Saturday, December 17, 2011

Album Review: Jonsi - We Bought A Zoo Soundtrack

Album Rating: B-
Icelandic singer/songwriter, and overall musical icon, Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson, has been a busy man over the course of the last few years.  While touring with his main act, Sigur Ros, Jonsi started a little side project which allowed him to expand his “poppier”, more whimsical sensibilities, yet still retaining a certain ethereal flare.  The man has always attempted to imbue a sense of “magic” into his music that tapped into a child-like wonder that comes off a wholly pure and majestic, but his solo project has seen him go beyond anything he’s ever done with Sigur Ros.  With the soundtrack to We Bought a Zoo, Jonsi has further compounded his jovial new direction, and made a lively, interesting record in the process.

When Jonsi traveled to meet with the director of the movie, he arrived with a toy keyboard and a bevy of ideas.  Not surprising, considering the playful, creative nature of Go, his debut solo effort.  Director Cameron Crow and his crew had Jonsi’s music on repeat during the creation of the film, and it is said that the music permeated the entirety of the film, right down to the set designs.  While this may come off as a bit heavy handed, it says a lot about the importance of Jonsi’s musical contribution to the movie’s soundtrack.

We Bought A Zoo is just as one might expect: bright, gleeful, and chock full of that patented Jonsi “magic.”  The moving simplicity of “Why Not,” coupled with subtle keys and soft, comforting atmosphere make it lovely opener.  It sets the stage for some of Jonsi’s most relaxed pieces of his solo career.  Strings, crooning falcetto, and playful percussion all wax and wane throughout the soundtrack’s duration, and more times than not make for a very easy, and very “pretty” listen.  The title track comes to mind, as it has the essential components of a basic Jonsi song, sans the chipper pop aesthetic.  It’s somewhat reminiscent of his days with Sigur Ros, and it is easily one of the more captivating songs on the entire record.  Sadly, many of the songs go by completely unnoticed.  After a few listens, it’s difficult to remember much of the soundtrack’s 14 selections.  While they aren’t inherently terrible, it’s clear they were intended to be stripped down songs to fit in the confines of a film.

The soundtrack’s most unlikable feature, however, comes in the form of several re-used tracks from Jonsi’s past recordings.  In the grand scheme of things, they don’t exactly fit well with the rest of the album, and it plays rather awkwardly.  The listener will be treated with lush, beautiful ambient melodies, only to be berated by a bouncing pop tune.  What is most egregious, is that these songs from Go and Takk… are easily the best on the record, only downplaying the fresh and interesting things found on the rest of the album.

The soundtrack to We Bought A Zoo is in no way a poor effort.  In fact, it’s one of the most enjoyable compliments to a film that this reviewer has heard in a long time.  It’s difficult to call it anything more than

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