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


20 Watts Reviews She & Him’s Volume Two by JohnCassillo
March 22, 2010, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: , , , ,

She & Hims returns with an even catchier collection of classic tunes

PREVIEW: VISIT She & Him’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts

She & Him will never break new ground. The M. Ward/Zooey Deschanel tag team will never experiment with any other sort of sound. Nor will they ever release a record unless they’ve got good material to work with. Unlike nearly every other artist of today, you know exactly what you’re getting from them each time out of the gate.

And yet, this seems to work perfectly. As long as Deschanel continues to provide her sultry, classic voice over the instrumental stylings of Ward, this cycle could continue going on forever. Or at least, until the end of their sophomore effort Volume Two. Continue reading

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Editor’s Pick #265: She&Him Debut New Single “In the Sun” by Irina Dvalidze

She & Him new single "In The Sun"

PREVIEW: LISTEN to “In the Sun”

Looks like we will never see the end of She & Him extravaganza, not that we are complaining. She & Him, better known as the creative duo made up of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, started their takeover of the indie music scene in 2008 with their debut album Volume One. Barely two years later, following Deschanel’s success with (500) Days of Summer (like we need to remind you) and Ward’s side-project Monsters of Folk, the pair will be releasing their sophomore album. Appropriately titled Volume Two is set to drop March 2010, however She&Him have already released the first single from the album on pitchfork.com. On top of the single release this week, the duo was also announced to be part of The Coachella line up this coming April. It appears Ward and Deschanel are only getting started.

–Irina Dvalidze, Multimedia Editor

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Editor’s Pick #243: Mos Def’s Flow On Chappelle’s Show by elizabethvogt

Mos Def

PREVIEW: WATCH Mos Def’s Flow On Chappelle’s Show on ebaumsworld

Whether he’s demolishing Kanye in a rap battle or traveling the galaxy with Martin Freeman and Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def is a legend. As one of the most well-known MCs in the entertainment industry, Mos Def has garnered friends such as Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, Talib Kweli and Dave Chappelle. The recent viewing of a clip of Mos Def on the latter’s show, however, was when Mos Def, for me, became not only one of the most respected MCs but also one of the most talented.

When the episode premiered on Chappelle’s Show in 2003, Mos Def had not yet released his third album “The New Danger”, which includes the song “Close Edge” that Mos presumably “freestyled” on the show. Even if you thought the rap was pre-meditated, it wouldn’t matter. I rewound the two minute segment at least four times in one sitting because I couldn’t stop watching Mos. Even when he’s casually driving around with an incredibly goofy comedian, his flow is absolutely flawless.

–Elizabeth Vogt, Assistant Front of Book Editor

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Editor’s Pick #164: Scarlett Johansson and Pete Yorn’s “Relator” by carlywolkoff
Scarlett Johansson and Pete Yorn release 2006 recording of "Relator," which will be featured on their upcoming LP

Scarlett Johansson and Pete Yorn release 2006 recording of "Relator," to be featured on their upcoming album

PREVIEW: Download Scarlett Johansson and Pete Yorn’s “Relator” MP3
WATCH: Video below the cut

Zooey Deschanel x Amy Winehouse + Shania Twain = Scarlett Johannson. Throw in Pete Yorn with his typical unrealistic sappy ex-boyfriend vibe. No, this is not the script for the weirdest porno ever, but the formula for Scarlett Johannson and Pete Yorn’s “Relator” song and music video. Somehow it works.

The project was inspired by the Brigitte Bardot/Serge Gainsbourg duets. Considering these French nymphomaniacs produced a song (although this version was never actually released) so erotic the Vatican denounced it, the similarities between the originators and their less-believable imposters are few.

However, if you ignore the clearly contrived decision to hide the less hot of the two behind sunglasses and a crafty use of blurring, you can detect some traces of chemistry between Scarlett and Pete. I don’t mean as a couple, but more importantly, they complement each other vocally. And the outcome is as bouncy and inoffensive as you’d expect of this collaboration. Continue reading

500 Days of Summer “Bank Heist” Music Video by Irina Dvalidze
Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel dance to She & Him in the new video

Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel dance to She & Him in the new video

PREVIEW: Download She & Him’s “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” MP3
RELATED COVERAGE: 20 Watts Reviews (500) Days of Summer OST
WATCH: Video below the jump

A bank heist, 1960s hoop skirts and a pair of John Belushi glasses is a perfect recipe for yet another treat from the instant classic, (500) Days of Summer. Just two weeks ago, 20 Watts raved about the film’s soundtrack, but it seems that album was just a taste of what this project had to offer.

The film has undeniably succeeded with audiences since its limited release two weeks ago. To mark the nationwide release, the filmmakers put together a music video starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Impeccably choreographed, the video is set to Deschanel’s She & Him song “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?”

Now, we all know that Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel not only have perfect chemistry on screen but can also rock some stylish vintage wear. It’s not exactly shocking that they make intense choreography seem like a stroll in the park.

(500) Days of Summer was director Marc Webb’s transition to film. A veteran music video director, it is only natural that he shot this video. However, Deschanel is credited as the original mastermind, inspired by Gordon-Levitt’s Hall & Oates’ dance sequence in the film. Continue reading

Funny People Soundtrack Showcases Jason Schwartzman by ashleycollman
Jason Swartzman is the (only) highlight of Judd Apatow's Funny People

Jason Schwartzman is one of the (few) highlights of Funny People

PREVIEW: Download Coconut Records’ “Wires” MP3
RELATED COVERAGE: Where the Wild Things Are Soundtrack, 20 Watts Reviews (500) Days of Summer OST

Judd Apatow’s latest film Funny People, certainly isn’t as funny Superbad, but it does stand out in the music department.  Though the soundtrack is laced with mega-artists like three former Beatles, Neil Diamond and James Taylor, the real star is one of the stars of the film, Jason Schwartzman.

Schwartzman is one of the few people in the entertainment industry to delve successfully in both movies and music. He does have genes in his favor, as the nephew of  Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) and the grandson of Academy and Golden Globe Award-winning composer Carmine Coppola. Not to mention, he’s Phantom Planet‘s former drummerand his brother fronts pop-rock group Rooney.

In Funny People, he got an acting part and a job co-writing the film’s score. The film’s soundtrack features three songs from his solo band Coconut Records. Though his music isn’t very well-known, it fits right in with the more classic music of the movie.

Schwartzman recently released a new Coconut Records album in January, but first album Nighttiming is a good place to start. It features Zooey Deschanel and Kirsten Dunst, which isn’t surprising considering Schwartzman’s knack for mixing movies with music.

— Ashley Collman