed by the song, therefore “Fight the Power” and “Don’t You Forget About Me” don’t make the cut as their movies have stood the test of time. Musicals belong in some other category and with some other writer.

10. “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees – Saturday Night Fever
Think about the word disco. What’s the first thing to pop into your head? The first image may or may not be a primped John Travolta heading out for a night of strutting on a glowing dancefloor.  It’s certainly in the list, proving that the film does have some staying power and relevance even today. But with all due respect to Donna Summer, the first sound to bounce into your brain is likely the baseline to “Stayin’ Alive.” Just seeing it here in print may be enough to get your head moving. The movie soundtrack is the seventh-best selling record of all time. It has been referenced, sampled, and spoofed countless times, and will continue to be so as long as humans have ears. Almost all of the songs featured on the soundtrack have more staying power than the film itself, but “Stayin’ Alive” remains the king beat of disco. For a disco song, its influence beyond the genre is unmatched. Go ahead, have yourself a boogie before we get to #9.

9. “Flashdance...What a feeling” by Irene Cara – Flashdance
When I was living in Buenos Aires, it was always interesting to see which aspects of American culture were able to entrench themselves, particularly which 80s songs were still being played on the retro stations. Irene Cara’s theme song to Flashdance came up often. And it still does in many other places as well. The movie was a big hit at the time as it brought the “stripper with a heart of gold” story to the big screen. But now it’s permanently fallen into a nostalgic reference. Cara’s song (and Michael Sembello’s “Maniac”) persist today all over the world.

8. “I Just Called To Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder – The Woman in Red
Stevie Wonder’s legacy was already firmly in place long before his tune for to Gene Wilder’s light comedy took the world by storm. The movie is largely forgotten, and although the song is hardly considered a timeless classic, in 1984 it was an enormous hit all over the planet. Obviously the song is far from Wonder’s greatest achievement artistically or lyrically. And many probably remember it as some overplayed 80s song. However, if you’ve had the pleasure of seeing him perform it live, it still feels relevant and worthwhile. But even if that were not the case, the global dominance of the tune completely overwhelmed any relevance the cute romantic comedy ever had.

7. “Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” by Doris Day– The Man Who Knew Too Much
The film was Hitchcock’s second attempt to tell the story of a man who is forcibly pulled into murderous espionage when his child is kidnapped. When compared with the original, Hitch commented, “Let's say the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional.” It is without question a good film made in the middle of Hitch’s peak years working with Hollywood studios. The song, written for the film and specifically for lead actress Doris Day, became a surprise hit. This may have been due to its use as a key plot device in the movie. Day originally didn’t want to record it as a single, claiming it was a “forgettable children’s song." Yet it quickly became her signature tune and a tremendous worldwide hit. It has since been covered by everyone from the likes of Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Shirelles, and Sly and the Family Stone and featured prominently in other movie soundtracks. It hasn’t rendered the movie irrelevant. But from that peak period, The Man Who Knew Too Much has certainly faded behind such artistic masterpieces as Vertigo, Rear Window, and North by Northwest. Yet the quaint children’s song continues to enjoy a lasting popularity.

6. “Against All Odds (Take a Look At Me Now)” by Phil Collins – Against All Odds
It may be kind to call Phil Collins’ solo career uneven, particularly when acknowledging such duds as “Sussudio” and “Another Day in Paradise.” But even though it was commissioned as part of the movie, the Genesis drummer turned frontman wrote this one from a personal perspective. It’s likely his biggest solo hit, and as his first real ballad represented a shift in style. The song was further immortalized in a This American Life episode where he spoke frankly about the heartache that inspired him to write it. Hardly anyone remembers that there is a movie called Against All Odds, let alone what it’s about despite being directed by Taylor Hackford and starring Jeff Bridges and James Woods. (Just so we’re all up to speed, it is a remake of the Robert Mitchum noir classic, Out of the Past.) Actually, that sounds pretty good. Perhaps we should take a look at it now? The song will always be with us regardless.

5. “Nobody Does It Better” by Carly Simon – The Spy Who Loved Me
With every new James Bond movie, it’s tradition that a major music talent unveils a fanfare to run over the opening credits. This can result in a bombastic success such as Shirley Bassey’s pipes introducing you to Goldfinger. Or it can be a sonic disaster such as Madonna’s “Die Another Day.” Carly Simon’s effort begins almost as a melancholic dirge, but quickly becomes an uplifting ode to “the best.” As far as Bond movies go, this is one of the better ones, reaching #7 on Will’s Top Ten list. It’s especially revered because it introduces Richard Kiel as Jaws, the gigantic henchman with shiny metal teeth. But perhaps because of its theme as universal song of adoration with a title different from the movie, the song became one of the two biggest successes of Simon’s career. Yes, it’s overtly sappy. But nobody’s done a Bond song better.

