Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Posted at HickoryWind.

It's a happy coincidence that Stacy mentioned her love for the Garden State soundtrack in the post below, 'cos that's my chosen topic today. I was at the pictures (en Americano = "movies") last week watching the surprisingly good romcom Must Love Dogs, and thought the CD would be worth checking out. It's like your five easy listening, but not bland, music groups in the one place.

Tip: Soundtracks like this are also a useful social device to mask complete alienation from your generation. I've found they are very good for reassuring acquaintances, party guests and random callers that you have demographically-appropriate tastes in music. Complete bollocks of course in my case, but bung on Songs From and Inspired By My Best Friend's Wedding and you may just fool some of the people some of the time.

A few of my soundtrack highlights. Forgive me, I stray a little from the strict Americana here, but it all comes back to the same qualities in the end.

The Horse Whisperer This is solid gold from beginning to end. It's hard to pick a standout but I'm tempted to say Me and The Eagle, one of Steve Earle's most memorable songs. Soft Place to Fall grabbed me the first time around, nothing I've heard of Allison Moorer since has come close but I'm seeing her and the hubby in a week or two so I'll hold reappraisal til then. Back in 1998, it was the first I'd heard of the Flatlanders, and this complete unknown, Gillian Welch. It was either my first exposure to Lucinda Williams too, or an extremely early encounter. Either way, a personal landmark. Some soundtracks have greatness thrust upon them by their expert use as part of the cinematic whole (see Scorsese, Martin below). On the other hand, I haven't even seen The Horse Whisperer, and indeed some of the songs on the CD are not even in the movie. Just like a really superior mix tape to me.

Northern Exposure Vol I and II If only for sending Iris DeMent crashing through by featuring Our Town in the final episode, Northern Exposure would be musically special. Apart from introducing me to Iris, I'm also grateful to it for featuring Daniel Lanois's Jolie Louise. I got the album it's on, Arcadie, and it's still one of my favourites. The rest of the albums are not-too-obvious classic rock and soul, plus some French and Native American/Canadian influenced tracks which are just irresistable. If I danced, they would be great for that. But I don't. Still, I can't resist tapping unobtrusively along.

The Sopranos Vol I and II This is also an impressive one for putting on in mixed company, but for a more hip crowd. Since David Chase is the common denominator between NE and The Sopranos, he might get the credit for the exceptional quality and bredth in both shows. If I choose one, its Vol II for being a double CD, not including Gotta Serve Somebody and the two stand outs which rather changed my thinking on the artists involved: The Stones' Thru and Thru (Keith: I was pissed out of my brain when I wrote that) and Nils Lofgren's mysterious and spine tingling Black Books. Country content in the form of Our Own Kasey Chambers and Shaver, great music in just about each and every track. Oh yeah, and how could I almost forget: Dylan crooning -- in Italian, if you don't mind --- an old Deano number, Return to Me.

Martin Scorsese in general It's a small step sideways from the Sopranos to The Great American Director who always hits the spot with his musical choices. Not just the music docos like The Last Waltz or No Direction Home either. Scorsese the consumate filmmaker and Marty the music nerd have always complented each other pefectly. Think the famous long tracking scene which opens Goodfellas or oh, millions of others. This is a good round up. Seems Marty's country appreciation doesn't extend too far past The Band, but nobody's perfect.

A Mighty Wind Almost as bad as that talentless hack Eastwood beating out Marty at the Oscars this year, was in 2004 when some Lord of the Rings Annie Lennox yawn fest trumped "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" by Mitch and Mickey (the truly divine Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara). The LOTR song was slapped over the final credits to shift units, the MW song was a crucial part of the whole emotional narrative. Wickedly funny songs which achieve the near-impossible: successful, subtle (and not so subtle) parody which is also just damn good music. A joke, yes, but not a novelty.

Care to share yours?

post any comments over at HW.