Getting the ‘Scott Pilgrim’ Soundtrack Together

scottultimateNow that casting is all but complete for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (see the handy chart), attention turns to the all-important soundtrack.  Will it be the aural blueprint for the tone of the film or just another grab bag of blog-buzzy indie songs?  Who knows!

It has been confirmed that Metric — who are Canadian.  Synergy! — are contributing an unreleased track called “Black Sheep” to the film.   Now, the speculation.  It was reported that über-producer Nigel Goodrich (Radiohead, Beck, U2, basically everyone who’s anyone really) was the one who requested the Metric song be included.  So maybe he’s the one curating the soundtrack? The Playlist thinks “probably yes,” given that a) director Edgar Wright and his pals are friends with Goodrich and b) “Radiohead and members of Broken Social Scene were caught hanging out in Toronto last year.”  Straws?  Clutched.  Still, I’ll take Nigel Goodrich “curating” a soundtrack over Zach Braff/“music supervisor” Amanda Scheer Demme’s Garden State work any day (more on that later).

But!   Does the soundtrack now even add any value to a film, besides being another marketing hook and revenue stream, now that iTunes killed the album and the single as commodity  is worth more than the sum total of the entire collection of songs?  Though arguably, has it ever?  There was I think a time, let’s say the eighties through the early-mid-nineties, when there may have been some intrinsic value to the collection of songs accompanying a film, because crass marketeering hadn’t quite tainted the enterprise.  (See:  the soundtracks to Pump Up the Volume and Pretty in Pink.)  It seemed to go on so, as Singles begat Reality Bites, then what before was, to reiterate a point, a sort of aural reflection of the themes-slash-emotions of the movies and their characters became a sort of dumping ground for bands with ties to the studios that produced said movie or else they were some focus-tested, marketing tool’s idea of what would appeal to “the kids.”

Of late we’ve seen a resurgence, if it could be called that, in the soundtrack as  sibling of sorts to the film.  People near creamed their jeans over Zach Braff’s Garden State efforts, but honey, I could hit shuffle on my iPod and put together a more interesting and cohesive effort than that.  Then came Juno, with its signature Moldy Peaches song.  The Shins: Garden State :: Moldy Peaches: Juno.  At least the Shins ares still around, the Peaches had both split and were well into their own solo careers when that song blew up, leading to awkward reunion performances of “Anyone Else But You” on “The View,” of all places.   Twee to be you and me!  So then, these “curated” soundtrack efforts are really like that annoying music-obsessed friend of yours who gets all shouty with you about listening to this AMAZING BAND.  That they can’t believe you HAVEN’T HEARD OF.  Sigh.

And let’s not forget the most recent entry, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which like “Scott Pilgrim” stars Michael Cera as an irritatingly lovable musician.  Of that movie’s musical palette, let’s hear from Spin:

As it turns out, Where’s Fluffy is the most anthemic act in Nick and Norah’s, and they’re a fictional band who don’t play a single song. But you get the sense that being among the first to know about them — and their secret show and their obscure EP, Black Carnage — defines these characters. And nothing else in their playlist really does.

Unfortunately there is no magic formula to guarantee that a certain song (or songs) paired with the onscreen antics of the film’s  leads will produce an iconic moment, as with Lloyd Dobler and his boombox in Say Anything blasting “In Your Eyes.” (Though I’m sure there are bleary-eyed peons shackled to desks in the backlots of Hollywood trying to calculate just such a formula.)  It would seem that “Scott Pilgrim” is tailor-made for a dynamic, ecclectic soundtrack that reflects the  internal life of the characters, as all of them live in a band-centric universe (in between paying rent and fighting off evil ex-boyfriends).  So there’s hope.  If not, there’s a pretty good chance you own all the songs they’ll use in the film anyway, in which case they’ll just blend into the background like so much white noise.

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6 Responses to Getting the ‘Scott Pilgrim’ Soundtrack Together

  1. PowerPop Pop-Pop says:

    So I’ve only just started reading the “Pilgrim” books, but I’m enjoying them and am also fairly confident that this movie is in the right hands. Regarding the soundtrack:

    1) Metric is a great choice, depending on the song. But if the feel we’re going for is indie rock meets video game/manga fight scene spoofery, then I’m picturing the poppier side of indie music anyway. So the opening riff of Metric’s “Monster Hospital” would fit the bill, for example.

