Music can have a dramatic impact on our lives. A melody, a band and A spirit can change your perspective completely. Our personal soundtracks can help us organize our memories too. Even a basic melody can help us time travel back to our youth, an endearing affair and other moments of bliss.

It’s still amusing to me though how some people continue to listen to the same music over and over again. Sure, I love an old song just as much as the next guy, but what puzzles me most is the phrase “they don’t make music like they used to.”

To some degree that’s true. We’re living in a time when music travels digitally and appears everywhere we go. Shopping experiences, waiting rooms, elevators, sporting events and our social gatherings are all awash in the sounds of our lives.

Crossing the wires and other albeit magical devices, music is everywhere and my argument is that it continues to get better all the time. More importantly, it still has the potential to change the world.

This past Memorial Day was a beautiful weekend and with Summer comes the desire to roll the windows down, put on the sunglasses and turn up the radio.

Fortunately, for my own soundtrack, Sirrius Radio has improved my own exposure to some great new music. It couldn’t have happened at better time either. Fortunately, it’s helping me to redefine a brand new chapter altogether.

So rather than waxing sentimental with another classic rock standard and the years gone by, my ears are open to a brand new stream of terrific music.

I undertstand that music has a polarizing effect on all people. Country fans still have trouble with rock and urban music. Classical affectinados may not appreciate pop music or metal either and that’s OK This isn’t a diatribe about what’s better or best. Instead it’s a statement about some great new music sculpting my memories here in the Summer of 2011.

There’s plenty out there too and my suggestions are simply a personal glimpse into my own mix tape this summer (do they still call them tapes?).

 

Death Cab For Cutie – Codes and Keys
Bellingham Washington’s Death Cab For Cutie have been around since 1997. My friend Jared Bentley even tells me that band toured with Pearl Jam in the early years and since then they continue to compose a terrific library of alt-pop treasures.

The new album Codes and Keys went on sale May 31st and I have been so thrilled about a new release like this in decades.

I’ve been following this band for a long time now and and this may be their best work yet. The band has released a deep, melodic work that is distinctive and inspiring. The soundscape is amazing too with the band taking great care in crafting strong pop hooks that are hard to get of your head.

The first single from the album called “You Are A Tourist” is a song which rose from a sampled guitar riff according to Ben Gibbard, songwriter and vocalist for the band.

As a prelease for the album, the guys filmed a live video for the song on UStream and performed it unscripted before an audience of geeks like myself.

Over the weekend, Alt Nation previewed the band with interviews and after listening to the songs, it’s a must have for my collection this year. There are mesmorizing lines in this music, but what makes the album extraordinary is a diversity of songs that speak from the heart and a perfect compliment to new experiences.

 

Kings of Leon – Back Down South
A few years ago, my friends joined me at The Orange Peel for a new band that I first became aware of when they toured for a few shows with U2. I was surprised to learn this band was from Tennessee and their early performances were a blend of great rough garage band songs with a powerful voice.

Calleb Followhill has one of those voices that immediately distinguishes him from other artists and the new album continues to build a fan base for this group across all genres.

On a recent Palladia performance, they told the story of writing “the most country song they could” and “Back Down South” is a warm montage to the Southern lifestyle and I’m infatuated with this song and the band’s continued rise to international favor. Hope to see them again soon!

 

Airborne Toxic Event
This five-piece California band has surfaced on my radar several times over the past couple of years with a few memorable songs. The new album called “All At Once” is a brilliant collection of polished intelligent and visceral anthems based on changes and loss. The popular single “Changing” is one of my favorites and has several interesting iterations of the music video on YouTube.

“The album is basically a series of questions,” explains the band’s founder and creative force Mikel Jollet, “which it sets out to answer. And the biggest is, ‘How do I spend my time? How do I live my life?’” The death of three of Jollett’s grandparents while he was absent owing to touring commitments was the catalyst for this self-examination.

Once again, each track on the new project is worth repeating and they have an infectious, fearless voice with their current lineup. Great songs to sing along with on the Summer highway with rich harmonies delivered in a style that continues to capture the attention of music critics.

 

Foster The People – Pumped up Kicks
Rising up from their success at the South by Southwest Festival, Foster the People gets my thumbs-up for all out Summer fun. Every now and then, it’s nice to hear a song that doesn’t take itself to seriously has everything to do with carefree bliss and this one seems to fit the bill this month.

Together since 2009, this indie pop band from Los Angeles has recently appeared on Jimmy Kimmel and it will be interesting to see if these guys can rise above the one-hit wonder that fun songs like this usually get trapped in – nevertheless, it’s easy to turn it up and sing along.

 

Fitz and The Tantrums
Robert Fritz and his band recently appeared at the Orange Peel and when I first heard ‘Moneygrabber,” it was hard to ignore the comparison to Philly Soul legends Hall and Oates.

As I streamed their new album from Grooveshark, the comparison was even more profound. Thick layered harmonies, punchy horns, an uncanny Motown sound complete with dapper suits and side-songstress Noelle Scaggs delivers a renaissance and an homage to white-boy soul.

Fritz as a skunk stripe in his hair and is a snappy dresser, but he’s got a style that’s hard to ignore. I caught this band performing on the ‘Live from Darrel’s House’ web video filmed from Darrell Hall’s home in Pennsylvania and they made no hesiitation to their own love of the Hall and Oates.

There’s plenty of hang-clapping swaying music on this new album. Fitz has been bouncing around the music scene for a number of years with Beck, Maroon 5 and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. He cites a creative lull and an old organ from a neighbor inspired this project and so far, so good. They’re getting rave reviews and their a great party mix.

 

The Social Network Soundtrack
Nine Inch Nails frontman, Trent Reznor and producer, Attica Ross won a Grammy Award for the soundtrack to the Social Network and for some reason, this score has found its way into my workout routine.

It’s haunting, modern and completely unique in its own genre of instrumental music.

There’s the usual audible nuances of any Reznor project and you find yourself wondering where did he get those sounds? Coupled with distinct piano melodies, the soundtrack is imaginative and cerebral. Despite its void of lyrics, this music is a great creative backdrop for anyone who’s into electronic music and likes setting a mood for working from the mind or burning a few calories.