4. “Theme from Shaft” by Isaac Hayes – Shaft
Even if you haven’t seen the film you know this tune is one baaaad mutha. Wait a second. Have any of you even seen Shaft? No, I won’t shut my mouth. The movie is irrelevant when compared to the song. The first two and a half minutes are merely setup before Hayes tells us the legend of John Shaft. You can only imagine that any movie with this groove supporting the action is going to feel exhilarating. Hayes won the Academy Award for best song, making him the first African American to win an Oscar for something other than acting. More importantly, it was one of his greatest achievements and laid the foundation for Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man,” Curtis Mayfield’s “Super Fly,” and many other classics. So can we agree that this song totally owns the movie? You’re daaaamn right.

3. “Moon River” by Audrey Hepburn – Breakfast at Tiffany's
There are only so many perfect songs. Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer wrote “Moon River” specifically for Audrey Hepburn’s voice, probably with the goal of having everyone fall more deeply in love with her. Has anyone ever constructed a simpler, sweeter tune? I could listen to it fifty times in a row right now. The scene where Hepburn sings shows that after all the fancy parties, the vivacious young socialite has a delicate side. Her recording won Grammys for both Song and Record of the Year. Breakfast at Tiffany’s remains a worthwhile movie and influential in the romcom genre for years to come. (Not to mention its central role in one of the most Costanzafied episodes of Seinfeld). The song has been covered over 100 times by everyone from Aretha Franklin to The Killers. Even the film’s final confrontation from the back of a taxi couldn’t leave the indelible mark that “Moon River” did.

2. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem – 8 Mile
At the time, everyone commented that Marshal Mathers’ acting was surprisingly capable. Of course he was basically playing himself, but many before him have failed spectacularly in the same position. On the strength of the story and direction, the movie has enjoyed moderate staying power and is still aired often on cable. However, the song has turned out to be Eminem’s most durable hit, still played frequently at clubs, sporting events, and on the radio. It’s the catchiest track he’s ever made, and perhaps the most anthemic rap song of all time.

1. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston – The Bodyguard
This is Whitney Houston’s biggest hit, spending a record-breaking 14 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts. We can probably just stop there, right? Oh, and there’s also the fact that the movie soundtrack is the third-best selling album in history behind only Thriller and The Dark Side of the Moon. 44 million copies sold, and we can safely assume none of those people bought it for the Kenny G track. The movie proved to be one of Kevin Costner’s last opportunities to play a traditional leading man before Waterworld and various other failures permanently reduced him to supporting roles. All of the above makes Whitney’s version of “I Will Always Love You” the obvious #1 on our list. The only irony may be that Costner was the one who suggested she record it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Top Ten Movies that Stole the Song

 This feature is double-posted over at the always excellent Scene Stealers where there is likely to be more conversation, so pop over there if you have a comment!

Hi there! Aside from my day job, I haven’t written anything of substance in several years. But the idea for this series has been stumbling around in my head for far too long to keep it caged up there any longer. This is actually a multi-part Top 40, embracing the highs (and lows) of music in movies. First up is today’s Top 10 Movies that Stole the Song. In the coming weeks, we’ll follow with The Top 10 Songs that Own the Movie, The 10 Worst Movies Named After Songs, and finally The Top 10 Movie Singalongs. And then I probably won’t write anything again for another half decade. But hey, enough of my yakkin’. Whaddya say? Let’s boogie!

Being a music supervisor for a movie soundtrack has to be one superb gig. Sure you have to answer to the director, but you spend your time poring over your vast music collection to find that one right song to fit each moment of the film. And sometimes if you nail it perfectly, the song you chose will never be able to live on its own again. The movie has taken complete ownership of the track, lock, stock, and barrel for all eternity. The moment someone hears one of these songs, they can’t help but be transported right back to the scene where it appears, even if they haven’t seen the film in years. You get the concept. In honor of the music supervisors and directors who made the most compelling pairings, these are the Top 10 Movies that Stole the Song.

