For me, music is the quickest path back to a time or place. There are several songs that no matter how many times I hear them I am always carried back to a memorable moment.
"New Slang" by The Shins in the movie "Garden State"
I was aware of the song prior to the movie, but had no emotions tied into the song. I feel the song really matches the mood of the movie, especially since the song was written when James Mercer was ready to get out of his "home town, job, relationship and life." There is a video that matches scenes from the movie to the song, but even better is the band's official video which has the band acting out album covers from some of their favorite albums. Genius! Check the lyrics here.
"Lust for Life" by Iggy Pop in the movie "Trainspotting"
Carnival Cruise Lines be damned, I refuse to have you poison one of my favorite songs. I remember seeing "Trainspotting" in the theater with a friend who is a big Iggy Pop fan. He almost wept when he saw the opening scene set to "Lust for Life" as the scene was a scene my friend had imagined many times when absorbed in the song (lyrics).
"Stuck in the Middle with You" by Stealers Wheel in the movie "Reservoir Dogs"
Described in the movie as a "Dylanesque, pop, bubble-gum favorite" the song is super cheerful and fun. And then, holy crap Michael Madsen is insane!! His last name should be Madness!! There is not a whole lot to say about this. If you're not familiar with the scene, you understand the association. If you're not, just watch it here. (EEEK!!)
"Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs from the video game Rock Band
I spent one Fourth of July with a bunch of friends at a cabin in Blowing Rock, NC. We played a lot of Rock Band. I was hopeless at all instruments, but I could TOTALLY NAIL the singing on Maps. And I am a horrible singer. Every time I listen to the song I think about what an amazing singer I am. (PS, I just watched the real video for the first time and I think I have a crush on the drummer...)
"American Girl" by Tom Petty in the movie "Silence of the Lambs"
Despite its appearance in "FM" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", for me, the song wasn't linked to a movie until "Silence of the Lambs." The scene of Brooke Smith singing along to "American Girl" while driving down the road made me a Tom Petty fan. In 1991 I was just learning to drive. I was just starting to experience the gleeful moments you have when driving in the car by yourself while singing your heart out. Brooke Smith was so cool. The song was so cool. I spent my first months of driving acting out the scene - relieved every time that I didn't meet Buffalo Bill at my destination.
What songs are forever tied to something for you?
(Read the follow-up: Good Morning Captain (or songs forever tied to something, part 2).