Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack

4 stars (out of 5)

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When it comes to film and music video projects I have a saying: “In Spike Jonze I trust” so upon viewing the trailer for his upcoming Where The Wild Things Are adaptation I was suitably excited. I enjoyed the warm, fuzzy visuals and felt the use of Arcade Fire as the trailer’s soundtrack was fitting and worked well. So when I received a copy of the film’s soundtrack I was more than a little disappointed to find the French-Canadians entirely absent, replaced a little more dubiously with Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs fame.

Let me qualify the following review by saying that I’d never call myself a YYY fan – I tend to find Karen’s banshee/kicked dog yelps an acquired taste, one I have yet to properly acquire. I’ve given both Fever To Tell and It’s Blitz a couple of spins each and found the best moments to easily be much quieter, reflective tracks like the ubiquitous ‘Maps’.

Happily, aside from a few bars at the start of ‘Animal’, Miss O is clearly on quieter form and in my opinion the whole album is the better for it. Over the course of the 14 tracks Karen O (and the kids, as the cover points out) skilfully construct an intimate and dreamlike narrative – judging by the trailer for the film I’ve seen I can easily see how this music will work brilliantly with the visuals.

Karen’s softer, echo-y vocals are soothing and backed sparingly and effectively by the use of all manner of jangly instruments – there’s certainly no shortage of tambourine on this record. Combining this with the aforementioned kids many of the more upbeat songs on the album take on a gang, shambolic (in the best way possible) nature that appears to reflect the idea of this young boy becoming part of a group of ‘wild things’.

As I listened to the record I felt myself being reminded (no pun intended) of The Reminder, a brilliant album by another female artist, Feist. Both albums gave me that warm, comfortable feel and it’s testament to the quality of Where The Wild Things Are that it can easily be listened to as a record in it’s own right, without any association to the film. A final point that endeared me to this soundtrack:

(At this point my very own ‘wild thing’, my cat just wandered across the keyboard to add his thoughts…)
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(Concise and astute contribution from him there)

As I was saying, the final point that endeared me to this soundtrack was it’s overall sense of maturity and subtlety – in comparison to something like the Juno soundtrack for instance which felt as if it was trying too hard to be ‘cool’ and ‘in touch’ with the hipster crowd. Here, Karen O and the kids are simply enjoying making music, regardless of who’s listening – scoring a quick bit of indie music cred by including a Daniel Johnston cover in the form of ‘Worried Shoes’.

To sum up, Karen O has changed my opinion of her by providing a warm, enjoyably uplifting and intimate soundtrack that is capable of standing on it’s own merit but equally should provide excellent support to what I hope will be a fantastic film.