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. 

All is Love!!

from entertainment geekly!
from entertainment geekly!

Ok, I was a little eager yesterday.  I freaked out because I thought the Where the Wild Things  Are soundtrack was only streaming for a day, and I had already missed half the day, and I better hurry up and tell you about it!  But I was mistaken, and it is still  streaming, and I don’t know when it will stop or if it ever will, so I’m just going to talk about it now.  And you have more time than I thought to listen to it, which is pretty great.

First of all, if you don’t know about this movie, you’re a little freaking behind and you need to catch up!!  Check out the trailer or something.

Now, for the music.  Karen O & the Kids are doing the soundtrack.  Who are Karen O & the Kids?  They are a lovely assortment of indie rockers from everywhere!  And I’m just going to copy & paste them from imeem because let’s be honest, there are a lot of them.  We’ve got Tristan Bechet (Services), Tom Biller (co-producer with Karen O and member of Afternoons), Bradford Cox (Deerhunter), Brian Chase (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age, The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs), Aaron Hemphill (Liars), Greg Kurstin (The Bird and the Bee), Jack Lawrence (The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs, The Greenhornes), Oscar Michel (Gris Gris), Imaad Wasif (New Folk Implosion, Alaska), Nick Zinner, (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and an untrained children’s choir.  Here is a new rule: whenever a children’s choir is involved,  and it isn’t a lame Christmas song or Michael W. Smith, awesomeness abounds.

What I love about this soundtrack is very closely connected to what I know I’m going to love about this movie.  Spike Jonze is taking this dearly loved children’s book,  which interestingly enough “belongs” to a generation that is older now and adjusting to adulthood, and making it something that will speak both to children and to “everyone you have ever known.”  Check out the featurette w/Maurice Sendak and Spike Jonze.  The soundtrack portrays this beautifully.  Karen O has assembled this group for their talent and their spirit.

Much of the soundtrack is percussive, full of humming and finger snaps, with simple melodies and spirited vocals, sometimes  from the kids’ choir which always rocks (“Animal,” for instance…who doesn’t love it?).  Of course as a soundtrack, there’s a decent number of instrumental tracks which are full of gorgeous harmonies, sometimes sparse and sometimes loaded with layers, and also sometimes with some la-de-da’s (“Cliffs,” “Lost Fur”).   I am in love with the emotion–the constant changes in mood are absolutely perfect–the angsty “Capsize” melting into a vulnerable “Worried Shoes”…freaking AMAZING.  Every song seems to have its own meaning, musically reflecting subtleties that we often can’t put into words when describing “how we feel.”   Sometimes  you want to dance (“Heads Up”) and sometimes you want to cry (“Worried Shoes”).  All in all, the whole thing is just beautiful.  And you should listen to it, and also you should go see the movie, and also you should watch this video.

“To Oscar-nominated Where the Wild Things Are director Spike Jonze, however, Karen O and her music possess something of a child-like innocence, a guileless charm that put her exactly on the right emotional wavelength to sonically capture the film, be it a tender moment or a wild rumpus.” –you got it, imeem writer guy/girl.  This soundtrack is utter perfection.  And I haven’t even seen the damn movie yet.

Two reviews for the price of one, which is free

Regina SpektorFar

Regina Spektor is back with a new album (her third or sixth, depending on whether you can count or not). There are a lot of things to like about Far, the new album, out on Tuesday. People who got all pissy over the Begin to Hope, will like that this leans more in the direction of her older albums on this record, while those who loved the last album will be happy to know that, while there is a lot to think about in this record, they don’t have to think about it unless they want to. (Read the rest)

God Help the GirlGod Help the Girl

It’s not unheard of for a band to provide the soundtrack for an album and history would indicate that it is really something of a hit or miss experience. Think about it. Where would we be if Once had not launched The Swell Season into the spotlight? Then again, Björk’s soundtrack for Dancer In the Dark (a sickeningly brilliant film by Lars von Trier) was a major disappointment, if only because the other actors who sang with her could not begin to approach the shear drama and power packed into every pitch she produces. God Help the Girl is, in a way, a soundtrack as well, but one accompanying a film by Stuart Murdoch that does not quite exist yet. So we have to begin the review process at a loss. (Read the rest)

The Anti-Indie

Here is some honesty for you: since Dutch Week, we are struggling with withdrawals.  Please support us in our grief.

In the meantime, I am going to write about Kimya Dawson.  Cool.  Before Juno, no one knew who the heck Kimya Dawson was (fine, maybe people did, but no one I know did).  Let’s play a game called, listen to one of her songs or one of her albums, and then pick which picture you think is her:

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If you picked the second choice, it is because you are like 95% of the population, who also think Kimya sounds like an adorable little child.  If you picked the first choice, it is because you had the intuition to know what I was getting at, and so you didn’t really know at all, and so you are a faker and would have picked the second choice in any objective situation.

But seriously, I entitled this post “The Anti-Indie” because I feel that Kimya Dawson sort of is the anti-indie, or maybe the anti-folk–at least she was…until the movie Juno and it’s infectious soundtrack took over life as we know it and threatened to make the indie scene trendy forever and ever.  Sufjan, the ultimate indie (do you love my random assertions about what is indie?  Me too), plays all of his own instruments, and he does it well.  However, Kimya’s music is very much like a little girl writing crazy but strangely meaningful things and putting them alongside acoustic Raffi-like guitar, ukelele, badly-played violin, and maybe another 5-year-old hitting a xylophone.  Although her most recent album, Alphabutt, is a children’s album, Remember That I Love You (2006, K Records) is not–thus the irony of hearing her childlike voice say “Fuck Bush and fuck this war” on “Loose Lips”–and so I don’t feel so bad loving it so much.

So!  to the album: you already probably know “Loose Lips” and “Tire Swing” from the Juno soundtrack, on which a very lame version of “My Rollercoaster” was also featured.  You must listen to Remember That I Love You for the good version of “My Rollercoaster,” though, because in the middle of her own awesomeness, Kimya breezes through bits and pieces of such musical gems as “On the Road Again,” “From A Distance,” and that “do do do” song by Third Eye Blind.    She is also very peacy (not to be confused with P.C.) and does not hesitate to sing about her political opinions, like a modern day Bob Dylan!  Just kidding, she is not really like Bob Dylan very much at all, but she is both political and good.

The 2 most fantastic things about Kimya are that she is incredibly sincere and that she is easy to sing along to (which you know you like to do).   “Caving In” is poignant for the angsty twenty-something (The Indie Handbook loves angsty twenty-somethings) in which she presents her hatred for working for the Man and her desire to “leave for the coast and never work for anyone again,” and also her fear of change and the rootlessness that often follows (“Where will I go where I can feel safe when my family sells this place and we all split up and move away?  I’m trying to be brave ‘caus when I’m brave, other people feel brave, but I feel like my heart is caving in.”)  “I Like Giants” has a strong feminist streak, and “My Mom” indulges Kimya’s fear for her mom as she battles cancer.  Basically, you will listen to Kimya’s album, you will relate and it will bring tears to your eyes to think that someone really gets it and it’s okay and let’s all just be youthful and frolic around and sing and play 7 minutes in heaven and go to the state fair.  You just can’t say no to that.

I couldn’t say it better than the bio on her website:

“There is something really precious about being alone and sad, but there is something powerful and reassuring about watching someone blossom out of that cocoon, sprout wings, and learn to fly. The world is in a state of disarray and Kimya sees that, but she also sees all the magnificent strangeness and unwavering beauty in the world and in people. And she shows us how to see it too.”