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Twilight Soundtrack Melds Sensitivity and Power

Jess Shaffer | Monday, December 1, 2008

It provides the right musical blend for vampires and their significant others, and it can do the same for ordinary people as well. This 14-song mix is just some of the music that set the mood for the holiday season, teen blockbuster, Twilight. And for those, who (despite constant attention paid to Bella and Edward in books, movies, and the on the web) still can’t get enough, this soundtrack will help feed the Twilight addiction. Still, the album has an eerily unusual and enjoyable mix that can stand on its own, even without the Twilight phenomena. With a peculiar, and yet satisfying, blend of pounding, aggressive techno-rock hybrid, hypnotic indie, and tender, slow love songs, the Twilight soundtrack is surprisingly cohesive. An underlying anomaly connects the tracks with an indescribable quality subtly created by sound, lyrics, and tone that unpredictably work together. Going off the heavily beaten path of solely popular hits, the mix generates an offbeat concoction that translates from film to album, and has potential to suit Twilight fans and those not so vampire obsessed alike.   The appeal of Twilight’s soundtrack is that it’s atypical and unpredictable in equal parts. At one moment, the processed sound of techno-rock pushes a fast, beating tempo and, at the next, captivating raw vocals are crooning over minimal instrumental. And yet, the swings from one end of the spectrum to the other are well balanced and coherent, starting off with fast paced beats and descending to soothing opera and instrumental.The first tracks are generally high energy. But they go beyond a film’s stereotypical “power jams.” Instead, characterized by a blend of the better attributes of rock and techno, these energetic songs have a distinct tension. Maybe it’s the mixing of genres or maybe it’s the lyrical themes of empowerment and temptation (that obviously speaks to the themes of Twilight on the whole). More expressly, this appealing tension seems to derive from all the artists attempt to control their powerful music, keeping it forceful without being overbearing or chaotic.A good example of this is Mutemath’s “Spotlight.” Using rhythmic clapping and melodic humming to make a revved up tempo, this track translates to an equally empowered feeling for listeners. Additionally, “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse sets the tone for the entire album with its thumping pace and tough vibe. A similar chanting, rhythmic vibe is continued in other tracks like Blue Foundation’s “Eyes on Fire” and The Black Ghost’s”Full Moon, “other album highlights. It’s not only the rhythmic quality of the tracks that sew a thread from one high powered track to another but also an eerily off beat sound that is nonetheless confident in its atypical power. Tracks like these, while more subtle, are the strength and backbone of the album that help transition between mellow and vigorously aggressive melodies.    The heart wrenching love songs are all similarly unhurried and deliberate. More importantly, they all seem to have an enthralling spirit. Iron and Wine’s contribution, in their never-fail heartwarming, romantic style, enchants listeners with the magical “Flightless Bird, American Mouth.” But perhaps the most surprising musical contributor is the star of the movie himself, Rob Pattinson. Lending two tracks to the album, Pattinson’s crooning is soulful, measured, and breathtakingly redolent of pain and love. While he’s said that a musical career is a backup, his musical talent has a captivating ability that reeks a maturity that his acting skills lack. Sadly, these are the only two tracks available from Pattinson, whose talent could no doubt create more beguiling music.Also, the instrumental and classical portions of the soundtrack are worth being mentioned. While Carter Burwell created the entire score for the film, his touch is only found on the soundtrack in “Bella’s Lullaby,” which comes off a bit more like seductive piano playing rather than calming, bed-time lullaby. More from Burwell would have been a welcome addition. His talent easily could have replaced tracks from more predictable, unexciting artists like Paramore, which probably should have been left out in the first place. Additionally, “Clair de Lune” provided a classical, charming piece that nicely works in with the rest of the album.Unconventional film themes somehow translate into an atypical sound that is just as appealing as the story for which it sets the mood. Some tracks utilize a powerful tension that encompasses equal parts of aggressive passion, empowering poignancy, and measured restraint. Others have an affecting sensitivity that will pluck at listeners’ heart strings. And still other songs instrumentally create charmingly enchanting melodies.Perhaps all styles are in their own way memorizing and this is the quality that defines and unites the album as a whole. And while, of course, certain tracks are so evocative of their respective cinematic scenes that it is hard not to be sucked into the film, for the most part, the Twilight soundtrack can stand on its own as a offbeat, captivating mix. It will speak not only to Twilight fans but also to those who simply love a cohesive variety of none-generic, satisfying music.