Thursday, March 01, 2007

Predicting the soundtrack for Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding

Anyone who enjoys the music covered in this blog and hasn't seen the films of Noah Baumbach needs to hit the Netflix queue. He made my favorite film, the post-college-paralysis cult classic Kicking & Screaming (recently released in a nice Criterion edition), the charming, low-key Mr. Jealousy, and 2005's shoulda-won Oscar screenplay-nommed The Squid and the Whale (any film that namechecks Vitas Gerulaitis oughta be a shoo-in).

The glue that holds every Baumbach film together is the carefully curated soundtrack, typically a mix of top-notch, semi-obscure singer-songwriter fare with a few songs outside that realm that capture the time and place. Kicking & Screaming features Nick Drake, Freedy Johnston, and an incredible, dusty, solo acoustic version of Jimmy Dale Gilmore's "Braver Newer World" playing on the townie bar jukebox (and nowhere else; the album version's produced bombast has startled more than a few K&S fans who have sought out the full song on the album of the same name).

Artists often appear multiple times in one movie, but seemingly never in more than one (except for Dean Wareham; he's been involved in everything post-K&S, and even appears in Baumbach-disowned Highball). Mr. Jealousy featured Leonard Cohen and Harry Chapin. And his breakthough The Squid and the Whale was precient in its appreciation of Bert Jansch and John Phillips; just months later, Jansch would enjoy a resurgence of interest and issue a new album on Drag City, and John Phillips' John the Wolfking of LA would get the deluxe reissue treatment. Squid also used Loudon Wainwright III's "The Swimming Song", long a favorite of my from his essential live album Career Moves (Baumbach introduced me to the studio version).

Which brings us to his next film, Margot at the Wedding, completed but sitting in movie-calendar limbo until festival and Oscar seasons. It stars Nicole Kidman, Jack Black, and his wife, Jennifer Jason-Leigh. News of the story is slim (two sisters, life lessons) and the only hint of the soundtrack comes from, of all places, Robert Fripp's blog, where he reveals a request for a King Crimson track. Presuming the music isn't all prog...what will pop up on the soundtrack? I'm taking some stabs...

Jackson C. Frank
Who? 60s folksinger who was recorded by Paul Simon, covered by Nick Drake, and then led an almost unbelievably unlucky life of depression, homelessness, and a random drive-by shooting that blinded him in one eye.
Used in other indie film? "Milk and Honey" showed up in one of The Brown Bunny's many riveting, too-brief driving scenes.

Stream: Several songs at MySpace

Paul Siebel
Who? Songwriter's songwriter from the early 70s with a Dylanesque voice, covered by Linda Ronstadt and Waylon Jennings. Last seen working at a bakery somewhere in Maryland.
Used in other indie film? None I can find. This track reminds me a bit of Gilmore.

Tim Hardin
Who? Great songs, one-in-a-billion voice, died too young. If you don't know him, you should. Recently introduced to indie kids by Okkervil River, but you really want to hear the original.
Used in other indie films: Nope. Why not?

Watch: Tim play "If I Was a Carpenter" at Woodstock
Stream: Several songs at MySpace


Caleb said...

This is an absolutely wonderful post.

The Playlist said...

This is a great post. The details on the Margot soundtrack are here.

You might also like this Baumbach soundtrack we made (plus other directors)

The Playlist said...

oops, try here.

The Playlist said...

Sorry, PS. No King Crimson on the soundtrack, but there is definitely a reference in the movie! It's nice to find someone as interested in things like this, cheers.

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