The fact that a love story about an abstinent teenager and a sexy vampire is a hit with both teenage girls and their middle-aged mothers is hardly noteworthy. The more fascinating development is that such a tale is being framed by some of today’s most prolific independent and alternative contemporary musicians. The much talked-about “Twilight” saga, whose second film installment “New Moon” will be released in November, is pegged to an equally talked-about soundtrack that was released four days ahead of schedule because of popular demand.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon Soundtrack
“Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer, the woman to blame for the current cultural obsession with all things vampiric, recently revealed her favorite albums of 2009, a list dotted with indie-pop gems by groups like Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear. The soundtrack to “New Moon” traces a similar vein, boasting a homogenous blend of gloomy soundscapes by some big name artists like The Killers, Muse and, of course, Grizzly Bear. By moving away from the pop-punk and teen-goth influences heard on the series’s preceding film, the “New Moon” official soundtrack moves into music-snob territory and will likely introduce a new generation of pseudo-literary pop-punk enthusiasts to the world of pretentious indie rock.
Every song on the album is an original piece created exclusively for the “Twilight” franchise, helping to create a more uniform atmosphere than if the tracks had been recorded independently. While a few of the selections sound somewhat out of place, the combined effect is a feeling of underdeveloped gloom — ultimately, the emotions of unrequited teenage love.
Opening track and official single “Meet Me On The Equinox” is a rousing jam by kings of teen heartbreak Death Cab For Cutie. The song doesn’t stray far from the band’s traditional format of combining accessible rhythms with emotion-packed lyrics, and it wouldn’t seem out of place on your standard Death Cab album. Thankfully, the band’s primary lyrical territory has always resided close to matters of the heart, so the band is able to casually reference the film’s plot with vague lyrics like “Let me give my love to you / Let me take your hand / and as we walk in the dimming light / Oh darling understand.”
One of the more publicized tracks on the soundtrack is an offering by Thom Yorke, the singer and primary songwriter of Radiohead, a band that has undoubtedly influenced the majority of the other bands heard on this album. Unsurprisingly, Yorke’s contribution “Hearing Damage” — a dark, electro-synth soundwave dominated by a consistent drum machine-generated beat — is the best song on the soundtrack.
Grizzly Bear’s contribution, which features vocals by Beach House’s Victoria Legrand, is another triumph. Legrand’s haunting voice is the star of the song, at times overtaking the band’s instrumentation.
One of the soundtrack’s more high-profile collaborations is a dual hymn titled “Roslyn” featuring singer St. Vincent and folk king Bon Iver, culminating in a low-key duet highlighted by simple strumming.
Ann Arbor native Anya Marina’s acoustic ballad “Satellite Heart” is equally impressive, contrasting the singer’s quiet vocals with uncomplicated strings and creating a straightforward but nonetheless alluring song.
Despite these impressive cuts, the album as a whole is not a start-to-finish success. The remix version of Muse’s “I Belong To You” sounds wholly out of place; it has more in common with pseudo-goth rockers My Chemical Romance than the rest of the record’s more downcast alternative picks.
Sea Wolf’s “The Violent Hour,” an unusually uplifting anthem, sounds similarly incongruous and disrupts the flow of the album. While it’s entirely understandable that the film’s producers required a variety of sounds to encapsulate the entire realm of human (or in this case, vampiric) emotion, many of their picks are a downgrade from the record’s more succinct contributions and they create a bit of an unbalance.
When “Twilight” groupies finally see the series’s much-anticipated second film feature next month, they will be greeted with a movie touched by every hue of the somber indie-rock spectrum. Whether this track list does anything to change the tide of tween musical sensibilities remains to be seen. In the interim, auditory aficionados should be pleased that what will likely be one of the highest grossing movies of 2009 also features one of the year’s more engaging soundtracks.