Various Artists - "Garden State" Soundtrack 
Music Disc Reviews Audio CD
Written by Paul Lingas   
Tuesday, 10 August 2004

Various Artists

Garden State Motion Picture Soundtrack
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax
release year: 2004
performance: 8
sound 7.5
reviewed by: Paul Lingas

Not only did Zach Braff write and direct this fantastic first feature film, he also served as the executive producer for its excellent soundtrack. While the overall tone is perhaps too consistent throughout, the quality not only of the artists but also of the chosen tracks makes this a great CD for those who liked the movie, as well as anyone who wants a good sampling of some of the better ballads out there right now.

The album starts off with Coldplay’s “Don’t Panic” and then moves on to one of two songs by The Shins, “Caring is Creepy.” This contains semi-strident vocals that work perfectly in context with the creepy aspect of the lyricism. The second track from The Shins, “New Slang,” is comprised of two acoustic guitars, a tambourine and some fantastically blended vocals that reside primarily in the lower register but slide up now and then. A funky electric guitar adds a few melodic accents. Where “Caring is Creepy” is strident, here they are soothing and comfortable, almost giving the sense of a folk song.

Zero 7 steps in with “In the Waiting Line,” an acoustic cautionary tale with some excellent, soft vocals and complimentary, almost bluesy music. “Everyone’s saying different things to me” is part of the chorus and goes very well with the overall thematic context of the film. Colin Hay (formerly of Men at Work), who seems to be in increasing demand, has a solo effort entitled “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You.” This is another simple acoustic track (guitar and voice only) that is really a melancholy love ballad. By now, the tone of the soundtrack and of the film is plain: muted, melancholy, yet with an aspect of cheer and hope.

Nick Drake provides the hope with the subtle yet upbeat, almost Simon and Garfunkel-esque “One of These Things First” and creating the cheer with a sort of Indian funk in “Lebanese Blonde” is Thievery Corporation. For those of you who have seen the trailer for “Garden State,” you will recognize the haunting yet upbeat song from Frou Frou entitled “Let Go.” Imogen Heap’s vocals are some of the smoothest in the world and the sheer intriguing nature of the way the song is upbeat and sad all at the same time with its European sense of poppy balladry makes this the absolute gem of the soundtrack. It’s no wonder it was chosen for the trailer. Remy Zero, Iron and Wine, Simon and Garfunkel, Cary Brothers and Bonnie Somerville round out the album with their own takes on acoustic fare.

Clearly, Braff knew what tone he wanted to create and maintain in “Garden State,” and he achieves it in every way. What often happens with compilation soundtracks is that the studio forces the filmmaker to include songs that are written under contract with the parent company’s music label, but which don’t necessarily fit with the film as a whole. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. In fact, the liner notes include thanks from Braff to all of the artists for lowering their fees and allowing the inclusion of their work in the film, indicating that he had greater creative control over the soundtrack, which is a gem.

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