Album Review: Music from the Motion Picture Juno (2008)

Juno is probably one of the most endearing films I’ve seen in a long time. The movie tells the story of 16-year-old Juno (Ellen Page), whom ends up dealing with an unexpected pregnancy. The film is not only hilarious (the dry humor is a combination of the comedy from Knocked Up/Superbad and Arrested Development), but is also touching and heartwarming. Not to mention it has an awesome soundtrack.

Most of the album is made up of indie rock and pop, folk music, and a vast selection of songs by singer/songwriter, Kimya Dawson, and her bands. The music not only fits in perfectly with the movie, but is also the perfect soundtrack for everyday life.

The album begins with All I Want Is You, by children’s author/singer, Barry Louis Polisar. The song has an acoustic/twangy feel to it, that gives off a laid back/relaxing vibe. The lyrics are the best part of the song; the lines are both clever and charming (“If you were the wood, I’d be the fire/If you were the love, I’d be the desire/If you were a castle, I’d be your moat/And if you were an ocean, I’d learn to float.”). The quirky song sets the mood for both the movie and soundtrack.

The Kinks song, Well Respected Man follows, and is another breezy tune. The simplistic melody and memorable chorus makes the song one of my favorites to listen to on the album. The tempo slows down a bit with the Buddy Holly ballad, Dearest. The sentimental song is highlighted nicely by Holly’s signature vocals and bare melody.

The first of many Kimya Dawson songs appears (technically, My Rollercoaster comes before this one, but is more of an interlude than a song), with Tire Swing. I immediately fell in love with this song during the movie because of the opening lyrics (“I took the Polaroid down in my room/I’m pretty sure you have a new girlfriend/It’s not as if I don’t like you/It just makes me sad whenever I see it”). The song, as well as her others, is made up of straightforward lyrics, and very little backing music- most of the songs, including this one, are made up of nothing but acoustic guitar, whistling, and vocals. Dawson’s vocals are very light and understated- almost girl like- which makes it even easier to focus on the lyrics.

Indie pop bad, Belle & Sebastian offer up their song, Piazza, New York Catcher. The song is definitely mellow and easy on the ears, and lead singer, Stuart Murdoch’s voice is one that I’ve fallen in love with. The song has a folk music feel to it that always makes me just want to lie around and listen to good music all day instead of doing anything else.

Dawson makes her return with Loose Lips, which is a fast-paced and fun number. The lyrics always make me smile (“Broken hearts hurt but they make us strong/…We’re just dancing, we’re just hugging/Singing, screaming, kissing, tugging/On the sleeve of how it used to be/How’s it gonna be?”) while the chorus is a bit of anthem for just having a good time (“We won’t stop until somebody calls the cops/And even then we’ll start again and just pretend that/Nothing ever happened”).

I just recently discovered the music of rock band, Sonic Youth (who is one of the favorites of my favorite artist, Jamie Cullum), and I was thrilled to hear one of their songs being played in the movie. The song is actually a remake of the classic Carpenters song, Superstar, and gets a totally new treatment. The music is slowed down, and has a grunge/rock vibe to it that sounds amazing. Lead singer, Thurston Moore’s, vocals are lazy, yet pleasant, and the song is all around brilliant. Belle & Sebastian make a return with Expectations, another mellow song. Again, Murdoch’s vocals are the highlight of the song, especially during the end of the song when he sings a bit in falsetto.

One of my favorite songs on the album is the classic rock track, All The Young Dudes by Mott The Hoople. The song was written for the band by David Bowie in 1972 and has quite a Bowie feeling to it. The chorus is my absolute favorite- the catchy and anthem-like rhythm paired with the enthusiastic shouts from the lead singer, and clapping/harmonizing in the background create the perfect mood.

Sea Of Love is another of my favorites. The subdued, almost slow-crawling, melody doesn’t drag, but instead sort of falls over the listener like trickling honey. Singer, Cat Power, provides appropriately hushed and sweet vocals that make the lyrics even more meaningful (“Come with me/My love/To the sea/The sea of love/I wanna tell you/How much/I love you”).

Dawson and her band, Antsy Pants make another appearance with Tree Hugger. I’m not entirely sure, but it sounds as though the Antsy Pants, is a group of child singers. Anyway, the song is again quirky and fun, and a verse is even sung in French at one point (though Dawson and the others mess up some of the words and are heard laughing a bit as they stumble through it).

The Velvet Underground offers their simple, albeit lovely song, I’m Sticking With You. The song is a bit annoying at time thanks to the lead vocalist’s child-like voice, but for the most part, the song is another winner. Speaking of child-like voices, Antsy Pants appears again on Vampire, a silly child song, which is actually quite cute. The children’s voices don’t always sound the best together, but the rawness of the song is part of what makes it so alluring.

The album comes to a close with a duet between Juno and the father of her baby, Paulie. Ellen Page has a sweet, understated voice, while Michael Cera’s (Paulie) voice sorta just fades in and out during most of the verses without leaving much of a mark. However, the imperfections of their voices are what make the song so adorable. Not to mention the clever lyrics (again, written by Dawson. The original version by Dawson’s band, The Moldy Peaches is also included on the album and is a bit longer). The lyrics are sometimes sentimental (“ You’re a part time lover and a full time friend/…I don’t see what anyone can see/In anyone else/But you”), and other times sarcastic/bittersweet (“Here is the church and here is the steeple/We sure are cute for two ugly people/…The pebbles forgive me, the trees forgive me/So why can’t, you forgive me?”), which fits perfectly for the characters in the movie. The song provides a perfect end to the album, as well.

Juno is really a great movie- I’d recommend it to anyone (and I’ve seen in theaters twice myself). The soundtrack is also great, and anyone that’s a fan of indie or folk music will enjoy this album as much as I do.

Rating: 5 stars

Track listing
1. All I Want is You – Barry Louis Polisar
2. My Rollercoaster – Kimya Dawson
3. A Well Respected Man – The Kinks
4. Dearest – Buddy Holly
5. Up the Spout – Mateo Messina
6. Tire Swing – Kimya Dawson
7. Piazza, New York Catcher – Belle and Sebastian
8. Loose Lips – Kimya Dawson
9. Superstar – Sonic Youth
10. Sleep – Kimya Dawson
11. Expectations – Belle and Sebastian
12. All the Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople
13. So Nice So Smart – Kimya Dawson
14. Sea of Love – Cat Power
15. Tree Hugger – Kimya Dawson and Antsy Pants
16. I’m Sticking with You – The Velvet Underground
17. Anyone Else But You – The Moldy Peaches
18. Vampire – Antsy Pants
19. Anyone Else But You – Ellen Page and Michael Cera

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBDbUVXXp-U]
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