Artwork by Sarah Kennedy
One important element of any film is the score. Most of the time these are classical scores made by a composer but very often films will hire ‘curators’ (or even the directors themselves) to select existing tracks (or write new ones) to accompany a film. Whilst classical scores can be mind blowing (hello, Interstellar) there is something really special and atmospheric about finding a song in a film and then finding out you really, really, love that band. Here are some of Screenqueens’ favourites.
500 DAYS OF SUMMER/BELLE AND SEBASTIAN, THE SMITHS, REGINA SPEKTOR: When I first watched ‘500 Days of Summer’, my feelings towards the film and its ambiguous ending were mixed but one thing, at least, was clear; I had fallen desperately in love with both the soundtrack that accompanied the movie and the enigmatic ‘Summer’ of the title. The music is, undoubtedly, a key aspect of what makes ‘500 Days’ so fantastic as it perfectly complements the short-lived love shared between Tom Hansen and Summer, as they both grow and fall apart together to the sound of The Smiths, Regina Spektor and Belle & Sebastian. The film is the ultimate fantasy of almost any indie fan, peppered with a wonderful deconstruction of the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ trope, several subtle references to cult classics and even, a drunken karaoke. Had it not been for ‘500 Days of Summer’, I would, most likely, never have discovered the wonder that is Belle & Sebastian nor the charm of Zooey Deschanel; both of which I am grateful for.
ROMEO AND JULIET (1996)/THE CARDIGANS (Lovefool): ‘Romeo + Juliet’ is Baz Luhrmann’s beautiful modernisation of Shakespeare’s finest tragedy. There has never been a sight quite as wonderful as Leonardo DiCaprio, in a particularly notable pattered shirt, prancing happily along a beach while forgotten bands of the nineties litter the scene. The first time I watched ‘Romeo + Juliet’, it was also, incidentally, the first time that I had ever heard ‘Lovefool’ by The Cardigans. I’m not quite sure what it is about this song, whether it’s the pure, unadulterated joy of its hook or the way that it seems to fall into place almost perfectly alongside the young lovers’ hurtling journey through adolescence and betrayal; there can be no counting the number of times that I’ve played the song, nor the movie alongside it.
LOST IN TRANSLATION/MY BLOODY VALENTINE (Sometimes): Lost In Translation’s soundtrack is stellar from start to finish, perfectly capturing the hazy, lonely, lost place Charlotte and Bob find themselves stumbling through. Of every track though, ‘Sometimes’ stuck with me. The second of the sweeping shots of Tokyo’s city scape is accompanied by this and I think it perfectly captures the headspaces of both characters – noisy, busy, confused but serene and happy and loving at the same time. Loveless as an album is now one of my favourites because of how much I loved Sometimes and felt an affinity to the scene it surrounded. Coppola brings more to staring out of car windows that anyone has previously or ever will again.
JUNO/BELLE AND SEBASTIAN (Expectations): Another film with the most perfect OST, and one everybody remembers. But what stood out for me was maybe one of the less prominent songs from the film. Expectations is about the hardship of being a teenage girl, so naturally, it is my jam. ‘And the head said that you always were a queer one from the start/For careers you say you want to be remembered for your art’ – I identified so much with the entrapment of this song and the dryness. Belle and Sebastian feature again on the soundtrack, the equally great Piazza, New York Catcher. Both songs shows how Belle and Sebastian can be melancholy but still completely and unashamedly pop music. Love it.
