Juno

Original Soundtrack

Rhino, 2008

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/08/2008

One of the most pleasant surprises in popular music is Juno’s extended run on the Billboard charts. Picking up with the “little movie that could” tag that was bestowed on the $100-million plus indie hit, the soundtrack’s success is equally compelling. Think of it – in the March 5 list of the Billboard Top 10 Albums, a soundtrack featuring Belle & Sebastian, The Moldy Peaches, Sonic Youth, The Velvet Underground and Cat Power [Ed.'s Note: And let's not forget Mott The Hoople...] is snug up against the Hannah Montana soundtrack and Janet Jackson’s latest album. And judging by the lackluster sales of Janet Jackson’s album, it looks like Juno will probably still be in the Top 10 when Jackson drops off.

The last successful soundtrack by artists who generally didn’t see the light of day on the Billboard charts was bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250
O Brother, Where Art Thou? But unlike O Brother, which introduced millions of new listeners to a new type of music (heavily steeped in tradition), Juno is mostly warm and familiar. The Kinks’ well-known hit “A Well Respected Man” is featured, not to mention “Sea of Love,” which many listeners probably heard with the Robert Plant cover before they heard Cat Power’s ethereal version. Adding to the nostalgia, the Juno soundtrack resurrects Sonic Youth’s cover of “Superstar” from the ‘90s tribute album If I Were a Carpenter.

Most great soundtracks by various artists have an anchor. Think Simon & Garfunkel with The Graduate or Aimee Mann for Magnolia. For Juno, it’s The Moldy Peaches and co-founder Kimya Dawson. Dawson’s songs bring a listener back to certain scenes of Juno and reflect the general mood of the movie. Like the humor in Juno, the music is both smart and naïvely childlike. However, the lyrics reveal a sharper sophistication.

In the rapid-fire “Loose Lips,” Dawson lets loose a blinding array of scattered thoughts, like “I’ll drop kick Russell Stover, move into the starting over house/And know Matt Rouse and jest we are watching me achieve my dream /and we’ll pray, all damn day, every day/That the shit our president has got us in will go away.” Dawson gets more personal in “Anyone But You,” which opens with the memorable line “You’re a part time lover and a full time friend/The monkey on your back is the latest trend.”

That song is bookended at the end by Michael Cera and Ellen Page’s cover of it. Their cover sums up the movie as well as soundtrack: scrappy, imperfect and executed with a carelessness that may bring some people to mistakenly assume “I could have written that.” Of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rhino, and is used for informational purposes only.