Common sense doesn’t normally associate an unplanned teenage pregnancy with anti-folk anthems and wacky indie-pop tunes. However, “Juno” isn’t your typical knocked-up tale. The film follows the tribulations of 16-year-old Juno, a sarcastic, anti-establishment adolescent who finds herself pregnant after a one-night romp with her best friend.
Juno’s quirky and unaffected attitude is reflected through a series of songs spanning over four decades, ranging from early Kinks hits to catchy Tigermilk tracks. These pop-rock staples are accompanied by a series of cutesy melodies by folk heroes and solo vocalists. It makes sense that one of the quirkiest movies marketed to an indie-friendly audience in 2007 also has one of the quirkiest, indie-friendly soundtracks of the previous year.
“Juno” reportedly received its lo-fi-inspired feel from a suggestion by Ellen Page, who plays Juno. When director Jason Reitman asked the young actress what music she thought her character listened to, Page suggested the late- ’90s anti-folk band the Moldy Peaches. Sure enough, the Peaches’s playful acoustic tracks serve as both the film’s and the soundtrack’s backbone. While only one original Peaches song appears on the soundtrack, the atypical forlorn love song “Anyone Else But You,” several solo tracks from the band’s female voice, Kimya Dawson, serve as substitutes. Dawson’s raw, inspired ballads – sung in a playful voice over simple acoustic guitar – perfectly narrate the adolescent angst and teenage affection that permeates the film. These tracks, which focus on childhood symbols like tire swings and innocent crushes, reflect the naiveté of the movie’s young characters as they deal with very grown-up issues.
Reitman and company fill the rest of the soundtrack with a mass of songs ranging from ’60s garage pop (“A Well Respected Man” by The Kinks) to ’80s experimental post-punk (“Superstar” by Sonic Youth) to contemporary Scottish indie-pop (“Expectations” and “Piazza, New York Catcher” by Belle & Sebastian). One of the only deviants from this fun and widely varied collection is the soundtrack’s designated love ballad, “Sea of Love.” It’s sung in a soulful, haunting voice by the talented folk vocalist Cat Power. Far from cliché, the slowly-sung track perfectly captures the agonies of unrequited love and the inability to express such emotions. Her strong yet soft voice contrasts perfectly with the raw and unpolished guitar strings. The combination is simple and yet creates an uncannily flowing effect for the listener.
While the soundtrack offers a solid collection of eclectic tracks from the past half-century, the album is somewhat slowed down by the numerous skit-like songs scattered throughout. While these minute-long cuts work well within the context of the film, they sound awkward on the soundtrack and take away from the album’s playful feel. Rather than including these on the album, the soundtrack’s producers would have been better off using a few songs played throughout the film, but excluded from the distributed soundtrack.
Although the soundtrack is solid as a whole, the songs selected for the album do not reflect young Juno’s stated musical taste. Early into the film, Juno expresses her love for late-’70s punk rock and she has an elaborate musical exchange with her unborn baby’s adoptive father. Despite these proclamations, the soundtrack is devoid of any early punk flavor, instead choosing to go down the route of folk melodies and stripped-down beats. In spite of these shortcomings, the soundtrack still offers a solid listen for lo-fi enthusiasts and “Juno”-lovers alike.
Rating: three and a half out of five stars