A sweet, satisfying set of 23 covers of songs from the director's films
With this year’s exquisite The Grand Budapest Hotel landing straight in among his finest work, the cult of Wes Anderson continues to grow. In the tradition of all truly iconic directors, the 44-year-old Texan’s skill lies in the atmospheres he creates on screen, and the fact that they are almost instantly recognisable as being by him. There have been entire Tumblr sites dedicated to his aesthetically satisfying use of colour palettes and YouTube compilations made of his dedication to symmetry, so it makes sense that the musical world of Wes should finally receive its own tribute.
The title of the compilation, ‘I Saved Latin!’ is a reference to high school romantic Max Fischer’s crowning achievement in 1998’s Rushmore. Spread across two discs, there are 23 cover versions of songs that have appeared at various important moments in Anderson’s nine films. Reflecting the director’s indie-ness, the vast majority of the artists are relatively underground, and often very cool; there are appearances from Throwing Muses’ Kristin Hersh, the Minutemen’s Mike Watt – performing ‘Street Fighting Man’ with his new band The Secondmen – and Juliana Hatfield, formerly of Boston alt. rockers Blake Babies (of whom Evan Dando is also an alumni).
That the collection has avoided casting glitzy A-listers lends it an element of discovery. It’s often easier to recognise the scenes the songs are taken from than the artists, which makes it feel like you’re being introduced to someone who shares a common interest.
From Rushmore is ‘Here Comes My Baby’ – originally by Cat Stevens, – tackled by female-fronted Seattle trio the Tea Cozies, who keep the chipper bounce of the original, but give it an unpolished, Vivian Girls-like quality that reflects the film’s youthful naivety. Texan psych-pop band Tele Novella’s take on The Velvet Underground’s ‘Stephanie Says’, meanwhile, is a gorgeous, doe-eyed version that perfectly brings to mind The Royal Tenenbaums’ fragile and damaged family, while John Lennon’s classic ‘Oh Yoko!’ is performed by Philadelphian bedroom musician The Ghost In You, whose stripped-back, sweetly acoustic rendition couldn’t be more quintessentially Wes if it tried.
Perhaps best of all is Hatfield’s cover of Elliott Smith’s heartbreaking ‘Needle In The Hay’ – previously played out over Luke Wilson’s suicide attempt in …Tenenbaums. It’s a track so integral to the hugely affecting scene that Hatfield’s plaintive version brings all the emotions flooding straight back. But, irrespective of the cinematic tie-ins, ‘I Saved Latin!’ is – from the sprightly trills of ‘Margaret Yang’s Theme’ to Generationals’ swaggering version of The Creations’ ‘Making Time’ to Santah’s Spanish cover of Bowie’s ‘Five Years’ – a great listen in its own right. Cohesive and pleasingly idiosyncratic, it tugs on your heartstrings in the sweetest of ways – just like the films themselves.