20 Watts

Movie Music: Almost Famous by Isabel Alcantara

The Almost Famous Soundtrack

“This song explains why I have to leave home and become a stewardess,” is one of my favorite lines in all of Almost Famous. The quote referrs to Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” and is spoken by Anita (Zooey Dechanel) who finds solace in music and teaches William (Patrick Fugit, and our protagonist) about the true essence of rock ‘n’ roll.

Cameron Crowe‘s semi-autobiographical story about William, a young reporter following Stillwater (the next hit band) on tour across America, is best served with a large stereo system hook-up. Since the film is about music it’s no surprise that the songs make up, at least, half of the movie’s appeal.

The compilation itself is a compendium of the classic rock staples, but it’s not – by any means – generic. Yes, the artists featured are The Who, Yes, Simon & Garfunkel, Rod Stewart and The Beach Boys (to name a few), but the songs are not the overplayed hits that plague the radio waves. Instead, each track sounds fresh and unexplored in an eclectic mix of 60s and 70s rock. Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” sounds personal and nostalgic when being sung by the all-star cast in the bus scene, Zeppelin fans will note that “That’s the Way” was the first Led Zeppelin song to be re-released on a soundtrack, and The Who’s “Sparks” (famously featured in Tommy) may actually be capable of showing you your future.

The mix has a cohesive mix of high energy tracks like “Sparks” and The Allman Brothers‘ “One Way Out,” with slow and soulful tracks like Cat Stevens‘ “The Wind” and Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s “Simple Man,” right along with the symphonic rock of Yes’ “I’ve Seen All Good People.” The one track of original score, “Lucky Trumble,” was composed by Nancy Wilson (of the band Heart and filmmaker, Crowe’s wife) and is a bright instrumental track that is featured discretely through the movie, and sounds comfortingly familiar even on the first listen.

The music is a crucial component this bizarre coming-of-age tale. Any classic rock fan can attest that few soundtracks actually manage to bring out the lesser known tracks of popular artists and make them work together in a woven tapestry of real rock and roll. The great mix of music, and the newfound nostalgia the movie embeds into the tracks are what make this classic rock soundtrack so appealing. Well that, and the drugs.

— Isabel Alcantara


PREVIEW: LISTEN to Free People’s “Wintry Mix”

Well, we almost made it through an entire semester with no snow, but according to this week’s weather forecast, that dream will soon become a distant memory. I don’t know about you, but Syracuse’s constant gray skies and inches of snow blowing in my face sort of put a damper on my day. If you’re the same way, pop in your headphones and listen to Free People’s “Wintry Mix” playlist. The 15 winter-themed tracks will help you actually enjoy the mounds of snow, and make you feel as though you’re living in a winter wonderland– not a sub-zero ice box.

What’s best about the playlist is that it’s a truly eclectic mix of music. There’s classic rock, indie rock and even a bit of 90s and Bob Marley thrown in. And what’s even better than the array of artists? Free People made sure to put together songs that represented the winter season in general, as well as the holidays. So instead of going crazy listening to the same Christmas songs over and over again on the radio, listen to “Wintry Mix” on your way to class and enjoy the extreme weather that you’ll be experiencing until April.

–Dana Mikaelian, Communications Director


Revisiting Woodstock on its 40th Anniversary by tjwell01
July 5, 2009, 4:15 pm
Filed under: Editor Picks, Features | Tags: , , , , , ,
The famous field

The famous field

It doesn’t look like much, but this field was the scene of a cultural revolution—sexually and musically.

This is where the famous Woodstock Music Festival took place—in Bethel, NY. It was a totally random weekend trip my father cooked up at the last minute, and as you can see, there wasn’t much to take photos of. The field had a profound emptiness and silence as I stood on the edge and gazed out. The stillness in the air had an ethereal, ghostly scent.

I’m glad I went because it reminded me of how time changes everything. Just 40 years ago, this place was filled with legendary musicians playing at the peak of their careers. Great musicians rocked this field, like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Santana, The Who, Neil Young and Joan Baez. Back then, it was an incredible time to be young and alive, and now, this field just collects rain, bird droppings and nostalgic thoughts.

