Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Soundtrack Review: (500) Days of Summer -- Music from the Motion Picture (2009)


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Mychael Danna & Rob Simonsen




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It was no surprise that actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt's hotly anticipated Hasbro/Paramount blockbuster G.I. Joe squeaked into the top spot of the Top 10 at the U.S. Box Office this weekend (yet not with the numbers some were perhaps anticipating). However for lovers of cinema that falls just outside the mainstream, this piece of information was less important than another Gordon-Levitt related box office item.



Namely, months after it earned a standing ovation after screening at the Sundance Film Festival, the actor's sleeper hit (500) Days of Summer from director Marc Webb (which reunited the performer with Zooey Deschanel in their first onscreen reunion since 2001's Manic) managed to break into the Top 10 at the Box Office as well. And this is all the more incredible given the fact that it's only being shown on a fraction of the screens that Gordon-Levitt's Cobra Commander is currently occupying.



And no doubt the film's success has been bolstered by a terrific word-of-mouth campaign and overwhelmingly positive reviews which make this Summer the ideal contemplative antidote to an over-abundance of CGI, 3D and big budget extravaganzas since everyone can relate to a movie about the dual nature of pain and pleasure that go along with falling in love for the first time.



Likewise, the film is anchored by what I honestly feel as a writer is the most ambitious screenplay of the year so far for its bravery in boldly dissecting 500 days of a relationship in a non-linear format complete with musical numbers, an outrageous dance sequence, and other inventive takes that hearken to Webb's background as a music video director.



And as such, it's only fitting that the soundtrack is also proving to be quite popular among ticket-buyers as well as we can all relate to the same ideas put forth in the film that pop music not only provides the soundtrack to our lives but we seem to listen to music even more when we're going through an intense emotional experience whether it's falling in or falling out of love.



However, as a soundtrack, the selections for (500) Days of Summer are as unpredictable, uneven, passionate, and surprising as the relationship between the film's two main characters that consist of the dreamer Tom (Gordon-Levitt) and the cynical Summer (Deschanel). For example, it moves somewhat strangely from Simon & Garfunkel to Wolfmother, plays a lukewarm She & Him cover song of the superior Smiths track "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" so that the song is included twice, and inexplicably goes with Meaghan Smith's cover of The Pixies' "Here Comes Your Man" instead of the original or Gordon-Levitt's own surprisingly killer karaoke rendition from the movie. Fortunately, on iTunes, I did discover a "Bonus Track" version of the album so will include links to those songs below.



Leaving off some of the other tracks included or referenced in the movie by artists such as The Clash and Belle & Sebastian-- possibly due to cost reasons in securing the rights-- overall, the selections themselves as songs on their own are quite solid regardless of whether or not they happen to flow into one another very well as a new album.

Perfectly illustrating musically that sort emotional rollercoaster ride one goes on throughout a relationship from that pure high experienced in "You Make My Dreams" by Hall & Oates to the music that bonds the two characters in the sweet, melancholic beauty of The Smiths-- in a sense, the soundtrack sounds a lot like the type of CD that a character like Tom would've made for Summer. And as such, it's filled with tracks that perhaps only the two of them would've gotten the full significance of when played from beginning to end.



Going from the mini-symphonic '80s sound of The Smiths to the vintage near Buddy Holly classic rockabilly sounds of Black Lips for their infectious "Bad Kids," before moving once again towards Smiths territory (possibly illustrating a moment of poignancy, then a lighthearted date, then a bummer evening)-- the middle of the album picks things up considerably.

Using my favorite Doves track "There Goes the Fear" as an ideal segue into the happier Hall & Oates territory, we're treated to the radio-friendly hook-filled "Sweet Disposition" by The Temper Trap before we're interrupted one more time for sweeping romance given the French language sounds of the infinitely popular Carla Bruni with "Quelqu'un M'a Dit."

Feist contributes the appropriately titled "Mushaboom" which seems ideal for the musical collage being established by the disc that's confirmed by the emotionally charged, riveting tracks from Regina Spektor that seem to come from both ends of the spctrum of romantic mania established early on in "Us" to-- aside from the title-- the more hauntingly worrisome in "Hero." The way she sort of just echoes "ah uh ah uh" opposite her keys as the "Hero" ends makes an ideal lead in to Simon & Garfunkel's sad, nearly-over-before-it-starts "Bookends."



Yet making sure you haven't drifted off completely, Wolfmother inserts the alternatively folky yet hard rockin' "Vagabond" before Mumm-ra's "She's Got You High" kicks off with a familiar and friendly beat as the last recommended track on the disc.

While the last two covers are fun to explore once, I was particularly disappointed with the She & Him track as the band comprised of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward are usually completely solid and have proven in the past their unparalleled ear for taking on classic tunes from decades gone by. To this end, I couldn't help wishing that a different one of their songs had been included in its place.

Overall, it's been a fun disc to spin for a few weeks but one that likewise I've noticed I've been finding myself adjusting the track order and play list on pretty extensively with each subsequent listen, therefore making the fifty-one minute disc move much faster. While I'd say that over all, it's a mildly recommended disc, in the end, you may want to either go the iTunes route in purchasing it as an entire album and then rearranging it in the order of your own choosing or else choosing the tracks that speak to you that aren't already duplicated in your CD library.

Track-List

1. A Story of Boy Meets Girl - Mychael Danna and Rob Simonsen

Mychael Danna & Rob Simonsen - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - A Story of Boy Meets Girl

2. Us - Regina Spektor

Regina Spektor - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - Us

3. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out - The Smiths

The Smiths - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - There Is a Light That Never Goes Out

4. Bad Kids - Black Lips

Black Lips - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - Bad Kids

5. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want - The Smiths

The Smiths - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want (Remastered)

6. There Goes The Fear - Doves

Doves - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - There Goes the Fear

7. You Make My Dreams - Hall & Oates

Hall & Oates - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - You Make My Dreams

8. Sweet Disposition - The Temper Trap

The Temper Trap - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - Sweet Disposition

9. Quelqu'un M'a Dit - Carla Bruni

Carla Bruni - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - Quelqu'un m'a dit

10. Mushaboom - Feist

Feist - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - Mushaboom

11. Hero - Regina Spektor

Regina Spektor - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - Hero

12. Bookends - Simon & Garfunkel

Simon & Garfunkel - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - Bookends

13. Vagabond - Wolfmother

Wolfmother - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - Vagabond

14. She's Got You High - Mumm-Ra

Mumm-Ra - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - She's Got You High

15. Here Comes Your Man - Meaghan Smith

Meaghan Smith - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - Here Comes Your Man

16. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want - She & Him

She & Him - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want

Bonus Tracks on iTunes

Sugar Town - Zooey Deschanel

Zooey Deschanel - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - Sugar Town (Bonus Track)

Here Comes Your Man - Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - Here Comes Your Man (Bonus Track)

At Last - Kevin Michael

Kevin Michael - (500) Days of Summer (Music from the Motion Picture) [Bonus Track Version] - At Last (Bonus Track)



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