The Music Of Veronica Mars

Soundtrack review

Various Artists
Veronica Mars Original Television Soundtrack (Nettwerk)
by spacecitymarc

[Click here to go to Nettwerk Records' Veronica Mars Soundtrack page, which features clips of all the soundtrack songs.]

If you're a Veronica Mars fan, there's one thing that I need you to do before you listen to the TV soundtrack, and that's put the show out of your mind. Go ahead, just shove real hard until it's out of the way. Until you do, you run the risk of missing how good an album the thing really is. You'll be stuck either reminiscing about the episodes where certain songs were played or trying to imagine how Rob Thomas, the show's creator and de facto music supervisor, plans on using the songs that haven't yet made it to air. So don't think about whether Veronica is the "Ocean City Girl" that Ivy sings about or what situation she'll find herself in that calls for Spoon's "I Turn My Camera On." And don't let your mind drift back to Veronica and Logan's first kiss when Something Happens's "Momentary Thing" is playing or you'll miss what made the song such an inspired choice to begin with. Approached as an exceptionally cool mixtape by that friend who's always a step or two ahead of your music collection, the Veronica Mars soundtrack is an excellent example of how to avoid the pitfalls of assuming that music in a television show or a movie is either inconsequential background material or simply serves to illustrate the action onscreen.

Part of the way it does that is by limiting the number of songs featured on Veronica Mars's first season. Some fans may be howling for blood at the omission of Damone's still-unavailable "Now Is The Time" or the Postal Service's great but admittedly ubiquitous "Such Great Heights" (and may note that there seems to be no room for "Supernatural Supergirl" by Josh Kramon, who's absent here despite being the show's composer), but the album is actually better for it. The show's theme song, the Dandy Warhols' "We Used To Be Friends," is included, of course, as is the neatly dissociative "The Way You Are" by 46bliss. If all you knew of them was what you heard on the show, you're in for a revelation, as the hooks which were placed front and center for maximum impact on television are redistributed to where they were intended to be. That means less instant gratification, but it also makes the songs far more satisfying, with a stronger sense of balance; when the Dandys' chorus does finally hit and when 46bliss's David Cooper finally delivers his "Put yourself in my place" chant, they lock into the songs like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Better still is "Momentary Thing," which is loaded up with ringing guitars, Tom Dunne's pleading vocals and a chorus that practically drowns in its own simple melodicism while resolving the tension set up in the anxious verses.

As for the songs that haven't yet appeared on the show, there's no common theme except for the fact that Thomas happens to like them (so much so that he has admitted that he hasn't yet decided how some of them are going to be used). Unlike other television soundtracks like the turgid Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Album, it's not afflicted with the urge to generate a specific mood at all costs. Instead, it's not only varied (covering acoustic balladry, chillout, disco-beat post-punk and Coldplayesque anthems, among others) but well-programmed; there's a definite sense of movement as former Soul Coughing leader Mike Doughty's twisty, ethereal and insistent "I Hear The Bells" (where the line "You snooze, you lose/Well, I have snost and lost" has about the same effect as a glassful of cold water in the face) shifts into Tegan and Sara's muted and plaintive "I Know, I Know, I Know," while the manic, big-beat "Lust For Life" groove of the Faders' "No Sleep Tonight" gives way to the Stereophonics' alternately thrumming and roaring "Dakota." Whether it's a result of the variety of the songs or the quality of their neighbors, a number of tracks (like "The Way You Are," "Ocean City Girl" and Delays' shimmering "Long Time Coming") actually work better in this context than on their original albums ("I Know, I Know, I Know," on the other hand, was simply overpowered by the more immediately striking material on Tegan and Sara's nifty So Jealous, while Spoon's outstanding Gimme Fiction is worthy of the lockstep "I Turn My Camera On" and vice versa).

The album ends as the first season of the show ended, with Cotton Mather's "Lily Dreams On." Removed from Kon-Tiki, the album it could originally be found on (when the album, an out-of-print cult classic, could be found at all), the psychedelic, Lennonesque ballad gets room to breathe, blossoming into a sweet elegy amongst sympathetic company. "Far from this," sings Robert Harrison, "Lily dreams on," and every ounce of context from the show that I begged you to stave off will come flooding back, no matter how hard you try. That's because it's not limited by the scene it accompanies; in fact, it's enhanced by it, and it in turn enhances the scene, and both become, individually and together, heartbreaking and deeply satisfying in a way that they never would have been otherwise. It's yet another reason why, far from the cheap cash-in that it could have been, the Veronica Mars soundtrack is one of the best albums of its kind.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo! Brava! That was excellent. Loved it.

Have you listened to the Angel Soundtrack? Lots of scores by Robert Kral, but also some very cool songs that were included (and actually sung in) the show.

12:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, great CD!!!

Do you have pix or copies of what went on the liner notes for the people who bought the CD on iTunes??

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought the CD yesterday and have probably listened to it 3 times in my car. My fave song are "I Hear the Bells," "I Know etc" and "No Sleep Tonight," as far as the ones not yet used. I'm glad they included the 46bliss song because that is an AWESOME song, and of course Momentary Thing. I wish they could have included maybe Bloc Party's Tulips or David Garza's Butterflies, but i made my own soundtrack with these songs a long time ago :D. i think my least favorite song on the album is Lily dreams on! apart from what it represented in the story, i just don't like the style of the song.

but, uh, good review.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I take exception to your comment about Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Album, I find what you say about Veronica Mars spot on. Hip and edgy music of what is and what's to come, it is a most excellent addition to anyone's cd collection. In all honesty I bought it (yesterday) for The Faders No Sleep Tonight, but get all the other songs as the most ultimate bonus.

Oh yes, it is an absolute must listen.

Oh, and second about the Angel soundtrack. Very wonderful score music. And bonus songs sung by cast memebers.

12:10 PM  
Blogger NYOne said...

Babsonite, I don't have the CD in front of me at the moment, but there really weren't any liner notes to speak of. There is a small blurb by Rob Thomas, but the one interesting item is that over the photo collage in ghosty white script it says "the long haul". I knew as soon as I saw that it would be important in S2!
I'm loving Dakota, Long Time Coming and Lily Dreams On, but like everything else well enough that it's the only thing I've listened to for a week. Despite the advice given in the review, I stop every single time Momentary Thing comes on, close my eyes and crank the iPod to 11 to relieve the kiss from WoCD, even if for just a second.

12:35 PM  

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