I discover (and rediscover) a lot of my favorite music from movies. Besides listening to lots of music, watching independent movies is one of my favorite things to do. Here are my ten favorite soundtracks from movies that came out in the last ten years:
1.) Friday Night Lights (2004)
I was vaguely familiar with Explosions in the Sky before “FNL,” but the way in which these songs provided a beautiful and slightly understated backdrop to this movie about the emotionally charged lives of high school football players and their families in a west Texas town made me dig into their music more, and they quickly became one of my favorite bands. I used to shy away from instrumental music, but this soundtrack made me appreciate it all the more.
2.) Daydream Nation (2010)
This quirky, dark indie drama about a strange romantic triangle between a new-to-town high school girl, her disturbed and damaged English teacher, and a boy who numbs his emotional pain with drugs, that all takes place while a serial killer is on the loose in their town was an absolute gem for its acting, writing, and it’s offbeat soundtrack. This movie is sorely underrated and Reece Thompson, Josh Lucas, and Kat Dennings were superb in their roles. The songs are mostly mid-late 00’s indie rock songs that weren’t super popular and never made it near the mainstream. Emily Haines’ solo work appears a few times, along with Devendra Banhart, Great Lake Swimmers, Beach House, and Stars. Definitely one of my favorite soundtracks ever, this helped me rekindle my love for certain bands I hadn’t listened to in a while.
3.) Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008)
The plot of this movie was centered around indie bands, so it made sense that the soundtrack would be a major draw to the movie. It’s certainly what drew me to see it. It made me start listening to Band of Horses, Tapes N Tapes, and the Shout Out Louds a lot more. Other highlights include “Ottoman” by Vampire Weekend and “Speed of Sound,” a beautiful early 90’s ballad by Chris Bell. It was a soundtrack that I had on repeat for weeks on end when I was driving to and from grad school classes.
4.) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
This soundtrack made the list mostly just for the hauntingly beautiful cover of “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime” by Beck. All the songs pertain to the sun, light, or the sky: “Light and Day” by the Polyphonic Spree, “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO…and the score by Jon Brion is wonderful too.
5.) Like Crazy (2011)
One of my favorite movie scores ever. Pianist Dustin O’Halloran’s work was unknown to me before I saw “Like Crazy,” and I instantly fell in love. It’s the perfect “sleepytime” instrumental music that’s memorable and beautiful enough to leave a lasting impression, and I often use it at the end of the yoga classes I teach. Other artists on the soundtrack include Stars (one of their best songs, “Dead Hearts”), Asobi Seksu, and M83.
6.) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
Ellie Goulding’s delightfully ethereal and pretty chill song, “Mirror,” with its icy vocals and powerful refrain “I was the girl who was on fire,” is the highlight of this stellar soundtrack that brings together so many of the best indie rock and indiepop artists that have gained popularity within the last 5 years or so. Also included is new music from the National, Mikky Ekko, Phantogram, and a collaboration between Sia, the Weeknd, and Diplo. The only song that doesn’t seem to fit is a bizarre cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Lorde. A soundtrack not to be missed.
7.) Juno (2008)
An especially well put together and eclectic soundtrack of charmingly offbeat indie rock songs and throwback tunes from bands like The Kinks, The Velvet Underground and Buddy Holly that provided the perfect accompaniment for this quirky indie comedy. Highlights include “Anyone Else But You” by the Moldy Peaches, Cat Power’s cover of “Sea of Love,” and Sonic Youth’s cover of “Superstar.”
8.) The Twilight Saga Soundtracks (2008-2012, 4 volumes)
Say what you will about the “Twilight” books and movies (I’m a sucker for just about anything vampire related), but their soundtracks are pretty amazing. The score by Carter Burwell is stunning, and the variety of more “mainstream indie” music that it introduced to a young audience was really well selected. The original songs by Death Cab for Cutie, Ellie Goulding, Angus & Julia Stone, Bon Iver & St. Vincent, Passion Pit, Feist and several others made it justifiable for me to purchase each entire soundtrack and while I always skip a few songs on all four soundtracks I still listen to many of the songs frequently.
9.) Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
The score by DeVotchka and Mychael Danna fits the mood and vibe of the movie perfectly, and it features two whimsical, spirited songs by one of my favorite artists of all time, Sufjan Stevens. The songs all scream “witty” and “quirky,” which is exactly the tone of the movie. The whole soundtrack works on all levels and is just fun and pleasant to listen to.
10.) Adult World (2014)
The entire soundtrack to this refreshing indie comedy/drama that features stellar performances by Emma Roberts, Evan Peters, and John Cusack, is comprised entirely of songs by Dan Boeckner of the band Handsome Furs. I would never have thought that his music could provide the soundtrack to an entire movie, but it worked wonderfully. You have to see it and hear it to appreciate it. It’s one of the best indie movies I’ve seen in a while (with one of the best soundtracks). See my original entry about the soundtrack a few posts below for the track lisiting.