SOMEWHERE/THE STROKES (I’ll Try Anything Once): The fact that Sofia Coppola has already appeared on this list is evidence of her impeccable soundtracks, and her fourth feature film, Somewhere, was no exception. I’ll Try Anything Once features in probably the film’s most famous scene, in which Johnny Marco and his pre-teen daughter Cleo play table tennis and lounge by the pool – hell even the camera is relaxed, slowing pulling away from their deck chair sunbathing, reluctantly to leave the haven of a Hollywood summer day. The song is tinny, it sounds like it’s playing just off camera from a shitty little speaker. Coppola is an expert when it comes to integrating the music into her movies, forging an intrinsic link; this song perhaps more than any other because it feels like it belongs to this film, a softer and more subdued version of You’ll Only Live once, the first song from their 2005 album First Impressions of Earth. It’s hard to pick which version I like best, but both are incredibly special to me. Julian Casablancas could sing to me until the end of time.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA/RADIOHEAD, THE BLACK KEYS:
Every time I utter about my love of the first two twilight films and the soundtracks up to number 3 I genuinely fear losing whatever blogging audience I currently have. But I am getting past it. The Twilight Saga has introduced me to a shit tonne of good music, mainly Radiohead. Hearing ‘15 Step’ on the credits of Twilight and Thom Yorke’s ‘Hearing Damage’ in New Moon kinda changed my life. Radiohead/Thom’s music completely stand out from anything else in the soundtracks (any films soundtracks for that matter, which I have discussed more here) and I love the brittle electronic vibrations and repetitive beats that break up soundtracks consisting largely of rock indie and blues; which isn’t at all a bad thing, and also leads me nicely onto The Black Keys. During Eclipse the lyrics ‘took a job, working late, jackin’ cars from outta state, she found no love in this town, so she’d never mess around’ echo out and something super sinister struck inside me and Dan Auerbach’s voice rang through me in a way not many bands do. The Black Keys embodied that perfect hillbilly ‘living in a forest in a log cabin and it rains all the fucking time’ aesthetic I had been searching for. I was sold. The discography was downloaded. Favourite band ever status was gained.
THE BEACH/MOBY, 90S ELECTRONICA:
Danny Boyle changed my life. I could even go so far as to say Danny Boyle stopped me from losing my mind this one time but that’s a different story for a different time. Danny Boyle also taught me how to chill the fuck out. The Beach came to me at a weird and very stressed out time in my life. The soothing sounds of Moby’s ‘Porcelain’ just sorted all of that madness right out. I can literally melt into a puddle within the first few seconds of that track, let alone the whispy vocals of ‘in my dreams I’m dying all the time’. Pair this with Leonardo DiCaprio running around with a hidden beach community absolutely out of his mind (yeah, it goes tits up but I can enjoy it while it lasts ok) is something I want my eyes (and myself) to experience every day for the rest of my life. The Beach also holds punchy dance tunes from Leftfield like ‘Snakeblood’, and drum filled race through the streets of Bangkok and Faithless’ ‘Woozy’ make me want to sway in the breeze completely naked in a jungle somewhere. Underworld also holds a high regard in Boyle’s films and considering I’m a rock/indie fan the fact that Born Slippy (iconic in Trainspotting) is one of my favourite songs ever must tell you that it’s absolutely brilliant.
JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE/ELVIS COSTELLO:
‘John Tucker Must Die??? Elvis Costello???’ I hear you say. It does indeed seem like an unlikely pairing. But in a soundtrack (that is completely perfect 00’s dream teen movie music) filled with pop and pop-rock such as The All-American Rejects and Cyndi Lauper, the 70’s new-wave singer does have a tendency to stand out. He’s also an actual element of the plot. In order to impress Kate, John Tucker finds out about her music taste from his younger brother, Scott. From this lil investigating sesh he finds out she likes Costello and is into ‘old music’ from which he proceeds to get hold of a tape so he can play it in the car on the way back from their date in order to impress her. Obviously it works. ‘IN CLUBLAAAAAAAAAANNNNDDDDDD’ rings out from those car speakers and Kate is totally sold on this super cute pre-rehab Jesse Metcalfe. I don’t have a clue what struck me so much about that song. Maybe it’s cause I though Kate was really cool and had super nice hair and I wanted to be cool and have super nice hair. On my next HMV trip I spied a copy of ‘The Best of Elvis Costello: The First 10 Years’ for a fiver. Snagged it. Had it on repeat for a while. Still do not have nice hair but his music’s pretty great anyway.
