The soundtrack to The Squid and The Whale is similar to what you would find in a Wes Anderson movie, a disk filled with sixties and seventies singer/songwriters, some that defined New York’s music scene of the time, and a strange feeling of nostalgia for a time and scene that you were, most likely, not involved in. The Squid and The Whale’s differences are in the overall tone of the music. Rather than provide one of the upbeat Velvet Underground tunes, or a popular Paul Simon track, we’re granted Lou Reed’s “Street Hassle”, an eleven minute song following a young couple torn apart by a heroin overdose. Much of the disk follows this route. Loudon Wainwright III provides the bitter “Lullaby” and Bert Jansch’s “Courting Blues” is basted in despair. The best emotion this soundtrack offers is hopefulness, and that seems to be enough to keep me listening to it again and again.
Between the somber tracks are carefully placed carefree tunes. “Let’s Go,” by The Feelies and “Holland Tunnel” by John Phillips keep the pace going and allow the listener to tap their fingers a bit. “Figure Eight,” an old School House Rock song by Blossom Dearie, and the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Hey You” by Dean Wareham, are applicable to the movie, but feel out of place next to the rest of the soundtrack.
The Squid and The Whale’s soundtrack is a strong accompaniment to a great movie, but most likely won’t appeal to those simply looking for a good road trip mix tape. The songs are as sad and cynical as Noah Baumbach’s work, which inevitably means that you’ll fall in love with most of them, regardless of how much they hurt to listen to.