One of the most sentimental, touching movies I’ve ever seen is the 2007 Steve Carell drama, Dan in Real Life. The film is one of those few that makes me laugh, cry, warms my heart, moves me to think, feel and enjoy life…all in a two hour time span. Of course, the heartwarming script and lead performances of Carell and Juliette Binoche, are the main reasons that I love the film so much, but the other element of the film’s excellence lies in the soundtrack.
I’d already heard of Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche prior to hearing the soundtrack and even owned his debut album and called myself a fan. So the first time I watched the movie and heard the music playing behind the scenes, I instantly picked up on Lerche’s distinctive voice and was pleased. Lerche and his band (The Faces Down Quartet) are responsible for the majority of the music in the film (and Lerche composed most of the soundtrack himself) and it’s a great fit.
Family Theme Waltz opens the disc and is the main instrumental theme that plays throughout the film. The charming number is highlighted by a jazzy saxophone solo, and the familiar theme instantly makes me smile.
There are plenty of actual songs, too. To Be Surprised is an original song Lerche wrote for the soundtrack, and is an upbeat, toe-tapping number where Lerche’s falsetto is nicely presented. The swirling, happy chorus is one of the best parts of the song (“When I wrap my arms around you/Every mistake we made crumbles/When I wrap my arms around you/Everything echoes a new song”) and the joy described in the lyrics is easily translated through the music.
The tempo changes completely with the downtrodden number, I’ll Be Okay. The music is slowed down and Lerche’s vocal delivery is quiet and plodding, but the sound works well for the particular part of the movie. Though the track might not be as peppy as some of the others on the album, it still plays an important part in the film, and is still a nice one to listen to. An instrumental version is also included on the album, this time made up of a sad trombone wailing along for the majority of the track (sounding reminiscent of that “wah wah wah” sound effect used on cartoons and TV shows when something bad happens, which is appropriate for such a gloomy song), before being replaced by a simplistic piano solo.
My Hands Are Shaking is another original for the soundtrack, and is a sweetly emotional mid-tempo ballad. Lerche plays acoustic guitar and belts out his feelings for his love (“My hand are shakin’/From carryin’ this torch/From carryin’ this torch for you/My lips are bleeding/From kissin’ you goodbye/From kissin you goodbye every night”), and though the track verges on being a bit too sugary, he reigns it in well with a few pinches of sarcasm. Meanwhile tracks like Airport Taxi Reception and Human Hands, which were previously released on Lerche’s solo albums, were re-recorded for the soundtrack with The Faces Down Quartet. Airport Taxi Reception is a fast-paced, rock number with an extremely catchy chorus (“Cause I left my mind in the airport/My thoughts in a taxi/My heart in reception/The last thing I saw was you”). A sort of jazz breakdown occurs during the middle of the song, with a cacophony of instruments that I can’t even distinguish, but it all sounds so good together that I can’t complain.
Human Hands is a breezy track that would easily sound nice on a contemporary pop radio station. It boasts another memorable refrain (“Whenever I put my foot in my mouth and you begin to doubt/That it’s you that I’m dreaming about/Do I have to draw you a diagram?/All I ever want is just to fall into your human hands”) and if nothing else, you’ve got to give Lerche credit for writing extremely catchy hooks. The quartet adds in some nice jazz influences with the drums, piano, horns and violins which play throughout. Lerche covers Pete Towshend’s classic, Let My Love Open The Door, but gives it a unique spin, adding in violin and acoustic guitar. The version is also sped up a bit from the original and Lerche’s upbeat delivery is pleasant to listen to.
Lerche duets with one of my favorite singers, indie-rock musician, Regina Spektor on Hell No. Spektor’s husky voice adds a nice contrast to Lerche’s smooth vocals, and the upbeat, jazzy number is a clear highlight. Meanwhile, singer-songwriter, A Fine Frenzy, provides a spicy rendition of Fever. A Fine Frenzy’s version doesn’t sound much different than the other handful of covers of this song, but is still a good addition to the album, nonetheless. Modern Nature is a duet with fellow Norwegian, Lillian Samdal. Their vocals complement each other nicely on this bouncy track which plays at the end of the film and over the subsequent credits.
Other instrumental tracks are dispersed throughout the album, including the title track which is an acoustic guitar instrumental, used mainly in the opening scenes of the film. It’s one of the least interesting themes in the soundtrack- there’s only a few repetitive chords that play throughout- and only really provides a bit of filler on the album. Family Theme is similar to the waltz in the beginning of the album, though this time is composed of just acoustic guitar instead of the saxophone.
There’s also the aptly titled Dan and Marie Picking Hum, which just consists of Lerche picking a few strings on his guitar and humming along. It may seem uninteresting, but the tune is nice and again, plays throughout a few pivotal scenes in the movie. Then there’s the Dan and Marie Melody, which contains the same theme- though this time, the melody is sped up and composed of faster guitar strumming. And finally, the Dan and Marie Finale Theme consists of the same melody, though ends with a flourish of stringed instruments, before fading out.
The disc ends with a “bonus” track taken straight from the film- a comical duet between actors Dane Cook and Norbert Leo Butz titled Ruthie Pigface Draper. The song was an impromptu duet between Cook and Butz’s characters in the film, used to make fun of a woman Dan goes on a date with (“I don’t want to go out with the…pigface!”) and was a hilarious part of the movie and another great addition to the soundtrack.
The Dan In Real Life soundtrack is obviously an album suited for fans of the film, but thanks to Sondre Lerche’s wonderful songs, even someone who hasn’t seen the movie could still enjoy the music presented here.
1. Family Theme Waltz – Sondre Lerche
2. To Be Surprised – Sondre Lerche
3. I’ll Be OK – Sondre Lerche
4. Dan and Marie Picking Hum – Sondre Lerche
5. My Hands Are Shaking – Sondre Lerche
6. Dan In Real Life – Sondre Lerche
7. Hell No – Sondre Lerche and Regina Spektor
8. Family Theme – Sondre Lerche
9. Fever – A Fine Frenzy
10. Airport Taxi Reception – Sondre Lerche and The Faces Down
11. Dan and Marie Melody – Sondre Lerche
12. Human Hands – Sondre Lerche and The Faces Down Quartet
13. I’ll Be OK (Instrumental Reprise) – Sondre Lerche
14. Let My Love Open The Door – Sondre Lerche
15. Dan and Marie Finale Theme – Sondre Lerche
16. Modern Nature – Sondre Lerche and Lillian Samdal