Up in the Air, Junior Birdman!

Up in the Air, Junior Birdman!

 Sorry, I know the picture is kind of creepy, but I couldn’t resist.  Seriously, every time I talk about Up in the Air, I have to follow it that way.  George Clooney = the new Junior Birdman.  I wish I could get a photo of him making that face.  (I really did just go look for one…and failed) 

So here’s the deal.  I don’t usually get excited about soundtracks (unless, of course, they’re done by Karen O & a bunch of little kiddies), but I am pretty excited about the Up in the Air movie soundtrack.  

I have 3 categories for the music in this movie: 

1. Instrumental music clearly composed just for the movie, probably for specific scenes.  “Security Ballet,” “Genova,” “Lost In Detroit,” and “The Snow Before Us” are fantastic tracks, fitting the mood perfectly, but you may not appreciate them as much without hearing them as part of the movie experience (although that last one may not have been composed just for the movie). 

2. Older, more classic folk songs…I love this stuff.  Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young with “Taken At All”–come on, they are classic.  Graham Nash’s solo track, “Be Yourself” may be one of the best on the album.  The acoustic guitar, the fantastic songwriting, they’re overwhelmingly comforting.  And what about Roy Buchanan?  Rootsy, downhome, honest folk.  It’s a beautiful contrast to the stark airport atmosphere, and it calls George Clooney’s character home.  Another gem is Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings jazzed up version of “This Land Is Your Land,” a song that I have coincidentally always hated (I know, I know).  No more hate. 

3. Finally, and I hope you aren’t bored yet, we get the newer (and I use that term loosely) folk-rock tracks.  Dan Auerbach isn’t exactly new, but his “Goin Home” is, I think, and it’s a good one.  My favorite tracks, though, are Elliott Smith’s “Angel in the Snow,” and Sad Brad Smith’s “Help Yourself,” which practically everyone is talking about now.  I had the kind of experience with Elliott Smith in this movie that I had with Belle & Sebastian in Juno, not having heard the soundtrack yet.  I felt smarter than everyone in the theater for actually knowing what it was…but then I felt like a stupid jerk for thinking that kind of thing.  Anyway, of course I was excited to hear the sweet sweet sounds of Elliott Smith, and I was excited to be seeing a movie that could be accompanied sensibly by him.  You would be too.  

The tears, however, stayed away until “Help Yourself.”  I’m not sure that the scene was actually that sad, but here’s the deal.  In a movie that gets you thinking about relationships and connections, and that reminds you that your best experiences are rarely the ones you have by yourself, when a song like this starts playing during a semi-emotional montage, well that’s it for you, isn’t it?  “I know you’ll help us when you’re feelin better/and we realize it might not be for a long long time/but we’re willing to wait on you/we believe in everything that you can do/if you would only lay down your mind”–these lyrics hit a soft spot for all of us, they hint at what we’re all needing.  We’ve been on both sides of it.  We want someone to be with us, to wait for us, to tell us they believe in us, and we’ve had to be with people, wait for them, pick up their slack.  Up in the Air explores relationships in an incredible way, from several different angles, and this song, to me, is the climax.  Am I advertising as much for the movie as I am for the soundtrack?  Well…yes. 

Decent People Know When to Stop

Like I needed one more excuse to go to California, now I have Alex & Sam.  Although their names are both oddly asexual, they are a boy and a girl and they are cute.  They went to Berklee, which is awesome, and probably why they are so talented.  They are unsigned, and I don’t know why.  Probably because no one is good enough to sign them.

Alex’s voice gives me flashbacks to Elliott Smith, and maybe the style could be compared to Smith’s “Say Yes” or “Whatever” with its soft acoustics, but Sam’s voice is more along the lines of jazz; you can imagine the combination–down-to-earth folk sophistication.  If they were going for creating their own unique sound (or, as the L.A. Times suggests, their own genre)…well, they’ve succeeded.  Not only are they the definition of lovely in every breath and strum, but their lyrics are wonderfully honest and hopeful.

“Sounds Like This” is Alex & Sam’s EP, most of which you can hear on their myspace.  I really enjoy the feel of the strings and the trumpet on “Laura,” the precious lyrics on “Old Man in Me,” the lovely, floating melody of “Buy Your Side,” and Sam’s vocals + muted trumpet on “See You Through,” but really, there isn’t one track you won’t love.

And you probably forgot what summer sounds like. Good thing Alex & Sam are here to remind you. Have a listen.