Life can be measured by the songs you pick up along the way.  The soundtrack of our lives, as the saying goes.  I’ll always remember moments in life when I hear a specific song, because to me the soundtrack of your life makes the moment itself.  DJ’s know this of course, and play specific songs to as a highlight real moment or to get the party kicking into another gear.  I play the DJ in my own life party.  I’m always listening for the song of the moment.  There’s magic in that moment, if you’ll only embrace it.

Give It All You’ve Got will always remind me of the 1980 Winter Olympics, just as Oh Very Young will always remind me of a pinning ceremony for graduating nurses in 1986, and Change the World will always remind me of an old building that used to be a movie theater where I saw Phenomenon with my wife well before we had kids.  And these are largely tangental songs in the march through my time on this planet.  The highlight reel songs are more profound still, and offer insight into our lives at any given moment on the timeline.

So it’s with great excitement and joy when a new gem of a song comes into my life.  If travel and reading history reminds you of what you don’t know yet, hearing an incredible song that is new to you reminds you of how many great songs are out there, waiting to be discovered.  A great song punctuates the moment, as whatever the designated “song of the summer” does for many.

Complicating things for me is that I don’t rely on whatever the Top 40 cotton candy hit of the moment is.  In fact I actively avoid it, searching instead for the truly great songs that are just below the surface, or hidden in some dive bar juke box.  The songs aren’t always new, just new to me.  Appearing in random places in my travels, they grab hold of your ears and won’t let go.  The reaction is generally “wow, who is THAT?!” which leads to an immediate Shazam to lock it in.  These gems become a part of the growing soundtrack of my life from that point on.  Here an eclectic mix of five songs, old to relatively new, that smacked me in the forehead and demanded I listen:

Madness, Muse – First time I heard this song two jobs ago on an early sunny morning in Las Vegas, just me and this song and a Venti dark roast, with the occasional slot machine bell ringing in the background.  But it was this song and me, locked in until the end before I moved on with my day, but not on from this song.  It stays with me still.

Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home, Keely Smith and Louis Prima – Heard this in a big, open public space in Manhattan, maybe not for the first time, but hearing it for the first time.  I Shazam’ed and downloaded it on the spot and it has appeared on certain playlists ever since.

still feel, half.alive – First saw this just last week on Tiny Desk and absolutely had to know more about this band.  Watch all three songs on Tiny Desk and you’ll be smiling.  Their music video is worth watching even if this isn’t your style of music. For another treat watch them perform still feel on Jimmy Kimmel.  Songs like this is like a double espresso for me, jolting me back to vibrancy and giving me hope for the future of music.

Johnny Wants to Be a Matador, Rene Lopez – First heard this in a hotel lobby in Nashville, Tennessee, confirming for me that Nashville is indeed a great music town if I was hearing a song this good in some random Hilton hotel downtown.  A song like this makes me look at Top 40 as the scam it is.

Lucky Man, Courtney John – From the soundtrack of Chef, this song is ten years old as I write this, but feels timeless.  I wish it had been in my life for that decade, but sometimes you need someone to bring it to your attention (Thanks Jon Favreau).

There you go, five songs on the ever expanding playlist.  As long as it continues to grow life will be vibrant for me.  And vibrancy is what it’s all about.