Every successful indie film needs a cool indie music soundtrack. In some cases the choice of tracks or artists involved is so good the music ends up overshadowing the film. In most cases though it acts as the perfect compliment, with independent music showcasing the best of independent cinema. We invite you to pull up some popcorn, settle down in your slightly uncomfortable cinema seats and enjoy Neonfiller.com’s Top Ten Indie Movie Soundtracks.
10. Alex Turner – Submarine
Arctic Monkey Alex Turner’s ballads and pop sensibility proved the perfect match for Submarine (2010), the charming and bittersweet coming of age tale set in coastal Wales in the 1980s. Turner even looks a little like Craig Roberts, the star of the film. This is the shortest soundtrack on our list, with just six tracks, but sometimes less is more. The songs, which are especially written for the film, perfectly encapsulate teenage life and are a far cry from his bombastic work in the Last Shadow Puppets and the increasingly dark rock of the Arctic Monkeys. Among the standout tracks are Hiding Tonight on a soundtrack mini-album that proves Turner has clearly found another fine string in his bow.
9. Velvet Goldmine
Velvet Goldmine is not a great film, in truth it isn’t a very good film at all, but it does have a great glam racket soundtrack. Alongside originals by the likes of Lou Reed, Roxy Music, Shudder to Think, Pulp and T Rex are covers of classic 1970s songs. These are recorded by a range of collaborations (a trick that director Todd Haynes would play again on the soundtrack to I’m Not There, another contender for this list) including two supergroups The Venus In Furs and Wylde Rattz. The English musicians who played under the name The Venus in Furs on the soundtrack were Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, David Gray, Suede’s Bernard Butler, and Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay. The American musicians who played as Curt Wild’s Wylde Ratttz on the soundtrack were The Stooges’ Ron Asheton, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley, Minutemen’s Mike Watt, Gumball’s Don Fleming, and Mark Arm of Mudhoney.
8. James Murphy – Greenberg
LCD Soundsystem main-man James Murphy goes for a lower key piano driven sound on most of his songs for the Ben Stiller film Greenberg. The result is a soundtrack that is much more engaging than the film it was taken from and more interesting than the LCD Soundsystem album of the same year. There are some uber-cool tracks by Galaxie 500, The Sonics, Albert Hammond and Duran Duran (the excellent ‘The Chauffeur’) amongst others but it is Murphy’s tunes and songs that make this stand out. His LCD Soundsystem work showed what a sophisticated songwriter he is but these tracks reveal a level a Laurel Canyon sound that is a refreshing change from his typical New York coolness.
7. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou was the forth Wes Anderson film to feature a soundtrack produced by Devo front-man Mark Mothersbaugh. In addition to his music, and ‘Gut Feeling’ by Devo themselves, are a number of well chosen songs by the likes of Scott Walker, The Zombies and, in particular, David Bowie. What makes the soundtrack stand out are the contributions of one of the film’s stars Seu George. In his songs, played diegetically in the movie, are brilliant Portuguese language versions of some of Bowie’s best loved tracks.
6. Away we go – Alexi Murdoch
Scottish folk musician Alexi Murdoch soft vocals and intricate guitar playing proved a perfect match for 2009 romantic comedy Away we go, directed by Sam Mendes and written by Dave Eggers. The soundtrack features nine Murdoch tracks, all beautifully echoing the likes of John Martyn and Nick Drake and supplemented by a few classics as well, including The Stranglers’ Golden Brown and George Harrison’s What Is Life. Orange Sky, from Murdoch’s 2003 Four Songs EP is among many highlights.
5. Clint Mansell – Moon
This soundtrack stands out on our list in that it doesn’t contain any indie songs, or any songs at all for that matter. However, it was written and performed by the former pineapple headed lead singer of so-so grebos Pop Will Eat Itself. A career of average singles with the midlands indie act was the surprising foundation for a second career composing award winning soundtracks for critically acclaimed films. The majority of his soundtracks have been for Darren Aronofksy films, but his finest hour was the soundtrack for Duncan “Zowie Bowie” Jones’ debut feature Moon. The music is incredibly atmospheric and the perfect accompaniment for the story of lonely Lunar Industries employee Sam Bell.
4. Belle and Sebastian – Storytelling
Happiness director Tood Solandz’s Storytelling, with its two part premise of ‘fiction’, ‘non-fiction’ involving disability and high school life, got a rollicking from most critics. The Belle and Sebastian soundtrack on the other hand is a work of genius in comparison. While not enough to save this movie from the bargain bin this soundtrack takes pride of place on our shelves through its careful instrumental score and piano ballads. It’s actually a fairly decent Belle and Sebastian album as well, especially the tracks Wandering Alone and Big John Shaft, but sadly overlooked due to the film’s sour reputation.
3. Jon Brion – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Jon Brion has had a pretty impressive career, but most people will be unfamiliar with his name. The former Jellyfish guitarist has worked with Kanye West, Evan Dando, Aimee Mann, Of Montreal, Best Coast and (ahem) Keane as a musician and a producer. He will probably be best known for his soundtrack work which includes Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, I Heart Huckabeees and, our personal favourite, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. His downbeat instrumentals, including a beautifully mournful theme, are the perfect accompaniment to the film. The addition of songs by ELO, The Polyphonic Spree and Beck (covering The Korgi’s ‘Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes’) make this a very special musical set.
Kimya Dawson and the twee poetry folk of Antsy Pantsy take the lion’s share of tracks on this mother of indie soundtracks, helping this heart warming tale of teenage pregnancy to become one of the biggest grossing indie movies of all time. Indie music interweaves in the plot too with Jason Bateman’s aged indie-kid’s taste in the likes of Sonic Youth dismissed by the teenage central character played by Ellen Page, who prefers the innocence and warmth of Mott the Hoople’s All The Young Dudes, which along with Sonic Youth’s version of The Carpenters’ Superstar, features here. Belle and Sebastian also get a couple of tracks, including the excellent Piazza, New York Catcher from Dear Catastrophe Waitress.
Back in 1996 the soundtrack to Irvine Welsh’s tale of drug abuse in Scotland was everywhere. For us it’s impossible to hear the likes of Underworld’s Born Slippy, Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life and PF Project’s Choose Life, featuring the film’s lead Ewen McGregor, without traveling back to that time. The music was so integral that two soundtracks were released. For us there has been no better combination of music and film, on a pair of soundtracks that successfully manage to mix a group of artists as diverse as Lou Reed, New Order, Heaven 17 and Fun Boy Three and still sound cool.
Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers.