Film, Hipstercrite Life, Music, Pop Culture

Songs About Los Angeles

Last night I saw the movie Drive starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman and Los Angeles. A lot of buzz has been going around about this simple, yet visually and auditorily delicious film. The Michael Mann-esque qualities, Ryan Gosling’s subtle performance, the 80’s font, and moody electronic music make for a wonderful, nostalgic ride. Besides the ridiculously long shots on Ryan Gosling’s beautiful face, what made this film particularly engaging is the ominous soundtrack composed by Cliff Martinez and featuring music by Kavinsky, Lovefoxxx, Desire, College, Riz Ortolani, and Chromatics.

“Drive” is an appropriate verb for songs reminiscent of Los Angeles. Any song that reminds me of that city, also reminds me of late nights driving through Hollywood towards the beach, the blur of lights in the background, the windows down and the warm wind holding me firmly into the passenger seat. It reminds me of trips through the city to nowhere in particular, hoping that wherever I ended up would hold answers to whatever I was looking for. After I left LA, I could hear a song that reminded me of my time there and it would bring me to my knees. The song didn’t even have to be a song I heard in LA, it just had the driving, moody feel that sums up that city perfectly. Much like the Drive soundtrack does.

The power of songs is incredible and I still have difficulty listening to certain music without instantly being transported to the thoughts of a lost and lonely girl driving around LA by herself.

Below was my soundtrack to Los Angeles. Some songs are about LA, other songs aren’t, but evoke the feeling of the city perfectly.

Boys of Summer- Don Henley This song sounds like it could be from the perspective of a Bret Easton Ellis character, “You got your hair slicked back and those Wayfarers on, baby.” This songs perfectly mixes the sunny beach culture of California with haunting loneliness in both the words and music- two ideas that Los Angeles is very good at.

We Own the Sky- M83 I used to listen to this song at night in my 1940’s brick studio apartment in Koreatown. I would leave the windows open and listen to the traffic on Western Avenue below. I would lie in bed wondering where I was going and what I was doing. The ethereal quality of the song made me feel as though I was floating over Los Angeles.

Ready 2 Wear- Felix DaHousecat This song sounds as if it should be in an 80’s movie about Los Angeles glam life. Again, another song for the Bret Easton Ellis superficial wanderer in LA, “Nothing I could tell you, you look good when you wear it well.”

TV on the RadioWolf Like Me As does this one. LA often brings the animal out in people, “My mind has changed, my body’s frame, but God, I like it. My heart’s aflame, my body’s strained, but God, I like it.”

WindowlickerAphex Twin This song I would listen to in conjunction with M83’s “We Own the Sky”. It is the perfect song to drive around LA to.

Helen of Troy Telfone Tel Aviv Another perfectly lonely song, “Follow me in the car, off a birdge, we won’t go far. Down we go, down below, to the end. At the end I’ll see your face, once again. Until then.”

Electric FeelMGMT Though I know this song is passé, but Oracular Spectacular came out during my last year in Los Angeles. It was also one of only three albums I listened to on my escape from LA. I listened to it on repeat across the Arizona and New Mexico deserts, crying, wondering if I was making the right choice.

So Alive- Love and Rockets This song reminds me of someone in particular, someone who was a looming character off and through my time in LA. He was no good, but when I thought about him at that troubling time in my life, I felt alive.

True Faith- New Order Just another Bret Easton Ellis feel.

Avalon- Roxy Music Everything about Roxy Music’s album Avalon oozes 80’s Los Angeles glamour. Ferry’s suit, his silky croon. What I dreamt to be spotted out of nowhere at a party in that city.

*If you want to check out a great Spotify playlist inspired by the film Drive, Check out Austin Bloggy LimitsEven Newer Wave playlist.

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  • Reply Mark October 19, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Well, you know how I feel about ‘So Alive’ so it is redundant to mention it…

    I LOVE ‘We Own The Sky’..! That is one of the most spiritual uplifting songs I know.!! Talk about dreamy music…

    … how come no one ever mentions Frank Black and his song, ‘Los Angeles’? It is on my ‘Big West’ mixtape… along with Wall Of Voodoo’s ‘Call of the West’, which is not an El-Ay song but makes me think of the empty spaces around places like Vegas and LA…

    • Reply hipstercrite October 19, 2011 at 7:08 pm

      I bet you those songs are some LA playlists somewhere! I have to check them out now. Thanks, Mark!

      • Reply hipstercrite October 19, 2011 at 7:53 pm

        Ok. Frank Black’s song was too noisy for me. I like the Wall of Voodoo song though!

  • Reply Eric October 20, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Wall of Voodoo (and Oingo Boingo) always remind me of LA (I mean, I’ve never lived there, just visited a lot and stayed there a few months on business – fun fact: Clifton’s Cafeteria is my favorite place on earth, I know, weird), anyhoo, that whole spaghetti-western-noirish sound of pretty much every song on “Call of the West”, AND Stan Ridgeway’s (singer for Wall) “The Big Heat” and “Lost Weekend” are quintessential 80’s LA-Noir IMHO. If I won the Lotto, I’m tellin’ ya, I’d be outta Texas so fast, living a vacuous Ellis life in the Hollywood Hills yer head would spin!

  • Reply Ben November 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    God damn. Can’t listen to these at work. I’ve never wished so badly that my department allowed music.
    Anyway, this got me thinking about how so much of the music I grew up with (’60s-’80s California rock) makes me think of driving on big highways. There’s lots of of music I’m thinking of, but I have particularly strong memories of listening to the Byrds and the Eagles and imagining myself driving down a big wide boulevard.
    It makes me wonder… maybe we’d all like driving less if we didn’t all get so much of our pop music from California?

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