Some quick notes on the rules: Songs written specifically for the movie don’t qualify because obviously ownership was established at the outset. Existing songs repositioned as onscreen sing-alongs will show up in our last installment. Musicals belong in some other category and with some other writer.

10. “Everybody's Talkin'” by Harry Nilsson – Midnight Cowboy
For years, Harry Nilsson toiled away as a relatively unknown singer/songwriter trying to find a way to break into the music business. After The Beatles publicly named him their “favorite American singer,” he suddenly became famous. His first album after receiving this attention, Ariel Ballet, featured the Grammy-winning cover of Fred Neil’s “Everbody’s Talkin’.” Nilsson was approached to provide a song for Midnight Cowboy, but the one he offered did not interest director John Schlesinger. He instead chose “Talkin’” to be the featured piece of music in the film’s first act. It’s hard to imagine any soundtrack better suiting the visuals of Jon Voigt’s Joe Buck as a fish out of water struggling to make heads or tails of life in New York City. Nilsson’s near yodel can’t help but transport you back to that time and place and wonder once again if Buck shouldn’t have just stayed at home.

9. “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – Risky Business
Let’s be honest. This is an awful song by any measure. It’s forced nostalgia of the worst kind. But the most famous scene in the film that made Tom Cruise a star serves as the setup for every vacationing parent’s worst nightmare. Dancing around in his underwear! What if the neighbors can see? And he messed up the levels on the hi-fi! But this moment’s small acts of rebellion are just the first innocent cracks in the veneer. Before long, a male hooker in a dress is going to ring the doorbell. In that sense, it may be the perfect song for this moment. Joel Goodson could have been listening to KISS or the Sex Pistols like most naïve well-off suburban “rebels.” But at this point, he’s only saying “What the heck?” It won’t take long for that last word to change into something more serious. The same goes for Joel’s backing music. Whenever you hear that opening piano riff, you expect someone to come sliding in on their tube socks. What comes later is anyone’s guess.

8. “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John – Almost Famous
How does a movie about rock bands take a gentle Elton John ballad and make it the centerpiece of the entire film? Before I had even seen the movie, I ran into a friend who listened to nothing but hardcore post-punk yet found herself walking around singing it. I had to ask, “Are you singing Elton John? Are you OK?” She said, “Go see Almost Famous.” After taking her suggestion, it all made sense. For a band with too many ups and downs to keep count, the lowest point for Stillwater isn’t when they’re about to die in a plane crash. It’s the moment right before they listen to “Tiny Dancer.” Perhaps all on its own, the song is powerful enough to bring them from the verge of a hateful breakup to the cover of Rolling Stone. And every time I hear it, I just want to watch the whole movie again.

7. “Mad World” by Gary Jules and Michael Anderson – Donnie Darko
I am kinda sorta breaking the rules a bit here, but permit me some artistic license and you will see that this is the a worthy choice anyway. Donnie Darko is a movie based wholly on mood. It tries to play up the time period as being important but in reality it is a mystery wrapped in brooding atmosphere. Dig deeper and you tend to find that things aren’t as interesting as they felt that first time through. Originally a minor hit by Tears for Fears, the song was redone by Gary Jules specifically for the soundtrack to Donnie Darko. While technically that should disqualify it from this list, I’m going to take things a step further and say that the movie has also laid claim to the original Tears for Fears version. Judge for yourself. Can you hear this track without Frank’s fearsome bunny getup and crossing your mind? I didn’t think so.

6. “Where is my Mind?” by Pixies – Fight Club
UNAVOIDABLE SPOILERS: Sometimes a choice is just so darn obvious it seems very easy in retrospect. While Fight Club features a handful of known songs, the vast majority of its soundtrack consists of block-rockin’ beats by the Dust Brothers which escalate thee nervy confusion in each and every scene. After the big plot twist has been revealed and the last phase of Project Mayhem is unavoidably put into action, more high-energy techno would have left a missed opportunity on the table. Instead, Director David Fincher used Pixies’ classic as if to say to everyone “Hey, please don’t take this movie too seriously, OK?” While the lyrics overlap with the plot perhaps a little too on the nose, the upbeat riffing coupled with the mass destruction on screen give a wild movie the sendoff it deserves. You’ve surely never heard the song in the same way since.

