When you have a quirky arty comedy movie -- especially one with romance -- it's pretty much a must to have a brilliant soundtrack.
So it's hardly surprising that "(500) Days Of Summer" has a colorful array of various songs from a pretty eclectic bunch of bands -- everything from classics to indie pop, anti-folk to galloping hard rock'n'roll. And while it adds extra dimensions to the lovable film from which it springs, it's also a pretty good selection of music in its own right.
We're ushered into the album with a soft cloud of strings and flute, and a solemn spoken monologue about the movie's plot: "This is a story of boy meets girl..." Rather appropriately, it then segues into the rippling beauty of Regina Spektor's "Us" ("They made a statue of us/and put it on a mountaintop/now tourists come and stare at us..."), a delightfully peppy song that trickles up and down the piano keys.
The songs that follow are a pretty eclectic bunch: the Smiths' hard-edged "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" and the fast-strummed "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want," Simon and Garfunkel's wispy folk "Bookends," and the delightful "You Make My Dreams" by Hall and Oates. And then there's Wolfmother's blazing cycling "Vagabond," the Black Lips' stringy unpolished "Bad Kids," the Temper Trap's fast-pacing shifting rocker "Sweet Disposition," Mumm-Ra's catchy Britpopper "She's Got You High," and the brilliantly sweeping, fast-moving "There Goes The Fear" by the Doves.
Then there's the pop interwoven from start to finish: the mellow acoustic "Quequ'un M'a Dit" by France's current First Lady, Feist's delightfully sprightly "Mushaboom," Meaghan Smith's quirky pianopop "Here Comes Your Man," and another song by Regine Spektor, the rambling bittersweet prettiness of "Hero." And there's a sweet little epilogue to this -- M. Ward and the movie's star Zooey Deschanel perform as She and Him (yes, that is the band name!), with a sweet and sparkling cover of "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want." And yes, she does have a lovely voice.
The biggest flaw with the "(500) Days Of Summer" soundtrack is that it tends to leap up and down in tempo -- you go from soft and mellow to hard-as-bricks and back again in the space of one song. Oh yeah, and the Black Lips just don't fit in, since they sound kind of tinny and rough-edged compared to the other songs.
Other than that, it's a pretty delightful collection of music cobbled from various genres and time periods, until it feels like listening in on the lead characters' iPods. And while some of the songs vary wildly, all together they give a feeling of warmth and hopeful love -- and serve as a journey into the mind of a person idealistically in love, with moods swinging like a pendulum and bittersweet wistfulness.
There's a lot of guitar and piano woven through this album, especially in the indie-pop songs and the final She and Him song, but there's also a healthy dose of blazing electric guitar, blunt bass, a trickle of keyboard, and some sharp beats in "Sweet Disposition." And the vocalists are excellent as well -- some are quirky and piquant (Feist, Spektor and especially Deschanel) while others are rich and smooth (the Doves and the Smiths especially).
The music of "(500) Days Of Summer" varies wildly and bounces all over the place, yet somehow the soundtrack unifies into a warm and pleasant mingling of vibrant rock, classics and quirky pop. Certainly worth getting.