Releasing two soundtrack albums is sometimes the ultimate compromise. It seems rare that the demographic of both score fans and whatever genre of music that makes it on the song album are one in the same, so to get a song and a score album is a bonus. Why am I telling you this? Because romantic indie flick Stuck In Love is getting both, and we have them for review today.
Being an independent movie, you’d probably expect Stuck In Love to have a certain kind of sound, and you’d be right. Both the score and the songs have a breezy, navelgazing feel and are heavily guitar-based. But the funny thing is that I actually feel the song album is the best, although this needs a bit more explanation.
Calling it “the song album” is a bit of a misnomer really, as it presents a mix of both song and score, with seven score tracks and ten songs. The score – digital only – has twenty-one score tracks, although the final track includes ‘At Your Door’, a song also available on the other album. The score was composed, arranged, and performed by Mike Mogis and Nathanial Walcott, two musicans from the American band Bright Eyes (no idea if they’re named after Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes) and follows their indie rock/alt-country/folk style.
Like I said before, both score and songs are chock full of guitars, with the score performed in much of a dreamy style. It’s interesting how easily it seems for composers to reflect emotions using the guitar, be it electric or acoustic, as the score has a heady sense of contemplation and reflection. It wavers slightly only really in tone, with some upbeat pieces contrasted with others that sound like they were written by someone heartbroken. There are a couple of changes in genre, mainly in blues and jazz. I’d be lying if I thought it worked on the album, as it’s a real jolt and goes on a bit too long really.
And that goes for the score itself. It’s a nice score, but just on its own it feels just more like background music than anything. However, put it with the songs and it works a treat. The songs themselves are fine, with one by Mogis and Walcott, one by Conor Oberst who is apparently also in Bright Eyes, and others by Rio Bravo, Like Pioneers, Nat & Alex Wolff. Elliott Smith, Bill Ricchini and Friends of Gemini.
The songs work brilliantly in tandem with the score’s style and provide an excellent contrast, with the switch from vocal to instrumental giving a nice change of pace. There are a couple of standout songs, being Rio Bravo’s ‘American Man’ and Friends of Gemini’s ‘Somersaults In Spring’, both of which I can imagine being good movie songs. But they all work pretty well.
There aren’t going to be many times where I favour the song album over the score, but this is one. The score itself is pretty good, but really works like a firecracker when mixed with the songs. Both are a decent listen, but if you can only buy one, get the song album.
The score album is available now digitally, and the song album is released on June 11th, both from Varese Sarabande.
Words: Charlie Brigden