Album Review: Elizabethtown (Original Soundtrack) (2005)

I’ll admit that the only reason I bought the Elizabethtown DVD was because I wanted another excuse to stare at Orlando Bloom for two hours. The movie itself turned out to be decent…at times moving, funny, and romantic, and at times, slow-paced and annoying (well, that was mostly Kirsten Dunst). But the one thing that stood out most to me while watching the movie was the film’s soundtrack.

Much like Garden State, Elizabethtown is mainly highlighted by great music, and again, like Garden State, I immediately went out and bought the soundtrack after watching the film for the first time. The film’s director, Cameron Crowe, also acts as the soundtrack’s producer, and he did a terrific job of compiling a mix of folk, country, rock, and indie songs that don’t really remind me of the movie, but instead make me want to reflect on my own life, which is my favorite way to relate to an album.

The disc starts off with an instrumental piece by former Heart member, Nancy Wilson titled 60B (Etown Theme). The song is simple, but the twangy-sounding guitar and piano give off the laid-back country vibe that works well for the rest of the album. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers make an appearance with It’ll All Work Out, which continues the sort of country/folk theme. I’ve never been a huge fan of Tom Petty, but I definitely love this song. Petty is a great story teller, and this is obvious right from the opening lines (“She wore faded jeans and soft black leather/She had eyes so blue they looked like weather/When she needed me I wasn’t around/That’s the way it goes, it’ll all work out”). From the mellow feeling the song gives off, to Petty’s trademark scratchy delivery, the song is one of the best on the soundtrack.

Next up is my absolute favorite song on the album, My Father’s Gun. I wasn’t familiar with this Elton John song prior to buying this CD, but it’s quickly become one of my favorite songs by him. The opening instrumental leads us to song that would’ve fit in easily in a movie set in the 70’s (the movie takes place in current time, but a lot of the music seems to have a “classic rock” sort of feel to it), and the chorus (“I’d like to know where the riverboat sails tonight/To New Orleans well that’s just fine alright/`Cause there’s fighting there and the company needs men/So slip us a rope and sail on round the bend”) is one that will stick with you long after the song has finished. This song is just one of those epic, classic Elton John songs; despite being 6:21 minutes, each second flies by and the song is a beautiful piece and a wonderful addition to the soundtrack.

Things settle down a bit with Io (This Time Around). The song, by Helen Steller, isn’t heavy in the lyrical department (most of the song is composed of the repetition of “This time around”), but Steller’s strong alto voice is both alluring and soothing. Steller’s vocals, paired with the minimal backing music (mostly made up of piano and drums), make the song a relaxation addition to the album. Next up isRyan Adams with, Come Pick Me Up. Though I’d heard of Adams’ prior to buying this CD, I wasn’t very familiar with his music, but now I can say that I’m a fan of this song, at least. The track opens with a harmonica solo, and leads way into another light melody, though this time the sound is much more country/rock influenced. Adams’ voice is also a treat to listen to, and by the chorus you’ll find yourself singing along to the wry lyrics about the end of a relationship (“I wish you would/Come pick me up/Take me out/F–k me up/Steal my records/Screw all my friends/They’re all full of s–t/With a smile on your face/And then do it again”).

Country singer, Patty Griffin, lends her song Long Ride Home to the soundtrack, and it marks another great addition. Griffin’s voice is beautiful, and a treat to listen to, and the song also boasts a memorable melody and thoughtful lyrics (“I’ve had some time to think about you/And watch the sun set like a stone/I’ve had some time to think about you/On the long ride home”). Meanwhile, Jeff Finlin brings the tempo up a few notches with the twangy, but lovely, Sugar Blue. Finlin’s raspy vocals and the catchy chorus only add to the song’s appeal, and the track is one that’s definitely worth listening to.

Indie-rock band, Wheat, even makes an appearance with Don’t I Hold You. The fast paced melody might seem out of place amongst the other sleepy, classic rock/country sounding songs on the album, but the track is good in itself. The same can’t really be said of the Los Hombres song, Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out), which may be the only “bad” song on the entire disc. I suppose, if the song wasn’t presented to me as apart of this soundtrack, I might’ve liked it, but the loud vocals and incessant clapping in the background makes a stark contrast to the other songs on the album, and so much so that I usually skip over this track when listening to the CD.

Fleetwood Mac singer and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham lends his talent to the album with Shut Us Down. The song is another favorite of mine; Buckingham’s hushed vocals and the guitar are both exquisite and the track is one to look for if you’re seeking something relaxing. Likewise, eastmountainsouth’s remake of Bob Dylan’s song, Hard Times, has a soothing country/folk sound to it works extremely well. Though the lyrics are easily the strength of the song (“Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears/While we all sup sorrow with the poor/There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears/Oh, hard times, come again no more”), the vocalists (Kat Maslich and Peter Adams, whom together make up the group) are also pleasing to listen to.

Another of my favorites is Jesus Was A Crossmaker. The Hollies’ vocal harmonies are spot on, and the guitar, keyboards, and drums take me back to 1973 when the song was originally recorded (forget about the fact that I wasn’t even born in ’73- in fact, my mom was only seven then- what I’m really saying is that the song makes me think about movies that were set in the 70’s). Tom Petty makes a return (this time sans the Heartbreakers) with Square One. Despite being recorded in 2005, the song also has a classic rock sort of feeling to it, and again, Petty’s vocals and songwriting ability make the track a favorite. Maybe I should take back my prior statement about not being a Tom Petty fan.

The album comes to a close with Same In Any Language by the country group, I-Nine. The song is sadly a bit of a disappointing close to the album; though there’s nothing even remotely offending about it to make it worth skipping, there also isn’t anything truly remarkable about it which would make it stand out, either.

The Elizabethtown soundtrack is a wonderful album. The disc is a collection of amazing songs that not only sound perfect in the background of the movie, but will also create the perfect soundtrack for your life.

Rating: 5 stars

Track Listing
1. 60B (Etown Theme) – Nancy Wilson
2. It’ll All Work Out – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
3. My Father’s Gun – Elton John
4. IO (This Time Around) – Helen Stellar
5. Come Pick Me Up – Ryan Adams
6. Where To Begin – My Morning Jacket
7. Long Ride Home – Patty Griffin
8. Sugar Blue – Jeff Finlin
9. Don’t I Hold You – Wheat
10. Shut Us Down – Lindsey Buckingham
11. Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out) – The Hombres
12. Hard Times – Eastmountainsouth
13. Jesus Was A Crossmaker – The Hollies
14. Square One – Tom Petty
15. Same In Any Language – I Nine

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