Monday, July 16, 2007

Top 5 Various Artists Soundtracks

This was Tory's idea, but I have his permission to post after he went to bed. Obviously, the inclusion of "various artists" is meant to combat having to consider soundtracks like Magical Mystery Tour, The Wall, etc. (and, more recently for myself, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, About a Boy). Let me also preface this list by saying that I am completely content with my list, but I have a vague feeling I've left stuff out. I've shied away from movies specifically about music (High Fidelity, Almost Famous) for varying reasons--one, I feel this is kind of cheating; and two, they often don't live up to it. High Fidelity, for instance, has some excellent tracks but also some boring ones. (On a sidenote, I've recently decided that "Who Loves the Sun?" by The Velvet Underground may be the most perfect pop song ever recorded.) Anyway...

1. Rushmore - I feel like I'm betraying my biases to Wes Anderson and Ben Folds (unrelatedly) with all these lists, but here's one where I truly feel objective in including Anderson's work: he is a master of soundtracks, and Rushmore is his best work. Everything works perfectly: "Making Time" during Max Fischer's clubs montage; "A Quick One While He's Away" during the Max Fischer-Herman Bloom battles; "The Wind" during the kite-flying scene; "Concrete and Clay" and "Oh Yoko" during Max Fischer-Rosemary Cross-Herman Bloom love triangle scenes; etc. He went with all British invasion music, which couldn't have been an obvious choice, and Mark Mothersbaugh seals the deal with more excellent work. I have listened to this soundtrack more than probably anyone on earth, and I can't say enough good things about it so I'll stop myself now.

2. Snatch - Remember when Guy Ritchie was talented before Madonna ruined everything? It's getting harder with each passing year, but listening to this soundtrack helps. Ritchie too is adept at matching songs (like Anderson, often obscure songs) with the right scenes. Gorgeous George on the ground after being knocked out by Mickey, set to "Golden Brown" by The Stranglers? Good stuff. And "Fucking in the Bushes" by Oasis seems like it was written for a bare-knuckle boxing scene. I could go on but I'll stop.

3. Pulp Fiction - I had this soundtrack memorized a good five years before I finally saw the movie, because my dad had the tape in 1995. I have my problems with Quentin Tarentino, but the dude knows how to use music effectively. (I'm not going to, but it would be very easy to include Kill Bill and Reservoir Dogs in this list.) High marks for "Son of a Preacher Man" and "Jungle Boogie," and all the surf music.

4. Royal Tenenbaums - See above. Here I think he uses Nico's "These Days" and Elliott Smith's "Needle in the Hay" brilliantly, among many others (including, notably, a great employment of the Vince Guaraldi Trio's "Christmastime is Here" instrumental from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

5. Wonder Boys - It's almost tough to include this because often the really good music is quietly in the background. That said, it's used damn well when it is--I don't know why, but I always think of the scene with Tripp and Crabtree in the car going to James with Lennon's "Watching the Wheels" playing on the car radio. Bob Dylan has three new (well, 2000) songs, all good, especially "Not Dark Yet," and Neil Young's "Old Man" is perfect in this movie--in that they use the first minute and a half or so, cutting the song before it goes from brilliant to middling when backup singers are brought in for no reason.

Honorable mentions--Bottle Rocket, Life Aquatic, Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, High Fidelity, Office Space, Shaun of the Dead (an excellent use of Queen).

Dan's Top 5:

1. Jackie Brown - What I consider Tarantino's best soundtrack. I think the songs here are better suited and more consisted that what was on Pulp Fiction, a masterpiece in its own right. A lot of great 70's music that you'd never be exposed to otherwise. "Across 110th Street" has got to be one of my all-time favorites.

2. Snatch - I really can't do this any justice, and fortunately for me, Ryan's comments already explain my opinion on this awesome soundtrack.

3. Rushmore - "Making Time" and "Quick One While He's Away" steal the show here, but my other favorites are "Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl" and "I Am Waiting."

4. Garden State - I think one of the best collections of songs around, with Coldplay's "Don't Panic," "New Slang" by the Shins, and of course, "In the Waiting Line" by Zero 7, which would go on to be featured in the House, M.D. Season 3 soundtrack. It even has some Simon and Garfunkel. Loses major points, however, for having a cover version of Such Great Heights.

5. Almost Famous - The movie features a scene based around Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." This is also the film that got Zeppelin to release some songs for a soundtrack, and these two facts alone warrant inclusion. Also has "Sparks" by the Who, which is pretty much the first time I've ever heard it featured while not on the Tommy album. The only reason it's at the bottom is it's a cop-out, as Ryan suggested.

