After much hype, the first movie of the Hunger Games trilogy opened this weekend. I was a big fan of the books, so I went and saw the movie opening night and was impressed. Surprisingly, the original soundtrack stands out a bit more in my mind than the film even does.
Honestly, I was a bit weary of purchasing the soundtrack at first; The Hunger Games franchise definitely seems to be focused towards young teenage girls, and when I heard the lead single was by the reigning teen queen, Taylor Swift, I was extremely fearful of getting an album of teen pop music. However, not unlike the Twilight movies, The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond is a surprisingly mature collection of what would easily be an indie music lover’s heaven.
Most of the songs have a sort of dark, eerie quality to them, which are in line with the feel of the film. Though none of these particular tracks were played during the movie (instead, a instrumental score by James Newton Howard was used, which you can also purchase), the album sort of plays as a complementary piece to the movie itself.
Yeah, the Taylor Swift song, “Safe & Sound”, is one of two entries by the country/pop artist, but don’t let that scare you away. For once, Swift strays from her stereotypical cheesy love songs and wrote a track especially for the film’s main character, Katniss Everdeen. Besides the change in lyrical content, Swift’s vocals manage to come off being both sweet and haunting, and the simplistic melody is absolutely lovely. The track is easily one of the album’s standouts.
Kid Cudi goes hard in the rap/rock song, “The Ruler and the Killer”. The music is appropriately scary, with lots of heavy drums and electric guitars, which fits in perfectly in a movie about children killing one another. The Arcade Fire opens with a ethereal track titled “Abraham’s Daughter”, and due to airy female vocalist Regine Chassagne leading the track, it doesn’t even sound like the Arcade Fire we all know. It’s not a bad thing, however- the medieval-sounding song is a strong opener for the album.
One of my favorite musicians, Glen Hansard (whom you may know from the movie/soundtrack Once), performs a rock song called “Take The Heartland”. This is probably the hardest I’ve ever heard Mr. Hansard rock; usually he’s all acoustic guitar and piano, but this frenzied number makes me want to form a mosh pit. Meanwhile, Maroon 5 is nearly unrecognizable in the song, “Come Away To The Water”. Of course, it’s hard to misplace Adam Levine’s distinctive vocals, but the style is unlike anything Maroon 5 has ever done as a band – it’s less danceable rock/pop, and has more of a folk/rock, almost bluegrass feel. Singer Rozzi Crane lends her vocals to the track, and her and Levine sound very pleasant together, making for an interesting piece.
I’d never heard of the bluegrass band Punch Brothers prior to this album, but “Dark Days” has been stuck in my head since the moment I heard it. The instrumentation here (oh, those mandolins!) sets a soft, melancholy mood, which fits in perfectly with the quiet harmonizing from the lead vocalists. The track is definitely one of those that you’ll listen to a few times without much notice, but the chorus, in particular, will find its way back to you while you’re humming at work later that day.
Despite all the buzz surrounding her, I’d also never heard of fifteen-year-old Birdy, whom closes the album with the ballad “Just A Game”. I was absolutely sold on her and her talent within hearing the first minute of the song (quite literally), and immediately sought out her debut album. It’s definitely her stunning vocals which make this particular track- the ballad itself is pretty substandard and forgettable, but Birdy’s beautiful voice takes over the melody and I found myself focusing on her unique vocals more than anything else.
Whether you’re a fan of The Hunger Games, or still wondering if it’s a movie about playing a game where you starve to death, I’m sure you’ll find something to like here. The mix of folk-rock/indie music is brilliant, and I’m quite impressed with all the collaborations and the overall quality of the release. If this first disc is any indication, I’m beyond excited to hear the following movie soundtracks as the rest of the films are released.