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6 Soundtracks That Shaped My Taste in Music

If you know me, you know I love to talk music. I could talk about it with anyone, anywhere, at any time of the day. In fact, that was what the majority of my last weekend entailed: talking and sharing music with my parents and boyfriend on a lazy, rainy Sunday. To me, days like that are pure bliss.

One thing I sometimes get asked is how my taste in music has changed and how the range of genres I listen to has become so vast over the years. I have no easy answer for that, but I have found there are certain people, milestones, places and events that have influenced me over the years. However, one special thing I’ve come to love is the impact of a truly incredible soundtrack.

A soundtrack can be a powerful thing. Not only can it drive the story of a movie or TV show, but it can also become a character in itself. It sets the stage, establishes the atmosphere and conveys the right tone throughout a whole film or episode. The right soundtrack is crucial for any movie or show.

Throughout my life, I can pinpoint six particular soundtracks from various movies and shows that I hold near and dear to my heart. Besides being impressive collections, these soundtracks have come to shape my taste and love for music over the years. I won’t reveal much about the movies or shows in case you have yet to see them, but will rather spin a more nostalgic review of each soundtrack, what it means to me and its influence on my music discoveries.

Wonder Boys Music from the Motion Picture

I have vivid flashbacks of my childhood when listening to the “Wonder Boys” soundtrack: summer evenings, playing hide-and-seek with my cousins in the backyard, patio lights glistening in the night sky and the faint smell of a cigar.

Chock-full of timeless singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Van Morrison, this album holds a special place in my heart. In some ways, it even served as a gateway to discovering many other artists I grew up on (I’m talking Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor and Jackson Browne, y’all). I can’t remember the first time I listened to it, but I’d assume I was around 10 years old, given the movie came out in 2000.

It’s strange to think that back then I thought it was just background noise. In fact, I probably didn’t think much of it. If I did, I probably thought about how I would have preferred to have Nobody’s Angel or S Club 7 blaring on the outdoor speakers. I likely even referred to it as “old people music” at one point in time (insert eye roll). Little did I know that it would become one of the most influential soundtracks of my life, and I have no one else to thank but my favorite fellow music aficionado, my dad.

Top 5 Favorite Songs on the Soundtrack:

Garden State Music from the Motion Picture

Man, oh man. This one hits close to home. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the “Garden State” soundtrack is riding in the back of my brother’s Mustang on the way to school. I think he played it almost every day for a year straight — 8th grade, if I remember correctly. What’s funny is that I hadn’t even seen the movie and wouldn’t for another two years (fun fact: It was the first rated-R movie I ever watched). When I finally did, I knew every word to every song that played in the movie. It was the first time in my life that a soundtrack felt so powerful, the first time I learned just how much a soundtrack can drive a storyline.

I fell in love with so many amazing artists and bands during that time: The Shins, Iron & Wine and Frou Frou. Even though I was already familiar with Simon & Garfunkel from my childhood, their song “The Only Living Boy in New York” became one of my all-time favorites because of this soundtrack. I still get chills when I listen to it.

Though I would soon dabble and dive into the emo scene, I always returned to the “Garden State” soundtrack. It was my fallback and truly one of the most pivotal compilations in my eclectic music journey. At this point in my life, listening to it feels like the closest thing to home.

Top 5 Favorite Songs on the Soundtrack:

Marie Antoinette Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

It was 2006, fall of my freshman year of high school. My best friend at the time told me that I just HAD to watch this movie when it came to theaters and introduced me to the soundtrack that would gradually become one of my favorites. The music was different from anything else I had been listening to at the time. Though I had already been exploring the indie scene, I had yet to dip into new age rock. I clearly didn’t know what I was missing.

The “Marie Antoinette” soundtrack is a breath of fresh air. Every time I listen to it I feel like running in a field of flowers (probably because there was many a scene where Marie did so in the movie). Upbeat but melancholy at times, the collection showcases classic rock bands such as The Strokes, New Order and The Cure, all of which I may have never been introduced to had it not been for this movie and my friend.

If you’ve seen the movie, you likely recall the bright, airy aesthetic. To me, the music perfectly aligns with the cinematography, which I’m sure isn’t an easy feat. In simple words, it’s an enchantingly stunning movie, both visually and audibly.

Top 5 Favorite Songs on the Soundtrack:

Music from The O.C. Mixes

If you were a fellow lover of “The O.C.” back in the day, you know what’s up. Though I didn’t jump on the bandwagon until well past the show’s last season, these mixes were the soundtrack of my late high school years. With so many beautiful uppers and downers, what else could better illustrate a high schooler’s journey through some of the most dramatic and awkward years of their life?

I can remember so many different scenes from the show just by listening to these mixes. I don’t think I had ever seen a show so perfectly driven by music until watching “The O.C.” It was as if every song was meticulously picked out for every scene, every emotion, every climax.

I have “The O.C.” to thank for introducing me to a plethora of different groups and musicians, such as Spoon, Alexi Murdoch, Patrick Park, Rogue Wave, Beck and Keane. The list could go on, because there were a total of six (yes, SIX) amazing mixes, each one of which I quickly grew to love and still do.

P.S. I still love you, Seth Cohen.

Top 5 Favorite Songs on the Soundtrack:

The Twilight Saga Original Motion Picture Soundtracks

Yep. I’ve done it. I’ve gone there. Before you close out of this article, just hear me out. Okay? I know these books and movies were garbage. In fact, I just recently rewatched all of them and laughed at every single one. Let’s just focus on the music itself though, sound good?

If you were a Twi-freak like me (I definitely didn’t have an Edward Cullen cutout in my bedroom), you’ve got to agree that these soundtracks were fire. In hindsight, I’m kind of mad that such terrible movies could feature such incredible artists, if I’m completely honest with myself. It’s kind of like that joke that hipsters get mad when a lot of people start liking an artist they’ve loved for years. I guess?

In all seriousness, though, I have very fond memories when I listen to these albums. I recall spending my whole Thanksgiving break holed up in my bedroom reading those books, fall air and a sense of magic and coziness. It sure was a fun time to be a pining high schooler during the phenomenon that was “Twilight,” and the soundtracks couldn’t have been better curated to portray every feeling the books emanated.

Top 5 Favorite Songs on the Soundtrack:

Drive Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

I’m fairly certain I watched “Drive” with my dad at some point when I was home from college my freshman year. I expected it to be just another action movie he picked out, but boy was I wrong. It was alluring and mystical, and not just because Ryan Gosling was in it (though he is such a looker). The neon, the night time setting, the otherworldly yet calming music in the background: The “Drive” soundtrack flashes such vivid imagery in my mind when I listen to it.

Though I loved the music in the movie, I never thought to listen to the soundtrack until a few weeks later. I had mentioned “Drive” to a friend, who immediately exclaimed that it had one of the best soundtracks. After chatting all about it, I remember getting into my car, searching for it online, turning it on and just vibing to it the whole ride home.

I started getting deeper into the indie scene during college, but this was my first brush with electronica or synth pop. Exploring groups like Kavinsky and Electric Youth soon led me to find some of my favorites, such as M83, Washed Out and Ratatat, which soon became my go-to study music. To this day, I always crank up the “Drive” soundtrack when I need to concentrate.

Top 5 Favorite Songs on the Soundtrack:

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