There are few safe choices on Mockingjay, one of the most thrilling soundtracks for a blockbuster film series in recent memory. Much of the record is outfitted with an electronic throb that wouldn’t sound out of place in the clubs of District 1 (the Rich Kids of Instagram in the Hunger Games universe). And, yet, many tracks soar beyond the reasonable expectation of a film soundtrack that would’ve been snapped up by thousands of teenagers even if it were just 81 minutes of off-pitch Mockingjay whistles.
Lorde, who’s gone from complete unknown to holding the reins of one of the world’s biggest movie franchises in just 18 months, has assembled a stable of rising stars like Tinashe, hyper-relevant indie-friendly sensations like Charli XCX and Chvrches, Raury, and more. Tracks like Chvrches’ kinetic call-to-arms “Dead Air” and Raury’s meditative “Lost Souls” would have been standouts on their respective debuts. They’re standouts here. There are the emotional highs and stripped-down ballads you might expect to color moods of a specific scene, but the whole record crackles with electricity: Those ballads are just as striking as the more pounding cuts like the opener “Meltdown” (Stromae ft. Lorde, Pusha T, Q-Tip and Haim) and Ariana Grande‘s sky-scraping collaboration with Major Lazer, “All My Love”.
Charli XCX connects with Simon Le Bon for the lovely piano ballad “Kingdom”, an effortlessly composed song co-written with Vampire Weekend‘s Rostam Batmanglij after the two got drunk at a Miley Cyrus concert. Lorde’s cover of Bright Eyes‘ “Ladder Song” is straightforward, but sweet. Bat for Lashes‘ contribution, “Plan the Escape”, is a twinkling snowglobe of a song that will almost certainly score a tense moment of Katniss introspection as she mulls over the two hollow clods after her heart (team #SingleKatniss).
After the rustic rock-leaning OST of the first movie, which featured contributions from Arcade Fire, the Decemberists, and Neko Case, the series leans toward electronic pop. Following in the veins of Catching Fire’s OST, Mockingjay moves with the action of a series that began in a hermetically sealed environment before transitioning to a city where every battle has larger implications. Across the board, the songs sound like threads of hope escaping gloomier pasts, echoing the arc of the film’s generational heroine. It’s no coincidence that, of the 14 songs featured on Mockingjay, 11 feature female vocalists in the foreground. Sure, the lyrical sentiments are often delivered as platitudes—”We’re just a mess of broken people but we love the game!,” and so forth—but that’s part of the deal when you’re working with some populist YA lit poking around well-established archetypes. It’s a big, broad tent for everyone to get lost in.
Though lots of distinctive voices are represented on the soundtrack, one person stands out. “Katniss would be a huge Lorde fan,” series star Jennifer Lawrence voiced during the promotional rollout, directly making the connection that the strong, independent Katniss character is an effective muse to the world’s most famous teenager. While Lorde’s vocals are all over Mockingjay—from the swirling centerpiece “Yellow Flicker Beat” (and its Yeezus-tinted Kanye West rework) to supplementary vocals on “Meltdown” and a hook to the Miguel/Chemical Brothers collaboration “This Is Not a Game”—her presence elevates the project; you can feel the other stars on the soundtrack bringing their A-game out of respect for the project’s core vision and passion. Though not everything works on its own (the flat electropop of XO’s “Animal” is one dud) Mockingjay adds up to a fun pastiche of modern sounds. In conclusion, three fingers out of five.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1xKBDqr