For two consecutive years one of my favorite films of the year has achieved that status due at least in part to the presence and talents of one of my favorite musical acts of the year. In 2007, the talents of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova made for not only one of the most enjoyable albums/singles of the year in the form of Once and the incredibly beautiful "Falling Slowly" respectively, but also the low budget indie "romance but not really" Once. To be fair, the album is the soundtrack to what is basically a musical so the link between the two just makes sense, a good musical is obviously going to have a good soundtrack.
This year's example is much less intertwined. The movie to which I'm referring is Jonathan Demme's brutally stark portrayal of addiction Rachel Getting Married featuring not only my newest celebrity numero uno Anne Hathaway (she is like Winona Ryder version 5.0) but TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe. Although Adebimpe plays only a supporting role in the film, he makes the best of his screen time with a fantastic a capella version of Neil Young's "Unknown Legend" off of the Harvest Moon album in a scene that illustrates vividly just how appropriately music can describe an emotion that can't be articulated through mere conversation. Jonathan Demme has understood the power of pop music for years and although the movie isn't really about music, the family portrayed is one for whom music is the Oliver to their Brady Bunch. TV on the Radio's Dear Science is a testament to that same power. For me, Rachel Getting Married will be the movie that I think of when I think 2008
I think every year needs it's definitive album as well; that one musical statement that's not only powerful but reflects the prevailing cultural zeitgeist. Nirvana had it in 1991 with Nevermind, Radiohead had it in 1996 with the amazingly prescient OK Computer and in more recent years, and I think you could argue that Outkast did the same with Stankonia in 2000. More than any other album, the themes and ideas of Dear Science reflect the bizarre year that was 2008. For me the album has been representative of the curious paradox that even in the face of an economic crisis surpassed in gravity only by the Great Depression we have embraced buzz words like "hope" and "change." I would like to think that we have done this out of a genuine sense of optimism but the cynic in me says that it's more the fact that after 8 years we're too exhausted with pessimism, fear, and truthiness to feel anything but optimism. That sentiment is what Dear Science feels like.
On "Dancing Choose" the lyrics are those of a world spiraling rapidly out of control under deception, lies, debt.. ya know those lovable characteristics of the Bush Whitehouse.* One could read these lyrics and expect something more musically reminiscent of The Smiths especially as it's noted in the chorus that, "I've seen my palate blown to monochrome, hollow heart clicks hollow tones." Instead, we get a full on body movin' banger with a lavish horn arrangement that draws from influences from rap to grime to house to campy lounge. Upbeat and danceable, the fun of the music does not overpower the bleakness of the lyrics. What's more 2008 than that?
*Acha cha cha cha