PALO ALTO/BLOOD ORANGE:
It was before I even watched Palo Alto that it had an impact on me. I was halfway through the process of moving and living in a practically empty house, and I was in one of those moods when I was feeling pretty down and couldn’t find any music that fit the mood I was in. That was until I decided to listen to the Palo Alto soundtrack. The whole soundtrack is brilliant, but I immediately singled out the two Blood Orange tracks – ‘Champagne Coast’ and ‘You’re Not Good Enough’. The reason I fell in love with these songs is because they seemed to so perfectly capture the emptiness and uncertainty I was feeling at that point (which is obviously why they were featured in Palo Alto, a film focused around these emotions and the general loneliness of adolescence). But even if you’re not a bored and moody sixteen year old girl like me, Blood Orange are such an amazing band and definitely worth listening to. In fact, their front man, Devonté Hynes was the one who curated the entire soundtrack. So basically, Blood Orange + Palo Alto = a match made in sad teenage heaven.
MARIE ANTOINETTE/BOW WOW WOW:
I cannot fault even one of Sofia Coppola’s soundtracks (or any Coppola’s, to be honest) but the reason I have to choose this collaboration is because of that scene. You know the one I’m talking about, the one where a bunch of teenage girls mess around eating cake and choosing cute clothes except it’s set in 1700’s France and one of the girls is actually Queen of the entire country?! Marie Antoinette’s naïve and oblivious extravagance can probably be summarized in this entire scene, but it is also so aesthetically pleasing there’s still a part of me that wants to use it as inspiration to decorate my room. Like, I know she was a terrible Queen and most likely contributed to the start of the French Revolution, but look how nice all those shoes are! Seriously, is there not a clothing line based on this film yet? But back to music: I Want Candy is not the only Bow Wow Wow song featured on the soundtrack. There is also Fools Rush In, a really great and original version of the classic song, and Aphrodisiac, which is definitely my favorite out of the three. I rarely listen to 80s music to be honest, but there is something about BWW that just perfectly capture the sultriness yet innocence, and greed yet emptiness that Sofia presents onscreen.
HER/’SUPERSYMMETRY’ BY ARCADE FIRE:
When I watched the second trailer for Her, the first thing I noticed was how lovely the song was and immediately downloaded it. It was around the time of the release of Her that I went to New York for the very first time and also had my very first experience of romanticizing the city thanks to this song. I will forever associate Supersymmetry with walking around New York at night and that alone is enough for the song to earn a place on this list. But it also deserves to be here because it so perfectly captures the beauty and sadness of the film that I just think it’s one of the best recent movie and music combos, even if The Moon Song is what most people associate with Her (which is still an amazing song!) Nevertheless, Supersymmetry is beautiful and just one of the many amazing songs to come out of Arcade Fire’s Reflektor, and the thought of Spike Jonze and Win Butler hanging out is too much cool for my brain to even handle.
500 DAYS OF SUMMER/REGINA SPEKTOR:
I have replayed the soundtrack to 500 Days of Summer so many times that I should be sick of it, but guess what? I’m not. No matter how many articles about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl theory you throw at me, I will still find this film so wonderful aesthetically and musically. I could have talked about the whole soundtrack, but I decided to zero in on Regina Spektor not because she is the artist featured more prominently, or because she best captures the tone of the film, but because Regina genuinely became one of my favorite artists after watching 500 Days of Summer. Her music is so authentic and her talent is so overwhelming that I just want to take a moment to give her some praise. I most likely wouldn’t have discovered her without this soundtrack, and this is also the case for many other artists featured! (Seriously, the curator of this soundtrack has one hell of a good taste in music). There are two scenes in the film where Regina’s songs are played; one is when Tom is sad about Summer (obviously) and her song Hero plays. It is such a sad, desperate, but beautiful song that the circumstances of which it is played in the film doesn’t even do it justice. But my favourite use of Regina’s music in the film is at the start, when a montage of the main characters as children is played alongside her song Us – a lovely combination of good cinematography and good music.