Sing a Song of Soundtracks

by Dan Clay Rating: Release Date:

Many films have great soundtracks; a collection of other people's songs chosen with love by a director who clearly knows how music complements his or her work. Spielberg uses John Williams, Cameron opts for Horner, Zach Braff just chooses great songs. But in recent years many directors have picked a singer-songwriter to create a soundscape for a film. Here's the five best.

Embracing fully the Weitz brothers' adaptation of Nick Hornby's About a Boy, a popular boy of the day, Badly Drawn Boy created some of his best work to accompany the film. Songs such as 'Minor Incident', 'Something to Talk About' and the piano-led 'Silent Sigh' fit in well amidst Hugh Grant's more confident stumblings and made this an essential Indie purchase of the early noughties.

Perfectly encapsulating Sean Penn's bleak but heart-warming true life tale of a young man's adventures in Into the Wild, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder crafted 11 hauntingly beautiful songs that depict the journey from hope to despair. 'No Ceiling', 'Rise', 'Hard Sun' and 'Guaranteed' are terrific acoustic examples of a man at his peak.

Having garnered and honed his skills with Radiohead, Jonny Greenwood surprised the music world with his mature and evocative score for There Will Be Blood. Full of tense strings, sparse sounds and heavy orchestration, it perfectly fits Paul Thomas Anderson's dark masterpiece.

On a much lighter note but equally as impressive is Trey Parker's musical contributions to Team America's soundtrack, with a little help from his friend Marc Shaiman. Parody songs are notoriously difficult to pull off, even if Flight of the Conchords make it look so easy, but the hilarious takes on musical Rent in 'Everyone Has AIDS' and trashing Pearl Harbour in 'The End of an Act' mean it's a surprisingly must-have soundtrack of the last decade.

However for true singer-songwriter angst and passion, look no further than the beautifully understated soundtrack for Once by Glen Hansard with contributions from Marketa Irglova. Although many were written before the film, not specifically for it, the fact the film fits so neatly around Hansard's terrific strums is testament to the acoustic craftsmanship on display. Although 'Falling Slowly' emerged triumphant at the Oscars, the gorgeous 'Lies', 'Leave' and 'Say It to Me Now' stand out too as emotions bared whole from one man and his guitar. One of the best films of the decade produced probably the best song writing soundtrack of it too.

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  • Bob Coyne

    I think my favourite soundtrack (after Saturday Night Fever obviously) has to be for the film Judgement Night. I've never even seen the film but the soundtrack pairs the best alt rock acts of the time with the best rap acts. So you get original tracks by Teenage Fanclub with De La Soul, Sonic Youth and Cypress Hill (one of the best things they ever did), Mudhoney and Sir Mix a Lot, Dinosaur Jr and Del the Funky Homosapien and Pearl Jam and Cypress Hill. There's a few duff ones on there but overall it's a brilliant album.

    Also the Natural Born Killers soundtrack compiled by Trent Reznor is stunning.