–Jett Wells

Comments Off on Revisiting Woodstock on its 40th Anniversary

My Top 10 Movie Soundtracks by tjwell01
Jason Schwartzman in "Rushmore"

Jason Schwartzman in "Rushmore"

I’m a huge movie fanatic, and music worshiper too, so it only makes sense that I really love movies with great soundtracks. A bad soundtrack doesn’t really break a movie, but it can make it a whole lot better. Music is cool like that. So thus, I’ve compiled my Top 10 soundtracks over the 21-year span of my movie-watching career.

A rule of thumb in finding good soundtracks is knowing the directors who appreciate good music, and the best kind of music used in films is usually semi-obscure classic rock music. These usual suspects are none other than Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino. These two are geniuses at finding music that contrast, and at the same time, blend with the style of their films. That’s why the music sticks out. Typical Wes Anderson is playing David Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” in a closing scene with Bill Murray jogging. Tarantino is another fan of 60s and 70s classic rock and usually layers them in his legendary dialogue scenes. These two will no doubt pop up in the Top 10.

For me, at least, good soundtracks are not just good mix tapes, but they have to work hand-in-hand with the movie.

The Top 10 (Not ranked in order)

1) High Fidelity

Not only is this movie one of my favorites of all time, it’s stacked with great songs by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, The Beta Band, The Velvet Underground and the Kinks. I discovered a lot of cool songs off this album, and they all work really well together. There’s even a cover  of “Lets Get it On” by Jack Black in it. What’s not to love about that?

2 and 3) Rushmore and Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Half of these movies’ charm are in the soundtracks, and they’re both classic Wes Anderson. Rushmore is filled with classic hits by Cat Stevens, John Lennon, Velvet Underground, Creation and the Who. They’re all off-beat songs with quaint feeling. The songs are handpicked to catch you off guard in their respective scenes. Even if Anderson is a one-trick pony filmmaker, he knows his music. Although Life Aquatic isn’t as complete a soundtrack as Rushmore, it gets recognition for me exposing me to Brazilian songwriter Seu Jorge.

4 and 5) Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs

I paired these two Tarantino films together because they do the same thing, but still make two awesome soundtracks. Without the soundtracks in these movies, they’d probably lose a step. Take Pulp Fiction for example, the credits set the pace with “Misirlou” by Dick Dale. It hits you in the face, like “wow, here we go!” Tarantino does a lot of the same things Anderson does, except he’s doesn’t use humor in his soundtracks, he adds coolness with his selected music.

6) Once

This one gets this nod because the music was written for the movie, which is highly impressive. The film was all about the music in this case; in fact, it was more like a musical. The music was filled with fiery and passionate acoustic ballads about love and heartbreak. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova had me at the first note. The cool part is the actors and Swell Season band mates dated for a long time, but recently broke up. I loved this soundtrack so much I saw them perform live twice and met them both in person.

7) Little Miss Sunshine

This soundtrack is only here because it introduced me to Sufjan Stevens, whose name I still can’t pronounce correctly. Great movie though.

8 ) Trainspotting

This is the kind of movie that’s so good, it doesn’t even need a soundtrack, but it made it so much better. Bolstered by great hits by Iggy Pop and New Order, this soundtrack is full of illustrative songs about the drug culture in England during the late 80s and early 90s. Not to mention, playing Iggy Pop along with Ewan McGreggor running for his life made him look really cool.

9) Hedwig and the Angry Inch

This was a very weird movie about rock n’ roll tranny touring the world in pursuit of a long lost lover, but the music is all original. The music is all about the life of a heartbroken tranny, but the lyrics are poignant and a few songs are bad ass rock ballads. A quality album, especially the song, “Origin of Love.”

10) Garden State

Ahhh, last not but not least, Garden State. This is the only case where the soundtrack was miles better than the movie. Lots of indie kids think this is the greatest soundtrack of all time, and it did really well for itself at record stores when people still bought music. It might’ve been the biggest bridge for out-of-the-loop kids in suburbs to get exposed to indie bands like the The Shins and Frou Frou.

Here are some samples I talked about:

“Queen Bitch” in Life Aquatic

“Origin of Love” in Hedwig and the Angry Itch

–Jett Wells, Reviews Editor

Survey graphic copy