Thursday, March 27, 2008

Guest Review: My Blueberry Nights Soundtrack

Here's another guest review from my buddy Scott. This is the soundtrack to Kar Wai Wong's new film, My Blueberry Nights. The film played at Cannes last year, but will open here in the US on April 4th. Norah Jones stars in it and Chan Marshall makes a guest appearance.

Movie soundtracks are pretty hit and miss, in my opinion. Music that is well-used in a film can be amazing, in context. My best, most recent example is the soundtrack for the film Once. The Oscar-winning track "Falling Slowly," in the context of the film, is mesmerizing. The performers build the song--and their nascent relationship--from parts in front of your eyes. And you see their obvious joy as they riff off each other in building the tune. That's great movie music.

But you see it on stage at the Oscars, backed by a 40-piece orchestra and all dressed up--out of context--and you start thinking, "I kinda liked that Harlem choir better."

A better comparison to the soon-to-be-released (April 1) soundtrack to My Blueberry Nights is the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction. It's a bunch of previously released stuff that, in the context of the film, was cool in a way that movie music hadn't been cool before. But without Uma twisting in the background--at least in your head--it was just some old zydeco music.

All that to say that, out of context, the music from the My Blueberry Nights soundtrack is pretty dull fare. The only brand-new music on the album is instrumental movie mood music by Ry Cooder (forgettable) and a new track by Norah Jones called "The Story." "The Story" is a nice tune, much in line with her most-recent release. The rest of the music is pre-released music from Cat Power (and if you like Cat Power, you've already got these tunes), a mediocre-to-lame Neil Young cover by Cassandra Wilson, "Try a Little Tenderness" by Otis Redding (which is great, but you've probably got it somewhere, too), a nice arrangement of "Eyes on the Prize" arranged by Ry Cooder and sung by Mavis Staples (I'd heard it before, but I was reminded how much I like the dirtiness of the arrangement--turns a spiritual into something vaguely sexual), a decent Spanish guitar tune, and some okay R&B tunes.

In context, this stuff might really be evocative of a mood that the film develops throughout the movie. You see the movie, you buy the soundtrack, you're brought back to that mood every time you hear the tunes. If that's the case for you, God bless. More likely, you should think about downloading the Norah Jones tune (if you liked her last album), maybe "Eyes on the Prize," if you don't have it, and maybe the Spanish guitar tune, called "Pajaros," for mellow Sunday afternoons.


1 comment:

Indie_dinosaur said...

I just bought the soundtrack and LOVE it. But I see what you're saying about putting it in context of the movie. I'll have a different opinion once I see the film this weekend. Nice post!