Category Archives: Music

What Do You Do When A Song Is Stuck In Your Head?

MusicOnTheBrainI experience music looping in my head on a regular basis, and I’m sure you can think of several times this has happened to you. I’m also a self-taught musician, having learned to play guitar by ear from an early age through careful listening, so, I have a hunch my brain is more active in the “melody-analysis” area, and that I’m prone to experiencing this more often (or at a higher volume) than others. This doesn’t affect my life in any huge external way — I carry on productively and engaged in most any situation. But in a moment of relative quiet, the internal soundtrack often cranks right up.

But Isn’t That What Vocal Hooks Are For?

I’ve found it’s usually key phrases from songs that stand out — like dramatic flourishes or expressive riffs. It’s not always the “pop hook” or vocal element that grabs me, and it can be any obscure track from any time in history, of any genre, not just so-called “popular” music specifically music designed to lodge itself in the brain.

And then, after a few hours… it’s gone. Maybe I’ve made an effort to listen to the track somehow and exorcise its hold on my spirit. Or, what was there before just gets replaced by another track.

Rick Neilsen of Cheap Trick

Rick Neilsen of Cheap Trick – Power Pop Hook Maker Extraordinaire

Why Does This Happen?

Perhaps as early human cave dwellers, the ability to memorize sound served an evolutionary purpose. Hearing a growl in the distance might have prevented being eaten by a bear, so that would have been a good sound to repeat into memory for an advance warning next time. Or maybe hoofbeats in the distance signaled a tasty herd of beasts just over the ridge. I’m totally guessing, but it’s not implausible given what we understand about the fight-or-flight response.

What Do You Do?

I really wonder if there’s a course of action here. Is there some type of “resolution” or lesson to be learned — or does there even need to be? What purpose does having a song stuck in your head actually serve?

What do you think? Do you find that actually playing the song works to “release” the melody from your brain? Or do you find that songs usually dissipate on their own? Any guesses as to why this happens? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Recent Musical Obsessions

Here are some songs I have been obsessed with lately. For one reason or another these tunes have been on repeat in my brain and in my iPod consistently the last several weeks.

“Baby Blue” by Badfinger

Ever since the final episode of Breaking Bad, like millions of other folks, I’ve been obsessed with this catchy tune by ’70s power pop rockers Badfinger. This track was the perfect music for the final moments of one of the best shows on television.

“Headache” by Frank Black

I first heard this song in the ’90s after Black’s band, The Pixies, broke up (now back together and touring), and I enjoyed the retro look of the video of the time. Little did I know, for some reason, I would want to hear the song over and over a decade later.

“In the Garage” by Weezer

I like the simple sing-song melody and declarations of what’s important: a 12-sided die, posters of KISS, and the safety a space like a garage can offer a creative spirit, something no doubt familiar to the members of Weezer, one of my favorite bands.

What do you think? What are some songs that have been in your head lately? Where do you go to discover new music? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Music of 1984

princeI’ve often thought 1984 was an incredible year for music. So many iconic releases. Such an exciting time for entertainment: movie soundtracks, MTV… break-dancing. So I was very happy to see this list of the 100 best singles of 1984, complete with YouTube links to each track (where available). And the writing accompanying each track is exceptional. My favorite has to be this brilliant characterization of “When Doves Cry” by Prince:

After the shrapnel of Prince’s introductory guitar volley settles, a hypnotic Linn drum pattern syncs with a synth figure courtly enough for a minuet. Vocals of cold menace and desperate abandon vie for preeminence until climatic screeches of pain carry the day.

Check out the entire list at Rolling Stone100 Best Singles of 1984: Pop’s Greatest Year

Jimi Hendrix: Hear His Excellence And Legacy


Here’s nearly two hours of Hendrix music and compelling interview clips in support of the release of a previously unearthed batch of recordings. It’s a fascinating listen.

