Release Date: Sep 29, 2009
Record label: Interscope
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Soundtrack
The hip world seems ready to embrace Where the Wild Things Are. The book is a beloved bedtime story, now being enjoyed by a third generation of children. The film rights somehow weren’t engulfed by Disney, and instead went to indie darlings Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers. They immediately started doing the project “right” by eschewing the lure of CGI and recruiting Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and weathering studio reservations about the film’s tone.
Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are means so much to so many generations that Spike Jonze's film adaptation couldn't be just a typical kids' movie -- it had to be a movie for the entire family. And on every part of the production, Jonze worked with artists so close to him that they might as well have been a family: while bringing the book's story to the big screen, he developed a tight friendship with Sendak; for Where the Wild Things Are's music, Jonze recruited former lover and frequent collaborator Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In turn, O drafted a who's who of indie rock talent, among them her chief co-writers Bradford Cox of Deerhunter and Yeah Yeah Yeahs associate Imaad Wasif and her bandmates Brian Chase and Nick Zinner, all of whom perform under the aptly storybook name Karen O & the Kids.
For such an extrovert performer, Karen O has always taken surprising pains to hide her songwriting light under a bushel. With the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hardly the world's most prolific bunch, it came as something of a shock when – in 2006 - the KO at Home demo album accidentally came to light. A set of (often lovely) acoustic songs never meant to be heard by the world at large, it was unearthed and leaked only when dopey Dave Sitek misplaced a CD-R copy.
Where the Wild Things Are, director Spike Jonze’s surreal vision of childhood angst, has inspired an equally weird but altogether more joyous work from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman. Assorted hums, hoots, and hollers unfold over imprecise folk-psych instrumentation, sounding very much like the racket that an acclaimed hipster musician’s inner grade-schooler might kick up. These are the sort of unruly sounds that encourage passive background listening, but be sure to pay attention to the handful of actual songs, which are often as memorable as anything Karen O’s primary band has done lately.
Karen O pulls together an "untrained" children's choir, the rest of Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Brian Chase, Nick Zinner), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age, The Raconteurs), Bradford Cox (Deerhunter), Greg Kurstin (The Bird and the Bee), Imaad Wasif (New Folk Implosion, Alaska), and members of Liars, The Dead Weather, Afternoons, Gris Gris, and Services for an entirely successful, all-star soundtrack for Spike Jonze's new film. .
Sure, you could look at Karen O's name on the soundtrack to the film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are and chalk it up to a convenient byproduct of her close relationship with the film's director, Spike Jonze. But really, there's no one better qualified for the job of translating Maurice Sendak's bedtime-story classic into song. Like Wild Things' young protagonist Max, Karen understands the power of imagination in transforming your mundane surroundings into something spectacular; witness the former Oberlin College student trying to make her way as a folksinger in Unitard, before refashioning herself into the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' beer-spitting, mascara-smeared mouthpiece.
Did Spike Jonze get more than he bargained for when he approached Karen O with this project? Most signs point to yes. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman—and former lover of Jonze’s—made it a party, and just about everyone’s invited: bandmates Brian Chase and Nick Zinner, the Raconteurs’ Jack Lawrence, Liars’ Aaron Hemphil, Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox—even an untrained children’s choir. The album’s structural arc closely mirrors the film’s—a colorful, frenzied midsection, preceded and followed by sheer, wide-eyed tranquility.
Ahleuchatistas This instrumental trio from Asheville, N.C., makes music of upfront physicality and twitchy intent. “Of the Body Prone” (Tzadik), the band’s fifth album, showcases the sturdy rapport of its members: the guitarist Shane Perlowin, the bassist Derek Poteat and the drummer Ryan Oslance, a relative newcomer. Together they lurch swiftly from speed metal to thrash punk to a kind of heat-stroke minimalism.