Monday, December 19, 2011

WE BOUGHT A ZOO Soundtrack Review: The Sigur Ros/Jonsi Mixtape You've Been Waiting For

Javi here returning with another soundtrack review. This time we have the soundtrack for the new Cameron Crowe wanna-be feel good movie, WE BOUGHT A ZOO, starring one Matt Damon. I have not been particularly interested in this movie, mostly because of how prominent Scarlett Johanson seems to be in the marketing, and she drives me up the wall. Regardless, the soundtrack was put together by Sigur Ros singer/solo artist Jonsi (pronounced Jonesy), which had a lot of people who usually don't care about Cameron Crowe movies very excited.

Hit the jump for the full review.
So just to give a bit of background on Jonsi and Sigur Ros, they are a "very" "popular"(among the hip and happenin' hipster crowd) Icelandic band that just HAS to draw the unimaginative comparisons to fellow Icelandic artist, Bjork. For those not in the know, most of their music is very mellow, dreamy, and rather spacey in the most delicate of ways. I seriously think of a tiny teacup pig every time I hear a Sigur Ros album because their music is that soft and delicate. Jonsi, as a solo artist, is more of an upbeat and hopeful sound, like that nonsense that U2 tries to throw at audiences, but difference is that Jonsi succeeds. So what does the WE BOUGHT A ZOO soundtrack sound like? It's just an underwhelming version of both of these sounds.

The soundtrack is a relatively short at around 54 minutes, and it's mostly packed with more straight up Jonsi songs than instrumental tracks. This isn't a bad thing really since the Jonsi songs are some of the better songs on the album. The songs We Bought A Zoo and Atvin Endar  are interesting in that they have the feel of a happy and poppy Jonsi song with a bit more theatrics added on top such as strings and other instruments. Another highlight for me was Gathering Stories with its beautiful instrumentation and textures. I think that might be one of my favorite songs of this past year.

Unfortunately, if we are looking at this soundtrack as a complete package and something that you are expected to pay, it is a complete disappointment in how many older Sigur Ros solo tracks are in this soundtrack. Out of the 15 songs, only four of the longer ones,  Boy Lilikoi, Go Do, Hoppipolla and Sinking Friends, are not directly taken from other albums. I'm not exactly sure what the whole point of doing that was. Are they trying to appeal to unassuming masses by giving us a collection of random Sigur Ros/Jonsi songs? Because as someone who actually knows this music, I find myself regretting the $7 MP3 download of the soundtrack. I already have almost half of these songs, so why would I want them again?

WE BOUGHT A ZOO is a fine enough soundtrack. It's interesting to hear how Jonsi veered ever so slightly from the familiar territory he treads so well. The inclusion of a few familiar older tracks is a distraction that took me out of the flow of the album. It just doesn't stand well enough on its own to the album's detriment. I'd say, if you do want to buy it, check out iTunes and just buy individual tracks.

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