Honorable mentions - everything else from a Wes Anderson or Quentin Tarantino film

Tim's Top 5:
Well, if we were actually counting the soundtracks from the movies, I'd be hard pressed to include something not by Scorsese on the list. But since we're talking soundtrack albums, every one of those is pathetic compared to the importance of the songs to the film itself. Frankly, I have little input...but this calls for a snap judgment and I'm that kind of person. You may notice something of a theme...

1) Good Will Hunting - Aha! It's not a one-person's just almost a one person soundtrack. Elliott Smith chips in the best 2/5 of the soundtrack, with a couple tracks not found on Either/Or, which helps greatly, though makes this a galling must-own album for me. Thankfully, the Al Green, Luscious Jackson, and Dandy Warhols tracks are worth owning...and it does include "Baker Street", a song that you really want to not like, but deep down, you do. Or you don't, but then who are you fooling?

2) Wonder Boys - I concur with Ryan about the suitability of everything here in the film, it made "Not Dark Yet" one of my favorite Dylan tracks and forced me to own Time Out of Mind. "Old Man," "Watching the Wheels" and "Things Have Changed". It even has Tim Hardin, though I would swear I'd not heard the track in the album.

3) The Big Lebowski - You had me from "The Man In Me", though you sealed the deal with the best mariachi version of "Hotel California" money can buy. And who could forget that Kenny Rogers was once a pop star for use in Busby Berkeley sequences involving bowling -- now I need to own "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. As for the rest of the album...yeah, well, this is why this list is bad for me.

4) American Wedding - Yawn. Now my pop sensibilities come out, and I'm clearly a teenage girl. Really the soundtrack gets credit for sparing me the need of owning another Blue October album by including "Calling You", which is the only tolerable Blue October song I've ever found, including "Swing Swing", having "Forget Everything" from A New Found Glory, and above all a cover much beloved by me of the Van Morrison song "Into the Mystic" by the Wallflowers. As much as I'd like to hate both "Times Like These" and "Anthem", I suck and cannot pull it off. "Give Up the Grudge" even evokes happy memories of playing Madden whatever year that was. Yes, I still like the Wallflowers. Yes, I'm the guy who keeps them in the charts at #198. Yes, I do apologize. And yes, this slot could just as easily have gone to Can't Hardly Wait, which is essentially the same catalog of pop sensibilities or American Pie, which only gets consideration because it has "Good Morning Baby" from Dan Wilson and Bic Runga.

5) Stranger Than Fiction - I know, I know, I ought to learn my own lesson that the lessons of history must be taught before something can fall into a top 5, but frankly, this is the level of desperation I've reached. The Spoon tracks are great, "The Book I Write" is one of my current favorite songs by any artist and is directly responsible for my purchase of Ga Ga Ga Ga, which is well worth owning. "Whole Wide World" by Wreckless Eric is another favorite, without the soundtrack, I'd never have discovered it. "Going Missing" is pop magic. Well done, guy who mistakenly was nominated for an awful superficial dreckfest (Finding Neverland), but got snubbed for a great film (Stranger Than Fiction). The soundtrack is woefully uneven, but its high points are worth it.

Honorable mention goes to Rushmore, which is sufficiently praised by others and unowned by me (much like #2 and #3 on this list). Others? Reservoir Dogs, Permanent Midnight, Reality Bites, and Snakes on a Plane -- and now I've listed every film soundtrack I own. I now hang my head in shame.

Tory's Top 5:

1) Black Snake Moan - I never listened to blues music before I heard this album, but it has turned me onto it completely. The Black Keys are a band that must be heard, and hearing Sam Jackson sing "motherfucker" is a completely different experience than him just plainly saying it.

2) Hustle n Flow - As good as people think Tarantino or Crowe are at making soundtracks, they are quickly being eclipsed by Craig Brewer who has the sense to string together genres perfectly. Simply the best collection of rap, not to mention the amazing original songs from the movie. Craig Brewer earns the number one and two spots.

3) Rushmore - A great soundtrack. It has my favorite songs by the Who and Cat Stevens on it.

4) The Wedding Singer - The best collection of 80s music.

5) Clerks - This is the movie that made me want to make movies. It's soundtrack has a few kinks in it, but overall it has amazing songs - so much so that he spent 25k of his 26k budget on it.

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