Listeners will ‘Hunger’ for soundtrackWritten by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Various artists, “The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond”
This album accomplishes the rare feat of being a movie soundtrack worth owning. Producer T-Bone Burnett could have simply rounded up big names like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus to pander to the film’s teen audience. Instead, he rounded up a unique blend of artists for an album that perfectly captures the darkness of the story with an overall folk feel. There are still plenty of big names to go around, with standout tracks from artists like Arcade Fire, Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift. But lesser-known artists also shine on the soundtrack, with two of the best songs coming from The Secret Sisters and The Carolina Chocolate Drops.
Arcade Fire opens the soundtrack with “Abraham’s Daughter,” featuring violinist Regine Chassagne on lead vocals singing the story of Abraham and Isaac from a feminist point of view. The song has an industrial feel perfectly fitting of the coal mining District 12. The Secret Sisters follow with “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder,” a lullaby reminiscent of the one Katniss sings to Rue.
Swift and The Civil Wars are solid in their individual efforts, but the high point of the album is when they team up for the haunting “Safe and Sound.” The song captures the mood of the story better than anything else on the album and feels like the perfect musical accompaniment for the emotional scene between Katniss and Rue.
Adam Levine showcases the softer edge to his voice in “Come Away to the Water,” a folk duet with Rozzi Crane. The song was written by Glen Hansard, star of the film “Once,” who also performs his song “Take the Heartland” on the album. Birdy closes the soundtrack with the ironically titled “Just a Game.” The lyrics perfectly capture Katniss’ distance and mixed emotions at the end of the story.
With the exception of Kid Cudi’s “The Ruler and the Killer,” this 15-track album is solid from top to bottom. It perfectly captures the mood of the story and is a great listen.
****1/2 out of 5
The Shins, “Port of Morrow”
“Port of Morrow” feels close to the same old weirdly good indie vibe from The Shins with a bit of an up-tempo edge added. However, with only lead singer James Mercer remaining and a new backing band brought in, The Shins feels like an imitation of itself. The music will no longer “change your life” as promised in the 2004 film “Garden State.”
None of these songs hold a candle to “New Slang,” but there are still plenty of quality tracks. “September” sticks to the band’s pure indie sound, and the out-there lyrics sound like something off “Magical Mystery Tour.” The album features another powerful ballad with unique lyrics in “40 Mark Strasse” before closing with the title track “Port of Morrow,” an eerie and poignant song about the fragility of life.
The album is consistently good throughout and a mellow listen, but with only 10 songs it’s lacking in terms of value. It’s not quite on the level of The Shins’ previous two albums, but it’s close enough to warrant a listen, and the well-crafted lyrics are enough to warrant another two or three more listens.
**** out of 5