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Wednesday, November 22, 2017 
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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
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+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
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+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
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+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
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+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
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+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
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+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
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+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
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+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
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+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
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+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
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'The Squid And The Whale' Soundtrack
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The music that accompanies Noah Baumbach's film "The Squid and the Whale" has a remarkably cohesive mood, given that it spans a variety of eras and genres, from 1960s folk to 1980s jangle to more contemporary country-folk. An indefinable bittersweetness permeates all these cuts, whether the three beautifully dark cuts from lost folkie Bert Jansch, or the shimmering melancholy of Kate and Anne McGarrigle's "Heart Like a Wheel," or the sardonic, masterfully crafted "Swimming Song" by Loudon Wainwright. Even the incidental music scored by Dean Warham is luminously of a piece with the album, particularly the eerie "Park Slope," which gives a foretaste of Blossom Dearie's "Figure Eight."

A trio of cuts from Jansch, one of folk music's most innovative guitarists, sets the soundtrack's tone. "Courting Blues," from Bert Jansch's home-recorded first album, glows with lovely, minor-key folk figures, while "The Bright New Year," with its theme of distance between mother and son, leans more towards blues. "Come Sing Me a Happy Song to Prove We All Can Get Along the Lumpy, Bumpy, Long & Dusty Road" is one of several driving songs on the soundtrack, propelled by a lilting, bouncing, twang-infused guitar line.

Loudon Wainwright III contributes two wonderful songs to the soundtrack. The melancholy "Lullaby" seems tailor-made for a movie about family troubles, with its lyrics "Shut up and go to bed/ Put the pillow under your head/ Sick and tired of all of your worries." "The Swimming Song" is, if anything, even better. It is one of those songs where the ostensive subject is a metaphor for something larger, yet so exactly described and so skillfully executed that you can't see the wires that hold it up. "How like life swimming is," you're tempted to remark, which is perhaps the point. Or perhaps the song is really just about swimming.

Though the movie is set in 1986, there are only a couple of songs from that specific era, and oddly, they feel the most out of place. The Cars' "Drive" is several degrees slicker and more commercial-sounding than anything else on the soundtrack, completely breaking an otherwise well-thought-out flow of sounds. The Feelies' "Let's Go" blends better with the album's dreamy, diffuse feel, and reminds everyone how great this now nearly forgotten band was.

Like all soundtracks, this one exists mostly to support a movie, rather than as a freestanding work of art. Yet to an unusual degree, these songs are held together by an indefinable feeling. You get the sense that they were selected with extreme care by someone who identified closely with them. There's a passage from the movie included in the liner notes, in which the main character, Walt, explains to a school therapist why he claimed to have written Pink Floyd's "Hey You" (here very ably covered by Wareham) when he played it at a school assembly. "I felt I could've written it... so the fact that it was already written was kind of a technicality," says the boy. Noah Baumbach and his music consultant Jim Dunbar may have selected music that was already written for this project, but it's so cohesive and mood-evoking that that seems like a technicality.


by Jennifer Kelly




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