"Juno" is the little indie movie that could, for this year -- an enchantingly witty story about a teenage girl who gets pregnant, and the smart decisions she has to make for everyone's sakes.
It's a smart, sweet, poignantly funny little movie, and that gets echoed in the "Juno" soundtrack. Like many a soundtrack over the past few years, it's got a great assortment of artists -- everything from classic rockers to Scottish mope-popsters. It's a warm folky little affair that leaves you with a wistful little smile at the end.
"If I was a flower growing wild and free/all I'd want is you to be my sweet honeybee/And if I was a tree growing tall and green/all I'd want is you to shade me and be my leaves," Barry Louis Polisar warbles over a strummed guitar and spurts of harmonica. For the record, this kind of music usually gives me hives, but the cheerful, fun flavour of it somehow made it palatable.
After a "doo-doo-doo" interlude by Kimya Dawson, the soundtrack bounces into the sprightly Kinks tune "A Well Respected Man." From there, the soundtrack slips smoothly into a series of folky pop tunes -- Buddy Holly's mellow "Dearest," a Mateo Messina song that is basically one minute of strummed guitar, Cat Power's poignant little folk ballad, Antsy Pants' bouncy little pop tunes ("I am a vampire! I am a vampire!"), and the Moldy Peaches' countryish "Anyone Else But You."
Kimya Dawson is the overpowering influence in this soundtrack -- including the "doo-doo-doo" interlude, she contributes five songs of rambling, quirky pop ("I was quiet as a mouse/when I snuck into your house/and smoked roofies with your spouse..."). But there are some more rock'n'roll moments -- the ringing fuzz-folk of Sonic Youth, Belle and Sebastian's trumpety guitarpop, and the Velvet Underground's romantic, gentle pianopop tune "I'm Sticking With You."
And there's a sweet little epilogue to this -- stars Ellen Page and Michael Cera sing a cute little lo-fi duet at the end ("You're a part time lover/and a full time friend..." "Here is the church/and here is the steeple/we sure are cute for two ugly people"). It's as adorable as their onscreen relationship.
A lot of movies -- both major films and little bitty ones -- have indie-rock soundtracks now, usually mingling old favorites with newer bands and artists. But the "Juno" soundtrack is a bit different from the average soundtrack -- it relies on the songs meshing together into a tapestry of folkpop, rather than a string of solid, individual songs.
Most of the songs mostly rely on acoustic guitar -- they can be sprightly, quirky, flickering, countryish, mellow, lazy, caressing or vaguely Spanishy. But some of these artists mix in trumpets, piano, drums, ringing electric guitar and in one Kimya Dawson song, a whistle. And the Mott the Hoople song "All The Young Dudes" has a soaring organ/keyboard combo that really stands out among the softer songs.
And these songs are good choices for other reasons -- Polisar's voice is rather nasal, but the others tend to be mellow and rich. And the song lyrics range from clever ("Your obsessions get you known throughout the school for being strange/Making life-size models of the Velvet Underground in clay") to sweet ("So if you wanna burn yourself/Remember that I love you!/And if you wanna cut yourself/Remember that I love you!").
The soundtrack for "Juno" is a lot like the movie -- sweet, witty and heartwarming. And whether you've seen the film or not, it's definitely worth hearing.