Fans of Cameron Crowe's films were first introduced to Sigur Rós in 2001's "Vanilla Sky," when the music-loving director used the Icelandic band's ethereal sounds to add a touch of the surreal to his "surprise, it's sci-fi!" flick. Now, for his new holiday feel-good film "We Bought a Zoo," Crowe has gone back to the same well by hiring Sigur Rós frontman Jónsi to do the score and soundtrack.
The result is predictably beautiful. It's becoming a bit of a cliché that to score a particularly emotional scene with a Sigur Rós song, but divorced from visual context, the music retains its ability to touch the heart. The primary reason for this is Jónsi's voice, which resembles what an elf of Middle-earth would sound like if he were somehow transported to our world and got into indie rock. It's not human, is what we're saying, and while your appreciation of it may vary, there's no denying its power when it soars, as it does on just about every song on this soundtrack.
Some of the music will be familiar to fans, as we get one Sigur Rós song ("Hoppipolla," from "Takk") and three from Jónsi's recent solo album "Go." The rest is new and original material written by Jónsi and arranged by Nico Muhly. There's also a song Jónsi wrote with Crowe, titled "Gathering Stories," that closes out the soundtrack. Let's be honest: There are no surprises here. Jónsi hasn't included a surprise bossa nova track or anything. It's all generally of a piece, which is full of sweeping strings, multi-tracked, otherworldly vocals, and the occasional tribal drum beat.
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But, as could be said with Crowe's films, sometimes predictability isn't such a bad thing. Just because you know what you're getting doesn't mean it's not great. And if this soundtrack brings a new audience to the excellence that is Sigur Rós and Jónsi, then all the better. Longtime fans can consider it an EP of new material, more accessible than "Riceboy Sleeps" and full of the kind of stuff capable of making you feel like you're in an Oscar-grabbing movie when you're walking around with it ringing in your headphones.
1. Why Not?
2. Ævin Endar
3. Boy Lilikoi
6. Sinking Friendships
7. We Bought a Zoo
10. Sink Ships
11. Go Do
12. Whole Made Of Pieces
14. First Day
15. Gathering Stories