A mindblowing compilation, be it a film soundtrack or not, must follow mixtape protocol: it should be lovingly crafted, sequenced with scarily perfectionist care and should expose you to something new and wonderful. ‘Juno’ ticks the boxes both as a companion to the movie and as an album in its own glorious right: it’s easily one of the best soundtracks since ‘Trainspotting’.
The collection judges the mood of its movie so perfectly that the songs are never add-ons as on those omnipresent, hideous “music from and inspired by” shelf-fillers. Here are tracks hand-picked by music fans for music fans who are watching a film that’s basically about, well, music fans. Consequently, it’s thoughtful where it could have been patronising. Take Sonic Youth’s Carpenters cover ‘Superstar’, which one character plays to another by way of a hasty indie-rock education. Or Belle & Sebastian’s ‘Expectations’, the ‘Tigermilk’-era tale of a young misfit at school, “making lifesize models of the Velvet Underground in clay”.
The Velvets themselves show up with the Moe Tucker-sung oddity ‘I’m Sticking With You’. The song’s nursery rhyme lyrics(“I’m sticking with you/’Cos I’m made out of glue”) sit perfectly with the film’s outsider shtick. As if that wasn’t enough, Tucker’s vocals are the perfect vehicle to express Juno’s C-86 persona.
If that’s all just a little too knowingly indie-cool, it’s balanced out with a few classics like The Kinks (‘A Well Respected Man’) and Buddy Holly (‘Dearest’). There’s a bit in the film where Juno discovers a long-lost song. It turns out to be Mott The Hoople’s ‘All The Young Dudes’. And that’s what being a teenage music fan is all about.
A little warning: there are two definitive tracks here and they’ll be around for as long as everyone’s talking about the film; given its Oscar nomination, that could be a pretty long time.
The first is Cat Power’s ‘Sea Of Love’, originally from ‘The Covers Record’. In the movie it plays over a scene that promises to send even the hardest hearts into tearduct meltdown and out of context it’s equally touching.
The second is The Moldy Peaches’ ‘Anyone Else But You’. The popularity is such that the reunited twosome have been touting it on US breakfast TV. Its mix of lovely gibberish and spiky sentimentality has found a lasting home here and is bringing the band to a whole new audience who didn’t necessarily pick up on the beautiful chaos of two anti-folksters in animal costumes the first time around.
You get its original form and a cover by the two lead characters – it’s never more than a novelty, sure, but as novelties go it’s sweetly blush-inducing.
It’s all about the Peaches, then, but more specifically, it’s all about Kimya Dawson (the one who isn’t Adam Green). She is to Juno what Air are to The Virgin Suicides or what Elliott Smith is to Good Will Hunting. The bulk of the soundtrack is made of songs from her many solo albums after lead actress Ellen Page suggested that she’d be Juno’s favourite musician, which proved to be a perfect pitch. Kimya’s offbeat wordiness (see ‘So Nice So Smart’’s “I like boys with strong convictions and convicts with perfect diction/Underdogs with good intentions, amputees with stamp collections”) sums up the kind of love-hate quirkiness that underlies the movie itself, before laying bare some life lessons on ‘Loose Lips’: “Broken hearts hurt but they make you strong”. Like almost everything here it’s so genuinely full of affection and heart you want to give your stereo a massive hug.
However, for all this talk of what fits where in the film, the significance of Juno the movie ultimately fades to black. You can like it or not. You can pre-book tickets for screening after screening or run screaming to the nearest Will Smith film. You can even just pass it by completely. Regardless, this soundtrack plays out like a mixtape from a friend, and that’s the highest praise of all.