Jon Brion - Lady Bird (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Jon Brion - Lady Bird (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

by John Plowright Rating:5 Release Date:2018-02-23
Jon Brion - Lady Bird (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Jon Brion - Lady Bird (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Some film directors (like Chaplin) make their camerawork as unobtrusive as possible, regarding the role of the camera as simply to record. Others (like Welles) are happy to draw attention to their visual pyrotechnics.

Much the same can be said of film composers, or at least the briefs to which they work. That is to say, some scores so discreetly complement what’s seen on screen that they hardly register at the time and not at all afterwards, whilst other soundtracks are so prominent as almost to assume the role of a character in the film. ‘Baby Driver’ would be the best recent example of the latter phenomenon, although if one sought a film composer whose music regularly leaps off the screen and is highly enjoyable in its own right then Danny Elfman would certainly fit the bill.

Jon Brion, like Elfman, came to scoring after first trying his hand at singing and songwriting. He is not quite as prolific a film composer as Elfman (in part because of time spent performing and producing), but ‘Lady Bird’ nevertheless represents the latest in a distinguished and distinctive body of work which includes the soundtracks for ‘Punch-Drunk Love’, ‘Synedoche, New York’, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ and ‘Magnolia’.

The film ‘Lady Bird’ enjoyed commercial and critical success but it’s telling that none of its many Critics’ Choice, Bafta, Golden Globe or Academy Award nominations related to the Best Original Score category. This is primarily because the soundtrack operates as a series of atmospheric cues which really need the film, or a photographic memory of the film, to bring them fully alive. It’s rather like being presented with tonic water when what you really want is a gin and tonic.

A secondary problem is the brevity of the overwhelming majority of the twenty-three tracks as, by my calculation, four last less than thirty seconds; a further eight run for less than a minute; and an additional ten still manage to clock in at less than two minutes. This is not a problem for the lively title track but the experience otherwise is either the frustrating one of starting to enjoying a track, like ‘Maybe’ only for it to end abruptly or, more often, for the music to lack the time to make much of an impression at all.

There’s no doubting Jon Brion’s many talents (he’s a multi-instrumentalist in addition to being a singer, songwriter, producer and award-winning composer) but sadly it’s difficult to see much of an appreciative audience for the ‘Lady Bird’ soundtrack beyond those already deeply enamoured of the film, Jon Brion completists, and those with some form of aural ADD.

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