Album Review: “(500) Days Of Summer- Soundtrack” (2009)

When you really love a movie, you tend to love everything about it. When I first saw (500) Days Of Summer in 2009, I instantly related to the story. I had suffered my own heart-wrenching, world-ending breakup just a few months prior to the film’s release, and so I felt incredibly attached to the movie’s theme and the struggle the main character goes through during his own similarly earth-shattering breakup. I not only loved the film’s story, though- I also loved the main characters, Tom and Summer (hats off to you, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel), and I even found myself falling in love with the music played in the background.

Not that any of the music is just background noise. (500) Days of Summer is one of those films where the music is almost as important as the movie; you can tell the film’s director (in this case, Marc Webb), spent a lot of time selecting songs that would perfectly match the characters, scenes, and emotions in the fine and it’s expertly done here. Of course, it was a no-brainer to pick up the (500) Days Of Summer Soundtrack once it was released.

I really enjoy the fact that the soundtrack starts off with a voice-over from the movie. Narrator, Richard McGonagle tells A Story of Boy Meets Girl (“This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know up front: this is not a love story,” he forebodes) while a whimsical arrangement of strings and chimes play underneath, perfectly translating the mood from the film to the soundtrack.

Regina Spektor‘s Us follows immediately after with a colorful string section and a piano-heavy bridge. I was already familiar with Spektor’s music and this song in particular (which was first released on herSoviet Kitsch album), but it’s still nice to see it here; Spektor’s quirky lyrics (“They made a statue of us/The tourists come and stare at us/The sculptor’s marble sends regards/They made a statue of us/Our noses have begun to rust”) fit in perfectly with the film’s characters and their unconventional romance.

The film’s flagship song (i.e. the track that was used in all of the trailers and promotional spots) was indie-rock band, The Temper Trap‘s hit, Sweet Disposition. From the opening guitar riff, down to the thudding percussion, the song has a certain infectious quality written all over it, particularly by the time it comes around to the catchy chorus (“A moment, a love/A dream, a laugh/A kiss, a cry/Our rights, our wrongs”). Lead singer, Dougy Mandagi‘s falsetto is equally appealing, and it was because of this film that I started listening to The Temper Trap, whom have subsequently become one of my favourite bands.

Regina Spektor makes her second appearance on the soundtrack for a song that’s played during what’s easily the most heartbreaking scene of the film. Spektor’s piano-based ballad, Hero, plays during the expectations vs. reality scene, wherein Tom, realizes that his romantic expectations are nothing more than a fantasy. The pounding keys, downtrodden lyrics (“He never, ever saw it coming at all/He never, ever saw it coming at all/It’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right/No one’s got it all”) and Spektor’s strong vocal performance perfectly convey the emotions that Tom seems to be coming to terms with on screen. This scene in the film makes me cry literally every time I see it, and the song strikes a nerve whenever I hear it, too. Great music, great scene.

Indie darling, Feist, offers up a lighthearted number with Mushaboom, an upbeat and fun track with a nice acoustic guitar solo in it. I’d been listening to French musician, Carla Bruni for a few years, so it was nice to hear her song, Quelqu’un m’a dit (“Someone Told Me”, in English), in the film and on the soundtrack. The laidback acoustic sound is perfectly highlighted by Bruni’s delicate, heavily-accented vocals. On the other hand, I had never heard of bands Wolfmother or Mumm-Ra, before the soundtrack, but I ended up enjoying both of their selections as well. Wolfmother’s Vagabond has a nice organic sound, with banjos and drums, while Mumm-Ra’s She’s Got You High features a more accessible pop/rock sound, but is an equally likable track. American rock band, Black Lips lends their song, Bad Kids, which has an 80’s punk/rockabilly sound to it that sounds a bit odd mixed in with the other songs on the album.

While the soundtrack is mostly what I’d classify as indie-rock, there’s a few older pop/rock selections as well. One of the other memorable scenes in the movie is played to Hall and Oates‘ 80’s hit, You Make My Dreams. The peppy R&B/pop song is used in a musical number (yes, a legitimate musical number- Gordon-Levitt and other cast members even dance in the streets!) and the song, though verging on being cheesy, is so upbeat and happy that I can’t help but smile when I hear it. The scene in the movie also plays a big part in making me smile when I hear this song. Simon & Garfunkel‘s classic,Bookends, is poignant and beautiful with its opening strings and melancholy piano. Though brief (it only runs for about 90 seconds), the song is another stellar selection that reminds me of how much I love Simon & Garfunkel.

One of the things Tom and Summer first bond on in the movie is their mutual love for 80’s English rock band, The Smiths. I hadn’t really listened to The Smiths much prior to seeing the movie/hearing the soundtrack (sacrilege, I know), but this CD definitely turned me onto them. The first of two selections is mid-tempo number, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. I instantly fell for the 80’s rock/new wave sound, as well as the lyrics which perfectly describe the intensity of a first love (“And if a double-decker bus/Crashes into us/To die by your side/Is such a heavenly way to die”). Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want is quite depressing (“Haven’t had a dream in a long time/See, the life I’ve had could make a good man turn bad/So for once in my life/Let me get what I want/Lord knows it would be the first time”), but Morrisey sounds delightfully morose during the classic song.

The disc ends with two cover songs, the first of which is by Canadian singer-songwriter, Meaghan Smith. Smith does a bouncy, pop rendition of Here Comes Your Man (also originally by The Smiths), which actually sounds a lot better than you’d think. Her spin is fresh and enjoyable and though I like the original, I like this one as well. To end the soundtrack, Zooey Deschanel’s real-life band She & Him(which is a duo consisting of Deschanel and singer-songwriter, M. Ward) provide a cover of Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want. Their version sticks pretty close to the original, though some of the charm is lost as Deschanel’s delivery just isn’t as heartbreaking as Morrisey’s.

Similar to the Garden State soundtrack (another movie/soundtrack combo that I thoroughly enjoyed), the music perfectly compliments the movie, and does one better by being a stellar compilation album on its own. You don’t have to be a fan of (500) Days of Summer to enjoy the songs here- each of the tracks stand out on their own- but I would say it’s even better if you are and can recall the beautiful scenes that go along with these excellent songs.

Rating: 5 stars

Track List
1. A Story of Boy Meets Girl – Mychael Danna and Rob Simonsen
2. Us – Regina Spektor
3. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out – The Smiths
4. Bad Kids – Black Lips
5. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want – The Smiths
6. There Goes The Fear – Doves
7. You Make My Dreams – Hall & Oates
8. Sweet Disposition – The Temper Trap
9. Quelqu’un M’a Dit – Carla Bruni
10. Mushaboom – Feist
11. Hero – Regina Spektor
12. Bookends – Simon & Garfunkel
13. Vagabond – Wolfmother
14. She’s Got You High – Mumm-Ra
15. Here Comes Your Man – Meaghan Smith
16. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want – She & Him

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