Album Review: “Song One (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” by Various Artists

I’m not the kind of person that listens to a lot of movie soundtracks. When I do pick one up, it’s usually because of its use in the film itself (see for example Hans Zimmer’s recent Interstellar score, or the excellent Clint Mansell collaboration with Kronos Quartet and Mogwai for The Fountain).

Song One (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

As I write this, however, Song One‘s full theatrical / on-demand release is still a week or so away. While Interstellar‘s music blew me away in the theater, I went into the Song One soundtrack with a completely different context. Song One (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) piqued my interest last November when it was announced that songwriting duo Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice were set to score the film and produce its soundtrack.

I’ve been a Jenny Lewis fan since the days of Rilo Kiley (side note: as a kid, I for sure had a crush on her in The Wizard, but that doesn’t count). Luckily, in the post-Rilo Kiley years, there has been no shortage of Jenny Lewis listening. From the b-sides Rkives album to her recent solo album The Voyager, Lewis has kept busy.

Jenny and Johnny debuted their collaborative efforts all the way back in 2010, which makes Song One an interesting place to reunite in a formal way. The pair serve as both writers for all but one of the soundtrack’s original songs and producers of the album and recordings. You’ll also find their talents in the form of occasional backing vocals.

Peppered among the soundtrack’s original tunes is a generally well-curated selection of other songs. Most of the songs fit really well, making Song One feel much closer to an album than a random selection of soundtrack-y hits. Standouts include the excellent “One Day” by Sharon Van Etten and America‘s “I Need You.”

While most of the soundtrack feels cohesive in tone, there are some questionable inclusions that may take the film’s context to appreciate. I’m a big Dan Deacon supporter, but in an album of folky, country-influenced rock songs, “The Crystal Cat” is a strange choice. And while Portuguese song “O Leaozinho” is interesting, I just didn’t enjoy this recording all that much.

Song One Still
Song One stars Johnny Flynn & Anne Hathaway

The meat of this soundtrack is clearly the original songs, which all—to my relief—feel like they could have been Jenny and Johnny canon. Nothing feels like a throwaway. In a world of cash-ins and sequels, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a film like Song One turn into a late-to-the-party Once ripoff, but it’s crystal clear that everyone involved with this soundtrack cared a lot.

My favorite originals have to be “Iris, Instilled” and the soundtrack’s single “In April.” It’s important to mention some excellent performances by one of the film’s stars, Johnny Flynn, the voice behind Song One’s originals. Beyond vocals, Flynn also contributes guitar, piano and violin throughout the soundtrack.

For a movie about music, it’s refreshing to see such obvious collaboration through and through. The songs that really work here are the ones where Johnny Flynn, Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice are all involved. If you’ve heard a lot of Jenny Lewis’ work, it’s easy to hear that Flynn’s delivery serves her style of phrasing well.

While not bad per se, the lone original not performed by Johnny Flynn, “Marble Song,” was probably the most forgettable. Likewise, “Afraid of Heights,” which seems to be taken directly from the film, was not written by Jenny and Johnny. The recording quality on that track is notably worse than the rest of the album. If it was indeed taken from the movie itself, the poor mixing is a concern.

Song One (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is not perfect, but it is certainly a treat for fans of Jenny Lewis, Johnathan Rice or their combined efforts. The worst thing about Song One is that you might want to skip a track here or there, but that’s hardly a problem when the soundtrack is so generous with good, original music. Here’s hoping we get more Jenny and Johnny sooner rather than later!

Jenny and Johnny
Jenny and Johnny


John Kruse
@johnkruse

John Praw Kruse is an Operations Manager, and Product Manager for the Murfie Vinyl Service. In his free time, John makes music, including scores for indie films and various shorts. He is the founder of Mine All Mine Records and the Lost City Music Festival. John devours new music.


Album Preview: “The Voyager” by Jenny Lewis

The VoyagerAlbum
The Voyager

Artist
Jenny Lewis

Release Date
July 29, 2014

Label
Warner Bros.

Pre-order Link
Pre-order Album

Preview
Jenny Lewis‘ third solo album, the soon-to-be-released The Voyager, is aptly titled. The singer-songwriter is now entering her third decade of releasing records, whether it be under her own name with a rotating cast of supporting musicians, with Rilo Kiley or with her boyfriend Johnathan Rice. Yet regardless of the who she’s playing with (or as) Lewis has been both consistent and brilliant, cranking out quality alt-country tunes in automaton-like fashion.

The Execution of All ThingsSurprisingly, Lewis’ first taste of the limelight didn’t come from music, but television. She began her professional career as a child, starring in a Jell-O commercial and a handful of teenage flicks. In fact, it wasn’t until 1998 that she decided to start a band. Rilo Kiley resulted, a band that delivered memorable melodies over a blend of country and indie rock.

In 2002 Rabbit Fur CoatRilo Kiley released The Execution of All Things on Saddle Creek Records and was subsequently signed to Warner Bros. The band went on to record two records under their contract, and in the process they smartly shifted the focus to Lewis’ vocals and lyrics. In 2011 the band announced that they had officially split up.

Acid TongueOne musical endeavor usually isn’t enough for an artist as talented as Lewis, and in 2006 she ventured into solo-artist territory. She released Rabbit Fur Coat to critical praise that year with her backing band, The Watson Twins, and with the help of Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. Lewis released her follow-up to Rabbit Fur Coat in 2008 with Acid Tongue, a record that further established the singer-songwriter as one of the most reliable and hardworking artists of the decade.

Lewis is set to put out her third solo record, The Voyager, next Tuesday. And while The Voyager is her first solo release in six years, it doesn’t miss a beat: Lewis’ new song-set is spot-on; the record is a satisfying experience, both musically and lyrically.

Murfie Preview

Video Transcript

Kayla: Hey guys, another album release is coming to Murfie on Tuesday, July 29th. Jenny Lewis is coming out with The Voyager. So John, what are your thoughts on Jenny Lewis?

John: I absolutely love Jenny Lewis. I’ve been a long time fan of her work, most people will know her from Rilo Kiley, a band that put out a lot of popular indie albums. They’ve unfortunately broken up. She’s come out with one other previous solo album called Acid Tongue, which I wasn’t a huge fan of, but it had a lot of great country-influenced indie rock songs. But she’s put out a few singles for this new album that are promising, including “One Of The Boys” which has a really fun music video. So I’m stoked, I’m ready for this album.

Kayla: Awesome. Well you guys can see for yourself, it’s on our pre-order page, murfie.com/preorder.

Soundcloud Version

A teaser from The Voyager:

Pre-order your copy of The Voyager today at Murfie! Each CD comes with unlimited streaming (Web, iOS, Android, Sonos) and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC.