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Happy Hunger Games!

November 23, 2013

Hey Folks!

Happy Hunger Games! Well “Catching Fire” is out now and it’s good. Real Good. As in once again I am strongly temped to get a tattoo of J-Law covering my entire back…but, ahem. Enough of this silliness. Go see the friggin’ movie.  Also apparently J-Law wears a wig to play Katniss? Whoda thunk it. Looks so natural. Wow, I digress.

Go See this movie.

Go See this movie.

With Catching Fire out and about in theaters, it’s time to spend time reflecting on the film’s equally anticipated soundtrack album. Well, if by “soundtrack” we mean “songs inspired by” cause the only time you’re going to hear ANY of these songs is the credits.  Sadly, my dear readers, I have been remiss and have NOT gotten my hands on a copy of a Hunger Games 2 soundtrack yet.  I know. Bill me. I will say that from what I’ve heard, it seems like a solid collection. The Lumineers in particular grabbed my attention during the film’s end credits with “Gale Song.” Say what you will about this Folky suspender wearing crew, The Lumineers can pop out simple, amazing, 3-4 chord folk-lite explosions with a charming simplicity that makes you angry that you didn’t write it first. But you didn’t, and you won’t, because the Lumineers are much better song writers than you. Their gift is making it seem crazy easy.  Coldplay’s much ballyhooed return to music with “Atlas” gets the coveted “first song on the credits” slot, and I have to say it didn’t sum up my emotional experience of watching the movie like Arcade Fire’s ominous “Abraham’s Daughter” did with film one. This is all just first initial gut reaction though. I’ll report back when I have given it all more of a listen.  I would like to use our time together today to journey back a year ago and look at “The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond,” the companion album to Katniss’s first big screen adventure.

We can say a lot of things about the Twilight film franchise can’t we? Most of them would be negative, and all of them would be pretty funny.  The negative comments would be most likely witty, and the positive comments would be hilarious because it would indicate that people were taking those movies seriously.  But say what you will about the cinematic exploits of Bella and her Blood Sucking Beau, those films had GREAT soundtracks.

Just…Don't. Spare yourselves.

Just…Don’t. Spare yourselves.

Seriously. Radiohead, Florence + The Machine, Death Cab for Cutie, Bon Iver, The Black Keys, heck even the freaking Dead Weather contributed songs to those films, and that really is just hitting the tip of  of the iceberg. Those soundtracks were really the only way I got through all those movies (Yeah I did watch all those movies…sorry couldn’t help myself). I respected that the music supervisor had such cultivated taste, and I really loved that those films probably served as springboards to get a lot of youngsters into some GREAT artists that they probably would never have found all out on their lonesome. The idea that there’s some tweens out there rocking out to “Horehound” because they heard The Dead Weather via Twilight just warms my lil’ ol’ heart.

So anyway bear with me on all of this. You’re all thinking, “what about the hunger games!?” My point is that Twilight set a rocking standard for cool  soundtracks with pop culture movies for the ’00s.  The gauntlet was thrown so to speak. So just as Hunger Games followed in the footsteps of Twilight and Potter in terms of beloved pop culture books set to screen, so the original Hunger Games soundtrack had to measure up to the standard set by Twilight…Really, the ONLY standard set by TWILIGHT.

While “The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond” doesn’t try to fit any of their songs into the film (unlike Twilight which is almost hilarious in it’s attempt to cram ALL those songs into a 2 hour movie) the soundtrack does authentically feel like it falls under the Hunger Games umbrella due to the fact that the songs for the most part lyrically and sonically feel like they belong there. The largely rootsy mandolin (chris thile) driven score for film one matches up nicely with the vibe of this collection of songs.

Listen to it. All of It.

Listen to it. All of It.

And what a collection it is. One of my fav things about this record is how elegantly “Songs from District 12 and Beyond” blends a mixture of  hipster indie royalty (Arcade Fire, The Decemberists) with unabashed top 40 acts (Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert). Also thrown in are some amazing artists that are not as well known by most folk in general but really should be (The Secret Sisters, The Punch Brothers, The Punch Brothers).  That was not a typo folks, that fact that The Punch Brothers get some love on this collection makes me quite happy (Just to clarify my terms, by “quite happy” I mean that I made a modest bon fire in my back yard and I am dancing around it with my face painted…just to clarify).  This marriage of artist from all levels of obscurity is best shown on  the excellent “Safe & Sound” a truly achingly beautiful song delivered by the unlikely pairing of T-Swift and The Civil Wars.  On paper does that marriage make sense? It really shouldn’t, but that’s what I love about this soundtrack! They pull it off. Neko Case on the same record as Maroon 5? Take a listen to the haunting folk of “Come Away To The Water” and tell me if that is not the biggest curve ball Adam Levine and co. have ever thrown.  This record was made to sell copies and make money, to chisel even more dough out of the lucrative Hunger Games franchise, but the fact is when I listen to it…I don’t think about that. I think about the film. I listen to a collection of songs that genuinely feel like they are part of a cohesive whole. The album feels like one statement, and that statement honestly does feel tied to “The Hunger Games.”  What more could I ask?

I’ll leave you all with three of my fav songs from “District 12.”  Three gems that didn’t make it into the film’s credits and may have fallen through the cracks of time and your musical intake in general:

1. “Nothing to Remember” Neko Case https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uowO83ruvGg

This veteran alt country master weighs in with this dreamy yet subdued lil’ number.  On first listen, it seems perhaps a little too cheery for a film about children and teens killing each other for the viewing pleasure of the masses, however on closer listen the lyrics get into the head of a character overwhelmed with life, giving it all they can to just survive…sound familiar? If you like this please check out her newest album “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You”

2. “Dark Days” Punch Brothers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTAVqDmfgPM

That “thumping” you hear is bassist Paul Kowert striking his upright bass with his fist.  Punch Brothers deliver a chilling tune which is warmed by some great guest girl harmonies (It’s The Secret Sisters!!) Chris Thile is a  huge book nerd, so you better believe he did his home work and the song feels perfectly at home in the Hunger Games universe. If you dig, I HIGHLY suggest any one of their albums. Seriously. A good place to start is the latest release “Who’s Feeling Young Now?”

3. “Take The Heartland” Glen Hansard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRDctgw5TNQ

Now we’re getting into some amazing stuff. Glen Hansard just doesn’t sing, he can freakin’ howl better than pretty much anyone around these day (“Say It To Me Now” anyone?) Glen RAGES on “Take The Heartland.” When he sings “I’m gonna find my knife and run it through those stitches/Throw my friends down in the ditches before they even know/what I’ve come here for” you believe it, and you want Glen’s friends to look out.

So there you have it friends,

I’m a year late but them’s be my thoughts on “The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond.” It’s worth a listen if I do say so myself.  While you are at it, scoot over to the theater and enjoy Catching Fire. It’s worth it.

I swear they are not paying me off or anything….

….I just really liked the movie.

not that I wouldn’t say no to some money.

well peace out good people of the world,

Peter Winter

Just don't touch my record collection…..

Just don’t touch my record collection…..

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