5. “Wise Up” by Aimee Mann – Magnolia
“It’s not what you thought when you first began it,” begins Amy Mann’s “Wise Up.” As mentioned, one requirement to make it into this list is that a song was not written directly for the movie. (In an odd coincidence, this one was actually written for Jerry Maguire, but good luck finding anyone who can remember that.) Magnolia is a divisive picture to say the least. Many people went in expecting a “Short Cuts”-esqe project where random, entertaining stories are loosely tied together. But what shows up on the screen is something far more bizarre and complex. As the story reaches its bleakest for nearly all the characters, Paul Thomas Anderson decides to let Mann play interloper and completely take over the movie. In a sudden “strange thing that happens,” the characters are shown one after the other gently singing along with the soundtrack, even Jason Robards who hardly has any remaining breath. At this point, verisimilitude has been tossed out the window and everything has tilted off-kilter. We soon find out that Anderson is merely warming us up for a far bigger surprise. The sudden left turn takes a movie with interesting characters to push through to a more challenging level. One could argue that it is hardly grand larceny to lift a song buried on some other soundtrack, but the combination shows in another way that “what you thought when you first began it” doesn’t always hold true for good.

4. “Also sprach Zarathustra” composed by Richard Strauss - 2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick had planned for his epic science fiction endeavor to have a newly written score like most studio movies. During the filming process he played classical music to “set the mood.” He liked the way it fit so well, he decided to keep it in the final product. The “Blue Danube Waltz” was also in contention, but Strauss’ intense, triumphant theme not only provides the sonic ballast to a challenging piece of art, it has been forever associated with the film. Even people who have never seen the film know that this is “the 2001 theme,” via cultural references in everything from Spaceballs to the Simpsons. For one of the most ambitious undertakings ever put to celluloid, Kubrick had found the perfect accompaniment.

3. “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel – Say Anything…
Roger Ebert published a blog posting titled “The Films of Our Lives” where he reminisced about how his view of La Dolce Vita changed as he continued through adulthood. For me, the film that best meets his criteria is Say Anything… I was only 14 when it came out, and was fascinated by Lloyd Dobler, his life, his friends, and his love for Diane Court. Every time I returned to it over the last 25 years has brought new reflections and perspective. Of course it was not the movie that had changed, but me. However, there was always one constant that held firm throughout, frozen in time. Peter Gabriel’s song, so pivotal to the two main characters, remains the ballast for the iconic image of not just this movie, but of romance in the 1980s. When it came time to film, John Cusak argued with director Cameron Crowe that Lloyd would never hold his boombox aloft as it was tantamount to begging. In the end they split the difference and let Cusak put a defiant face on the scene. In doing so they hit all the right notes to take Gabriel’s song away from him.

2. “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealer’s Wheel – Reservoir Dogs
Quinten Tarantino took plenty of bold risks in his first feature film, playing with the perspective, the time frame, and pushing the limits with bawdy dialogue. Throwing all of these aspects together was groundbreaking, but the most indelible scene is Michael Madsen’s brutal torture of a plainclothes police officer. Mr. Black flips on the only radio station in the Reservoir Dogs’ universe, playing exclusively the “Sounds of the 70s,” so he can have some groove music while he has his fun. It’s only pure luck that “Stuck in the Middle with You” came on at that moment. If not, we could be talking about Andy Kim or Shaun Cassidy right now. An otherwise benign song about record industry dealings immediately became something sinister and unforgettable. To this day I won’t trust anyone around me with a razor when this track is playing.

1. “As Time Goes By” by Rudy Vallée, Binnie Hale, Dooley Wilson, Billie Holiday, Johnnie Ray, Engelbert Humperdinck, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Julie London, Jimmy Durante, Chet Baker, Sammy Davis, Jr., Willie Nelson, Vera Lynn, Andy Williams, Ibrahim Ferrer, Rod Stewart, or The Flamingos – Casablanca
Believe it or not, the original intention of “As Time Goes By” was to in reference to Albert Einstein’s premise that time is a fourth dimension. That may be completely irrelevant, especially as the Einstein-focused first verse was omitted from the version used in Casablanca and nearly all that followed. No song on our list carries more weight for the characters who want (or don’t want) to hear it. The debate over whether it should be played at all tells us how intense the feelings between Ilsa and Jack were and likely still are. By asking Sam to play it, does it indicate that she’s moved on? When Rick says “You played it for her, you can play it for me!” is he trying to prove the same thing to himself? It becomes the ongoing musical theme of the movie in subsequent scenes. Despite the loooong list of singers who have tried to put their personal stamp on the tune, Jack and Ilsa will always have more than Paris. They’ll always have ownership of “As Time Goes By.”

This guy tried to steal songs, but didn't make our list