January 11, 2005


Various Artists

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Original Soundtrack


While hipster auteur Wes Anderson's latest film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, gets more than its share of critical lauding and lambasting (perhaps more polarized than ever before), there is one thing that is difficult for anyone to negate: the director's discerning ear—for music, anyway. While his naysayers pick on his penchant for flat delivery and his fanboys hail his ironic wit, both can agree that a David Bowie song is a welcome addition to any cinematic endeavor, and Anderson sure can pick 'em. A Bowie song sung in Portuguese, however, might be a different matter altogether.

Over the course of four feature-length films (and accompanying soundtracks), it has been debated whether Wes Anderson owns any LP dating from before 1974—with the exception of a few Devo records. However, the director (and the inimitable composer Mark Mothersbaugh, formerly of, um, Devo) have together created soundtracks that are less nods to nostalgia, and more timeless odes to music's ability to express beyond words. On The Life Aquatic, Hunky Dory/Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie carries the torch, and both his originals and the interpretations of Brazilian actor/musician Seu Jorge perfectly complement the sublime adventures of Team Zissou.

Every Anderson soundtrack is a virtually flawless (if sometimes incomplete) 20-track musical manifesto. Like every addition to his canon, there are highlights, and The Life Aquatic boasts perfectly utilized Stooges and Devo songs ("Search and Destroy" and "Gut Feeling," respectively), as well as two gems by Norwegian composer Sven Libaek. While The Life Aquatic is not a classic album like the unearthed diamonds of Rushmore, or even as satisfyingly melancholic as The Royal Tenenbaums, you couldn't ask for a better seafaring companion.

—Andy Marchesseault

Various Artists

Ocean's 12 Original Soundtrack

Warner Brothers

A little too busy, a little too scattered, and a little too cacophonous—that's how the Ocean's 12 soundtrack sounds on first take. But be patient; give the stocking-stuffer a little more play in your iPod, and you won't be disappointed by this upbeat mix.

The compilation balances disparate selections, beginning with a buttery serenade by an Italian pop diva while including a simple acoustic guitar riff. The soundtrack is given a unifying theme by David Holmes, whose gonzo mixing makes the soundtrack a winner.

"10:35 I Turn Off Camera 3" sounds unmistakably reminiscent of Skeeter's honking noises from Doug, the Saturday-morning cartoon favorite, and that's a good thing. Another highlight is "The Real Story," whose drum loop and horn riffs create an impending, almost psychedelic effect. The next track, by contrast, is a sing-along. The mix is ragtag, but—by Holmes' genius—it works. And this bright, eclectic blend is perfectly entertaining for the trudge through slushy snow to class. Even for someone with relatively little taste for house and techno, Holmes' masterful mixes pleasure the ears, so be on the lookout for this meteoric-rising Belfast-born DJ.

—Isaac Wolf