When the names of the artists involved in the New Moon Soundtrack started to filter out over a month ago, it was obvious that Alexandra Patsavas, the music supervisor for the film, was trying to attract an entirely new audience than the one that is so feverishly dedicated to Stephanie Meyer’s books. I find it fascinating to think about a 13 year old girl getting introduced to the majesty of Bon Iver, the haunting melodies of Grizzly Bear, or even the utter brilliance of Thom Yorke through their contributions to this soundtrack. However, it’s ultimately a shame that a majority of the songs chosen for the album don’t necessarily reflect these stellar artist’s best work. A lot of these tracks sound like castoffs that didn’t quite make the cut on far superior records, a veritable B-squad of songs from A-list artists, if you will. And while I certainly hope that the 13 year old girl hearing Lykke Li for the first time goes beyond this soundtrack and explores her wonderful debut album, I know that for some young listeners their experimental musical journey will begin and end with this soundtrack, and that would certainly be a shame.
Not that there aren’t flashes of prowess found on New Moon, like the fuzzed-out, retro catchiness of ‘Friends’ by Southhampton’s Band Of Skulls, which shakes the record up a bit after the flat, somber wistfulness of Death Cab For Cutie‘s ‘Meet Me On The Equinox.’ Thom Yorke’s much hyped contribution sounds pretty much like I thought it would, exploring the same quivering electronica that was featured on The Eraser. But even a substandard Yorke song soars above most of the other contributions to New Moon. Lykke Li’s ‘Possibility’ eventually becomes a moving song, but just takes far too long to get there, losing my interest along the way. The Killers ‘A White Demon Love Song,’ is a musical mess, seemingly trying to be three or four different songs all at once over the course of it’s three and a half minutes, but never coalescing into anything memorable.
Anya Marina‘s ‘Satellite Heart’ is pleasant enough, but the focus is placed squarely on her rather sophomoric lyrics and puerile rhyme schemes, with a spare musical arrangement layered too far underneath her vocals to save the song. The lively histrionics of Muse‘s ‘I Belong To You’ is given the New Moon Remix treatment, essentially turning Matt Bellamy’s guitars up a bit and toning down the jaunty piano line that is threaded throughout the song, while also completely doing away with the two minute French-ified coda found on the original. Only die hard fans will find much of a difference between the two versions, and I truly feel for any Muse completest buying this album specifically for their contribution. Bon Iver & St. Vincent team up for the doleful ‘Roslyn,’ which sounded a bit better on paper than it actually does on record, with the song floating along forlornly, but in the end being unable to achieve the emotional impact of either artist’s other work. The same is true of ‘Slow Life,’ by Grizzly Bear (featuring Victoria Legrand), which hints at the grandeur found on the sublime Veckatimest, but never quite reaches those heights.
And that is essentially where New Moon fails most; for while collecting these venerable artists together on a soundtrack sounds like it can’t fail, there ultimately isn’t any real consistency to these contributions, and the album has a disconnected sound to it, like a mix-tape gone off the rails. And while these songs have a built in appeal simply because of the bands that are involved, none of the contributions truly reflect the unique skills of these artists. So, for those of us who have their actual albums, we’ll simply go listen to those instead. But for those that are getting introduced to these talented artists for the first time by this soundtrack, here’s to hoping that they dig a little bit deeper than this and discover the true beauty found in the songs that got all of us interested in the first place.