Greetings, my name’s Michele Myers and every week I spin a radio show on KEXP, choosing the music and telling you short facts and stories about the artists and songs. My show starts at 3pm on Saturdays and this week I’m featuring songs from some of my favorite soundtracks.
The holidays are over, thankfully. Not everyone has an easy time of it. Just the music alone is enough to drive me bonkers. I’m not sure that businesses realize that it can have the opposite effect it’s supposed to. The syrupy sweet redundancy drives me out of stores and restaurants. Home to my laptop and the sanctuary of my tiny silver screen. I get through the holidays by watching movies.
This year I watched 5 films to get me through the actual daze. The best was Everything Is Illuminated which a friend described as “It sneaks up on you and becomes a good movie while you’re not paying attention.” I also watched Bewitched. (Nicole Kidman is great but I think Will Ferrell is really losing it. Unfortunately rather forgettable.) Clueless was very 80’s and hilarious, and I’d never seen it. I love Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada (not my first watching of this) as the evil fashionista. And The Graduate is always good. Colors and compositions that remind me of more current director Wes Anderson. A young Dustin Hoffman’s not-so-slow disillusionment.
Which brings me to soundtracks. Long after the screen went dark I searched for the best soundtrack songs ever. The Simon and Garfunkel songs in the movie The Graduate are incredible. Instant mood. Here’s the opening sequence with the song “Sound of Silence” (love how it ends with the fish tank shot).
Another one that blows my mind is the soundtrack to Harold and Maude. I was 19 years old and working at an arthouse movie theater in Pennsylvania when I found this film. It was my turn for a break and I snuck in to the theater just as the opening scene came up. The movie starts with the music of Cat Stevens, who I had never heard, and a surprise that I won’t reveal in case you haven’t seen it. The songs from this movie weren’t (and still aren’t) available as an official soundtrack. But you can find most of them on Cat’s record Footsteps In The Dark. These songs literally changed my life, there’s something in Cat Stevens’ work that makes you feel like you can do anything. And a year later I was accepted to UC Berkeley. Started a whole new life and found radio as my calling. Here’s the scene for the song “Trouble.”
One of my favorite soundtracks to listen to all the way through is from Sophia Coppola’s film The Virgin Suicides. It’s filmed in a gauzy, hazy light and the music matches perfectly the intense vulnerability of these characters. Based on a book by a boy in the neighborhood who was struck by the beauty of this family of young girls, this film has captured something real. French band Air opens the soundtrack (all the songs are by them) with this incredible song, “Playground Love”:
As a producer, it fascinates me the way music is used to create tension. I think the best soundtracks don’t reinforce the mood with sameness (say, happy music for a happy scene, funny music for a funny scene, etc.), rather they contrast with what’s happening. And this Who song A Quick One While He’s Away does just that in my favorite movie Rushmore. The song is about being forgiven while the characters are exacting revenge.
I have a bunch more favorite soundtrack songs and movies, so I’ll continue this theme next week with a look at the movie The Life Aquatic and the music of David Bowie played acoustically by Brazilian singer Seu Jorge.
Michele Myers hosts Saturdays at 3pm on KEXP. She also hosts Wake Up Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6-9am on WNYE New York 91.5FM and produces KEXP Documentaries, short radio stories on musical subjects.