The Key’s Year-End Mania: Fred Knittel’s top five soundtracks of 2012

Photo by Laura Jane Brubaker

For The Key’s year-in-review, we asked our trusted sources – our writers and photographers, XPN’s on-air staff, fellow bloggers in the Philly scene and even a few musicians – to send us their Top Five Whatevers. Could be the traditional music route – albums, songs, concerts of the year – or it could be only loosely connected. We’ll be sharing these recaps every day through to the end of the year. Today, Folkadelphia host Fred Knittel recaps his five favorite film soundtracks of the year. Click on the titles to hear them on Spotify.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

  • Written & directed by Stephen Chbosky
  • Soundtrack featuring The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, David Bowie, New Order, and more.

I will fully admit to having never read this now classic teenage book of adolescent awkwardness, awakening, and discovery. While my peers were following Charlie’s story, I was probably unearthing the Smiths’ Strangeways, Here We Come cassette tape in my parents’ garage which forever changed my own personal musical trajectory.  Of course now, watching the film, I was struck by the near universality of constructing your individuality with music as the cornerstone (and, I swear, it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Morrissey).  This is all to say that the Perks of Being a Wallflower OST is an absolute blast of nostalgia and solid ‘80s and ’90s jams. The movie syncs these dreamy tracks with equally dreamy images of youth and love. I felt a tear or two well up (no, there was something in my eye!)

Rodriguez – Searching for Sugar Man

  • Directed by Malik Bendjelloul
  • Soundtrack featuring original songs by Rodriguez

I felt pretty ignorant after hearing the soundtrack to Searching for Sugar Man (something I did before actually even seeing the documentary). I could not believe that I had somehow glossed over a songwriter with seemingly equal poignancy to Bob Dylan and recorded with the absolute best backing band.  After viewing the film, it turns out that I was not alone and, in fact, the entire world, save South Africa, essentially overlooked Rodriguez. He’s finally getting his due particularly through the exposure from the release of the film. If you have not yet heard Rodriguez or seen the film, go do so now!

A Late Quartet

  • Directed by Yaron Zilberman
  • Soundtrack featuring an original score by Angelo Badalamenti and Bretano String Quartet performing Beethoven’s Op. 131

The title of the movie A Late Quartet draws from the major musical focal plot point of the film- Beethoven’s Op. 131, one of the composer’s late period string quartets, completed in 1826 and considered a true masterpiece. The title of the film can also be applied to the movie’s quartet of musicians, acted by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken, and Mark Ivanir, who fall into a professional and personal crisis after Walken’s character is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The most satisfying part of the film is that the Beethoven string quartet and the film’s thematic arc start to mirror each other, creating a synergistic effect of drama and tenseness instilled by this chamber drama. Add to this Angelo Badalamenti’s emotionally charged score (yes, yes, the same Angelo Badalamenti that worked on all of that David Lynch’s films), and we have some serious heartstrings being pulled, plucked, and played.

Sound of My Voice

  • Directed by Zal Batmanglij
  • Soundtrack featuring an original score by Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend) and songs by Hot Chip and The Cranberries (kind of).

Sound of My Voice, directed by Zal Bamanglij and scored by his brother (and Vampire Weekend member) Rostam Batmanglij, may have been a movie that you missed in 2012. Now is the perfect time to visit this indie-scale drama that continually keeps you asking questions long after the film ends. It’s maybe about cults, it could be about time traveling, it might involve the hunt for fugitives. Actors Christopher Dunham and Nicole Vicius, who play Peter and Lorna, decide to expose underground cult figure Maggie, played by Brit Marling, through investigative journalism and documenting their experiences. Instead they are drawn deeper in the fold and mystery when Maggie reveals she is from the future, sent back, a la La Jetee or Twelve Monkeys style to warn the past (which is our present). Throughout the film, we hear the moody and thrilling score from R. Batmanglij, Brit’s rendition of “Dreams” by the Cranberries, and the electro-pop Hot Chip to take us to the credits with feelings of wonderment and unknowingness. Stream this one sooner than later!

Cosmopolis

  • Written & Directed by David Cronenberg, Source material by Don DeLillo
  • Soundtrack featuring an original score by Howard Shore & Metric (and K’Naan)

By all accounts, Cosmopolis is a weird movie; Robert Pattinson (yes, that Robert Pattinson from the Twilight saga) plays a young, disaffected, billionaire asset manager, who takes his limo across midtown Manhattan in order to get a haircut. That’s essentially the plot of the movie. Throughout the drive, bizarre, disorienting, sexual, visceral, violent, shocking, and nearly random encounters and experiences occur, mostly in the back of R Pat’s limo. All throughout, we are presented with a collaborative soundtrack featuring top tier movie scorer Howard Shore and Canada’s Metric. The effect is that the music alternates between cold-as-the-soul-of-the-city sharpness and dance-your-butt-off-in-the-back-of-your-stretch-limo intensity. The film may not have fully succeeded as a new Cronenberg classic, the soundtrack certainly is worth your time.