ACTIVATE OLD MAN RANT MODE:
Back in the day, soundtracks used to be important. They used to mean something, man. Think about movies like Purple Rain, Top Gun, Dirty Dancing or Heavy Metal… without their soundtracks, those movies lose a lot. And soundtracks to films like The Bodyguard and Saturday Night Fever were so well put-together that they'd end up best-selling albums. That's something that very rarely happens anymore.
But, my friends, there is good news. The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond is important. Or, it is at least very, very, very, very good.
The producers of the upcoming Hunger Games movie absolutely went above and beyond the call of duty when assembling this 16-track record that seems designed to be loved. There are two main talent pools represented here: 1) indie bands that everybody loves to love (Arcade Fire, the Decemberists, the Civil Wars) and 2) country/folk acts embracing their roots. It's kind of a weird mish-mash, but it's totally awesome, sure to delight both fans of the book and serious music-lovers who've never heard of The Hungry Games or you know whatever they're called (yes, those people exist, and yes, we should pity them). Bottom line, this record has serious cred.
Here's what you're in for:
1. Arcade Fire—"Abraham's Daughter"
These indie darlings contribute a creepier, more spacey-sounding track than we're used to from them to kick off the record. It's good stuff, though, and flows pretty naturally from a few of the songs on their last record, The Suburbs.
2. Secret Sisters—"Tomorrow Will Be Kinder"
This country music duo sets the folky tone that pervades the rest of the record with a very pretty, delicate and classical-sounding tune. We think there may be a harp in the background, which is awesome.
3. Neko Case—"Nothing to Remember"
Here's a mid-to-uptempo ballad from indie folk star Neko Case that's essential listening for any fans of hers.
4. Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars—"Safe and Sound"
This collaboration between one of pop/country music's biggest acts and a highly acclaimed folk group is probably the soundtrack's breakout tune. It features surprisingly sensitive singing from Taylor and is just a great collaboration all around. Check it out below!
5. Kid Cudi—"The Ruler and The Killer"
The Hunger Games soundtrack's only foray into hip hop is this edgy track, which features thunderous drums and sharp guitars, almost like an industrial Led Zeppelin. It's a big shift from the rest of the record, but a welcome one.
6. Punch Brothers—"Dark Days"
Hey, bluegrass! You can see more classical country/folk influence here in this slightly more upbeat roots track.
7. The Decemberists—"One Engine"
The Rock Solid podcast called this song, another single from the album, "indie chase music." It has a more intense edge than most Decemberists songs, but once singer Colin Meloy starts in, there's no mistaking who this is. Check out the track right here!
8. The Carolina Chocolate Drops—"Daughter's Lament"
One of the more unknown bands on this soundtrack, this group is a "classical string band" that won a Grammy in 2010 for "Best Traditional Folk Album." This song's pretty much vocals-only except for some background noise, but it's very moody and cool.
9. The Civil Wars—"Kingdom Come"
Here's a classic Civil Wars track with a bit of a heavier twist; it's got some real mean-sounding drums.
10. Glen Hansard—"Take the Heartland"
If you know Glen from his songs in the movie Once, this song is gonna come as a surprise. It's very heavy, angry and desperate, kind of channeling a hard-rock Bruce Springsteen. It's probably the record's second-best track just for how unexpected it is.
11. Maroon 5 & Rozzi Crane—"Come Away to the Water"
FYI, Rozzi Crane is the first artist signed to Adam Levine's record label, so this collaboration makes sense. It's a quieter, more airy song than you might expect from Maroon 5, but Adam and Rozzi's vocals blend nicely together.
12. Miranda Lambert & Pistol Annies—"Run Daddy Run"
One of the coolest things about this soundtrack is how it takes modern country artists and makes them sing old-school style country songs. Here's a great example of that.
13. Jayme Dee—"Rules"
Jayme Dee's kind of a like a less country, more soulful Taylor Swift. Here she turns in a slow, sensitive and catchy ballad.
14. Taylor Swift—"Eyes Open"
Taylor's second addition to this soundtrack has, like, zero country in it. It's a fairly heavy rock track (think a Foo Fighters ballad) that sounds like an end credits, "walking out of a theater" kind of a song. Again Taylor surprises with her vocal chops.
15. The Low Anthem—"Lover is Childlike"
This is a nice, relaxing indie folk track that provides a good comedown after Taylor. It's kind of a snoozer, maybe, but not bad.
16. Birdy—"Just a Game"
The album's closed out by this English singer's sparse piano ballad. She's kind of got a Lana Del Rey vibe, but without the warbly vocals.
The soundtrack just came out today, and you can get it in stores or online, or you can listen to the whole thing for free on Spotify.
What are your favorite/least favorite songs?