Music comes to me as a mental picture or as a story, but rarely as sound; I hate describing songs in terms of genre or artist; and musical performances, for me, are much more about visual showmanship than audible resonance. So, it should come as no surprise that film scores and soundtracks are my musical forte.
Ever since Zach Braff put together that music-heavy film Garden State, I’ve loved film soundtracks. Garden State was the film that put The Shins on my radar. The movie’s claustrophobic traffic sequence backed by “Don’t Panic,” made me love Coldplay — for better or worse. The music was like the film; it spoke to a generation. Maybe when the film played Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York,” one realized that Garden State was trying a little too hard to bring The Graduate to a new audience, but it didn’t matter.
Later in life, “Ping Island/Lightning Strike Rescue Op” by Mark Mothersbaugh was the song that got me into electronic music. Coming from Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, the song was not what one would expect for a daring rescue op, but when that song hit its stride, the film was so funny it was fierce. That song, along with the rest of the soundtrack, captured Anderson’s offbeat sense of humor perfectly. I wish the rest of his soundtracks had ended up half as good.
To me, this is all about Hollywood’s gradual appreciation for the power of a film score. When Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood got tapped for There Will Be Blood, I jumped a little, and when I saw Greenwood’s score working its onscreen magic, I leaped for the rafters. His soundtrack carried that film for me in ways that Daniel Day Lewis’ acting never could. I was changed. So I cried a little when I heard about the Twilight soundtrack.
In the first Twilight film, I was more than a little hurt that Radiohead’s “15 Steps” was reserved for the end credits, but when Thom Yorke signed on to make music for the sequel, I teared up. Then I thought: Yorke, have you no sense of pride? Hopefully, the film won’t butcher the soundtrack, and as much as I try to keep an open mind, I’m more than a little nervous.
So, instead of ruminating over what looks bad, I want to end by talking about a film score that is bound to do well. I’m talking about the score recorded by Karen O and the Kids for Where the Wild Things Are. The soundtrack is already streaming on the Wild Things’ website, and let me say, being a kid never sounded so good. If you don’t already love the film’s director, Spike Jonze, go see Wild Things — I guarantee that it will be worth it.