    1a) Canadian synergy would actually make sense here, since their music scene is great. Might I recommend some New Pornographers make the cut as well?

    2) The #3 “Pilgrim” book did list some song recommendations from the author, some of which were kind of square (Tom Petty) but wouldn’t be a bad starting point (someone get kids today to listen to The Replacements, that Ethan Embry movie was a decade ago now). And if Wright cares enough to work animation into this movie, then I think he cares enough to try and get the soundtrack right, or at least try to.

    2a) True, the “Nick and Norah” soundtrack didn’t make much of an impression, but the specific music references from the book were kind of bland as well, and more mainstream if I recall (they both kept the shout outs to The Cure and the Beatles; at least the movie had a Magnetic Fields poster in Nick’s bedroom). So I assume the “Pilgrim” movie may veer a bit into Next-Big-Thing territory, but that wouldn’t be the end of the world – in fact, if Envy Adams’ band turned out to be remarkably similar to the Ting Tings, I think that’d be pretty appropriate.

    • ephemerist says:

      @PowerPop: Good points, all. I agree with Metric and the Canadian synergy thing, there are great bands from Canada: the aforementioned New Pornographers, Broken Social Scene (and all it’s many component members) and so on. But an all Canadian soundtrack would perhaps lead to at some point someone being like, who’s left? Barenaked Ladies? Moxie Fruvous? And that is not so good.

      As to some of the songs being, I guess square, I think I fear the opposite. That the soundtrack will be too hip. I’m sure there are some albums in my record collection that are terminally unhip, and that is so with most people. And I genuinely like them! I think it’s a disservice to films to pretend everyone is super hip about all music all the time forever. Or, more to the point, the flavor of the month kind of band. Oh, and Nice callback to the Embry movie. And so true! I’m sure Wright will likely have very good ideas — as he always does — about the musical tone. I just hope that he gets some sort of final approval overall.

      As to Envy Adams’ Band: I think that O’Malley said (it’s referenced in one of the articles that I linked to) that Metric was kind of their inspiration. Which is fitting, but so also the Ting Tings.

      I guess with something being the breakout-next-big-thing it is hard for it to retain its quirky, off-beat charm, and that is what sells the Pilgrim series and hopefully will translate to the movie.

      • Ragfinder says:

        ESQUZE ME ephemerist!!!

        Canada has so much more besides MEtric and BSS. Canada has some of the greatest indie music ever. You just need to expand your taste. What about Crystal Castles, DEath from abbove 1979, Mother Mother, MSTRKRFT, Tegan and Sara, Feist, Jason Collett etc.

        fuck man. fuk.

        • ephemerist says:

          @Ragfinder: Whoa, okay. in fairness, both Feist and Jason Collett are associated with BSS. I also like Tegan and Sara. I know Canada puts out some good music! Montreal is the Brooklyn of Canada. (That is a terrible analogy, but you see where I’m going.) I’m just saying, don’t put only one type of cheese on the cheese tray, when you’re entertaining.

  2. TdotTim says:

    2 words: Thrush Hermit

  3. Mugsy Pinkrton says:

    I liked your article spot on. Everybody is calling this the best indie music movie soundtrack of 2010. Please, spare me.There is nothing indie about it. All the acts have been on major labels. It will be another guitar driven indie pop yawn. Obviously nobody gets the video game premise at all. Cornelius will be the standout track
    I guarantee it. If you really want this to be a hit. Go real indie and make this an 8 bit chip tune soundtrack.
    The fight scenes would be so much more intense if you used chip tune and fit the comic video game aspect as well as the art. You can add 1 or two guitar songs for the band aspect but thats it. The target audience for this all had gameboys and we are in the wii gen.
    It would stun audiences who are not familiar. My choice would be to get FighterX to do the soundtrack
    keep corneleus for the band parts a guaranteed hit.
    When the trailer comes out redo the trailer with an 8 bit sound and post it on you tube. Watch how many responses and attention it gets. I agree with your article just fluffy background filler at this point.

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