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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Various Artists
Juno Soundtrack

Rating: 6.8/10 ?

March 5, 2008
The Juno soundtrack, like the film's eponymous character, has its brilliant moments. But like the film itself, which went one for four on Oscar night, in the end the soundtrack flounders under the weight of its promise, giving too much credence to cutesy wit in lieu of melodic substance. Songs originating with Kimya Dawson, which account for eight of the OST tracks, are so gimmicky with their childish tone they reduce even the most serious lyrics to trite and meaningless fluff. Just like Ellen Page's character rested at the center of Juno's orbit, Dawson's contributions anchor the film's soundtrack with a sarcastic sensibility so over the top that the smarmy tone and wit often serve as distractions from the brilliance of the less prominent cast.

That being said, the underlying elements of this collection are both eclectic and obscure. As movie soundtracks go, the indie kids can't help but put their paws all over this one, just like the soundtrack to Garden State before it. And like that film's resurrection of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Only Living Boy in New York," the Juno compilation co-opts Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes," and the song's out-and-out stadium-rock feel provides a great foil for the pre-pubescent-sounding Dawson's tunes. The instantly catchy chorus - "All the young dudes (hey dudes)/ Carry the news (where are ya)/ Boogaloo dudes (stand up come on)" dominates the brilliant placement of a number from a criminally forgotten 70s band.

Supporting this track on the classic side (versus the indie contemporary side), The Kinks' "Well Respected Man" represents another influential, although far less slighted, British notable. Dave Davies' working-man appeal perfectly captures, albeit with a British tone, the life of Mark, played by Jason Bateman, the defeated rock dreamer relegated to plucking jingles for T.V. commercials in a tiny home studio until Juno sparks recollections of his old life in a band. Poignant as the Kinks' inclusion is, all told few of the soundtrack's songs relate in any meaningful way to the film.

Perhaps the most interesting choice on the soundtrack lies in a somber and restrained Buddy Holly tune, "Dearest." This track's brilliantly simple and child-like lyrics capture everything that Kimya Dawson seems to search for but cannot quite attain. "Dearest, though you're the nearest to my heart/ Please don't ever ummm yeah ever say we'll part/ You scold, and you are so bold/ Yes together ummm yeah our love will grow old/ Ummm yeah our love will grow old," sings Holly.

Unfortunately, outside of those cuts and "Sea of Love," a worthy Cat Power tune, the gimmickry of the film's soundtrack is grating and annoying. I remember watching Napoleon Dynamite and hearing a song so childlike and catchy that I had to find out what it was. That the performance was from the White Stripes, a band I'd come to associate with the more lumbering and adult sounds of "Seven Nation Army," was somewhat astounding, yet the song perfectly set the school-like tone of the movie without sounding contrived.

Having Kimya Dawson (along with her bands Antsy Pants and The Moldy Peaches) for seven tracks, reportedly at the suggestion of Ellen Page, seems both insincere (as she's 35) and beyond overkill for the film's adolescent, innocent love theme. I can think of many (better) forgotten child-like songs that would provide the same effect and more melody (Big Star's "Thirteen" comes to mind, perhaps Elliott Smith's version), as well as some much needed diversity. Not to mentioned the oft-mentioned and rather reticent bands that Mark and Juno talk about in their visits leading up to the birth such as The Melvins, Patti Smith, Iggy and the Stooges, and Sonic Youth, only the latter of which appears on the film's soundtrack. Each of those bands, along with a litany of others, could have relieved a spot from Kimya Dawsom and served to really round out the collection. As far as I'm concerned, despite all the talk about classic and forgotten acts, Juno's soundtrack is far too preoccupied with appealing to the young and hip to really add any sort of compliment.

Now I like quirky movies as much as the next guy, and I think we're all agreed that even the cheesiest off-brand film like Juno offers a marked improvement over the alternative (some cheap Hollywood blockbuster with no soul). But in the same vein as it's film counterpart, the Juno soundtrack seems so over the top with it's incessant "I'm cute, I'm cute" portrayal of itself that its nauseating. One Kimya Dawson track would've sufficed.

And honestly, if I'd heard one more yuppie at my small New England college a few years back talk about how "awesome" the Garden State soundtrack was, I think I'd have thrown up all over their Urban Outfitters "vintage" tee. That collection made The Shins into a household name amongst teen hipsters, and Dawson gets a similar treatment here. Not exactly great news.

Rather than speak to the artist sentiments expressed in the film's dialogue - that undomesticated, left-field music and film has artistic merit - Juno's soundtrack gives most of its attention to the overtly "cute" and "witty." It's so over-saturated with allusions of child-love that the misfit performers actually discussed in the film are less than afterthought. While The Melvins would scarcely be found appropriate for piping into the sound system of a sterile mega-mall, Kimya Dawson's cooing is ripe for a GAP commercial. Its a no-brainer that the Moldy Peaches and Belle & Sebastian - as opposed to the usual Dave Matthews or Maroon 5 drivel - are a refreshing change of pace for any soundtrack, but whether or not they aptly serve the film's content is another matter altogether. Is this soundtrack worth your $10 on iTunes? Nah, save your money, enjoy the tunes in the movie, and then hunt down a Melvins or Yo La Tengo's album instead.

Reviewed by Jeff McMahon
No biographical information is currently available.

See other reviews by Jeff McMahon



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