As a guitarist growing up, it didn’t take long for me to fall under the spell of Jimi Hendrix. And to this day, decades later, he’s cemented in my mind as the greatest rock guitarist of all time. Others before and since have certainly been great and influential, but to me, the massive confluence of creativity, talent and ambition in Hendrix can never again be matched.

Jimi Hendrix.promoFB.0307-13That’s why I recently revisited this amazing two-hour broadcast from NPR’s World Cafe, published around the time of a new release of some previously unheard recordings of his studio sketches — which, of course, sound to us like complete compositions, but who knows what Hendrix may have had in mind. Regardless, this is a well-produced and highly enjoyable broadcast.

Besides the music, there are also great clips of interviews with Hendrix’s sister, his contemporaries from his time of performing, and several other fine artists with interesting perspectives on his music and legacy. It’s so enjoyable as a Hendrix fan to get a generous heap of quality music previously unheard, blended with color from other voices also worth hearing. 

What do you think? Are you a Hendrix fan? What artists influenced you and are they still relevant to you today? Let us hear from you in the comments.

New Music: Dessa. Thanks, Night Vale.

Sweet sounds from a surreal podcast: “Call Off Your Ghost” by Dessa

I’ve long been a fan of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast. Part of the broadcast is a segment called “The Weather” where music is featured. I’m not a huge fan of this part in general, however, a recent episode proved to be a huge exception, thanks to Dessa.

A Minnesota based singer/rapper, Dessa’s live performance of “Call Off Your Ghost” from Welcome to Night Vale’s live show in New York City’s Town Hall had me rewinding it multiple times to hear again, until I finally just bought the whole album.

Here’s video of a similar live performance, which I believe is actually even better than the one on the podcast. “Call Off Your Ghost” kicks in at 3:59:

You can find out more about Dessa at her Bandcamp site.

What do you think? When is the last time you discovered new music in an unlikely place? Have you ever sought out a musical artist based on hearing them for the first time? Let us hear from you in the comments.

The Dark Horse Project: Music Lives On

Here’s a band/artist I came to know by seeing them perform at The Garage in Winston-Salem, North Carolina a few years ago:

TheDarkHorseProjectThe Dark Horse Project

The gig was part of a record label showcase, and the band gave an very solid performance. The show was so good, I picked up the group’s debut CD, and I listen to it to this day, especially here lately. 

The music is perfectly balanced with the vocals, and the production is top-notch. Songs are emotional, yet understated. The lyrics hint at longing and romance, and have a expensive, atmospheric feeling while still being straight ahead rock. The band released a second album after touring in support of the first, featuring the following track:

Although the band was busy for a couple of years, they eventually parted ways. Singer and creative force Liv Mueller is still active and has since released a solo record. Here’s a video from a recent performance by Mueller, and I think you’ll agree it is excellent:

What do you think? Do you still listen to music that you were interested in 8 to 10 years ago? Are there any underground or independent acts that have made a lasting impression on you? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Tonight the Streets Are Ours: Recent Musical Obsession

Creativity’s Spirit Romanticized via Street Art

This track has been haunting me the past several months. Like most people, I first heard it behind the closing credits of Exit Through the Gift Shop, the Academy Award-nominated documentary of sorts by British artist Banksy.

Not only do I love the wall of sound timber of production; I’m just as struck by the yearning, rich tone of Richard Hawley‘s voice conveying the lyrics, which, in the context of this film (as I prefer to interpret them), celebrate individuality, creativity, vision, and belief in oneself – particularly from an outsiders’ perspective. Though the third verse suggests a romantic theme, hearing the track at the end of a film about renegade expression adds a powerful new dimension for interpretation.

Full version here:

Bonus: Impressive Film Accolades:

From Exit Through The Gift Shop’s official website:

Best Picture of Leaves On a Poster
What do you think? What’s a recent music obsession you’ve had on repeat lately? Did you see this film? Let us hear from you in the comments.