Musically speaking, TV and film “soundtrackese” is a language unto its own. Neither straight mix tape nor score, if a production deigns to show its musical language to the consumer at large, the compilation has to be both a mirror of the show (in this case) and a self-contained musical universe. Or, in the case of this collection, a little corner of the world.
Music from Gilmore Girls succeeds wildly on both counts. There’s been no shortage of ink spilled already about the show’s spot-on use of pop-music-as-the-sound track-to-our-lives. So we’ll spare you and affirm that this collection of cuts captures the essence of this underdog, small-screen gem’s romance, realism and mitigated melancholy.
The litmus test of whether your own bittersweet romance factor is high enough to dig in comes right away here. After a bit of bumper jangle by Sam Phillips, we are launched directly into Joey Ramone’s affectionate take on “What a Wonderful World.” The ïptimism,” though, is immediately undermined by Black Box Recorder’s darkly ironic “Child Psychology” (choice lyric: “Life is unfair/kill yourself or get over it”). The Phillips snippets recur to sort of clear the mood palate before the next serving of song. For my money, the centerpiece (or main course, if you must accept my hackneyed metaphor) of the record is the Pernice Brothers’ sublime “Clear Spot.” The song is like wallowing your way out of self-pity, both seamlessly bleak and gilded with hope. Detroit’s Slumber Party — experts at creating delicious, whispered melancholy — get a major label bump here with “I Don’t Mind.” Elsewhere, XTC’s “The Man Who Murdered Love” bounces along with requisite irony and riffage. Elastica’s “Car Song” is resurrected in this good company as a fantastic bit of throwaway Britpop. Big Star joins the fray with its classic take on youthful ennui, “Thirteen.” (Then again, doesn’t “classic take on ennui” describe the entire Big Star catalog?) On their tracks, Björk flits into the porch light and Polly Harvey dims it. And so it goes, over the course of 20 flights and dives of musical fancy. A joy ride and a good cry and lots of huffs in between.
E-mail Chris Handyside at firstname.lastname@example.org.