Taken from the best comedy of 2007, the Juno Soundtrack owes a debt to actress Ellen Page who played the title character. In the liner notes director Jason Reitman reveals that he asked Page what kind of music Juno would listen to. She introduced him to The Moldy Peaches, an indie lo-fi act.
When Reitman heard the quirky love song “Anyone Else But You,” he contacted screenwriter Diablo Cody about using the song as a duet sung between Juno and her love interest Bleeker to close the film. Reitman then met with Kimya Dawson, co-creator of TMP, and she supplied him with more of her work, which became a main component of the film’s soundtrack.
Dawson has a similar sound throughout her work, whether solo, in TMP, or in Antsy Pants. The simplicity of the music and her mediocre singing have a quality reminiscent of children’s music, which is not surprising for Antsy Pants where she is joined by children; however, her odd lyrics are definitely more mature in the tales she tells. Unless the listener enjoys odd for oddness’ sake, her work is best taken in small doses.
An obvious influence on Dawson and TMP is The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Sticking With You,” which begins with a simple piano line and silly lyrics sung by Maureen Tucker and Lou Reed. The grating nature of this song also tests the listener’s tolerance.
Thankfully, there are some great tracks that break up the monotony and make the entire disc a good listen. The Kinks’ “Well Respected Man” and Mott The Hoople’s “All The Young Dudes” are classic rock radio staples that have aged well over the decades, helped in part by the lyrics of two of rock and roll’s best writers, Ray Davies and David Bowie.
Newer artists match their elders in quality while also paying homage to them. Belle & Sebastian’s “Expectations” is subtle. The song’s effervescent horn section brings to mind Love’s “Alone Again Or.” Sonic Youth is overt as they deliver a fantastic cover of “Superstar,” made famous by The Carpenters. Thurston Moore’s echo-effect voice and the sustained bass note on the piano captures the character’s anguish. The music and the additional studio noises work in great unison, creating one of the band’s best songs.
There are a few tracks included that could easily have been done without. Dawson’s “My Rollercoaster” has a strumming guitar and a series of nonsense sounds for 45 seconds and then the lullaby “Sleep (Instrumental)” is almost 50 seconds. The film’s composer Mateo Messina has his own short instrumental piece “Up the Spout” that runs about 40 seconds. Their inclusion is almost pointless as there’s not enough to get into the music.
At 47 minutes the soundtrack is short and really would have benefited from the inclusion of Juno’s dialogue. All the listener gets is actors Page and Michael Cera performing “Anyone Else But You,” which sounds better than TMPs’ version. The album does an adequate job of recreating the experience of the film sonically, but fans willing to expend the effort could easily create a better version.