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Karen O and the Kids Get Wild

Maija Gustin | Monday, October 12, 2009

The long awaited film “Where the Wild Things Are” has been building buzz ever since the release of its first trailer last spring. The movie is set to open in theaters Friday, but for those too excited to wait, check out the movie’s soundtrack by Karen O and the Kids.

Many might recognize Karen O as the lead singer of indie band Yeah Yeah Yeahs, or as the former girlfriend of “Wild Things” director Spike Jonze. The “kids” are made up of Yeah Yeah Yeahs members Brian Chase and Nick Zinner, their former touring guitarist Imaad Wasif, Brian Cox of Deerhunter, Aaron Hemphill of Liars, Dean Fertita of the new band Dead Weater and Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs. The soundtrack also features one song by Carter Burwell, who recently composed the soundtrack to “Twilight.”

The “Where the Wild Things Are” soundtrack is an eclectic mix of upbeat, childish ravings and slower, more serene ballads to balance the album. Given the striking images of “Wild Things” that have been making the Internet rounds for months now, these songs seem to fit the tone of the movie perfectly. They are at once as miraculous and mesmerizing as a child’s imagination, but still carry a weight of maturity that keeps them fresh and interesting for the older audience sure to buy this album. Much like Jonze’s film, the album is focused on exploring that “inner child” that supposedly resides in all adults.

The soundtrack opens with “Igloo,” which sets up the album with lines from the film in which Mom (Catherine Keener) asks Max (Max Records) for a story. What follows is a lusciously melodic song driven by guitars, tambourines and Karen O humming a quiet melody. It seems very dreamlike, creating a mood of storytelling to complement the movie.

The next song, the first single “All is Love,” starts with Max screaming “One, two, ready, go!” It’s lyrically simple and totally repetitive, but it’s also captivating and joyously ecstatic.

“Capsize” sounds like something that could be right at home on a Yeah Yeah Yeahs album, with Karen O screaming, telling “mama” “M-I-S-S-M-E all that you want, you’re gonna wait a while.”

While “Igloo” and “All Is Love” are about the happier times in child’s life, “Capsize” describes the darker times, when the only option for a kid seems to run away to make mom mad.

“Worried Shoes” is one of the more peaceful songs on the album, with Karen O singing to the accompaniment of a piano and some ambient noises.

Following this is “Rumpus,” in which Max is crowned King of the Wild Things, and as his first order of business, he screams, “Let the wild rumpus start!” This uplifting song features chanting by what sounds like a choir of really happy kids and is one of the catchiest songs on the soundtrack. Head bobbing is mandatory.

“Rumpus Reprise” comes next, which is essentially Karen O’s slower, sweeter version of “Rumpus.”

“Hideaway” is a more melancholy tune from the perspective of Mom, whose son has run away to be King of the Wild Things. It’s hauntingly beautiful and displays the softer side of Karen O’s unique voice.

“Cliffs” serves mostly as filler, with some chanting over harmonious guitars, but it is a beautiful addition nonetheless. “Animal” is an awesome blending of Karen O’s unique sound with folkish guitars and drums, and provides for one of the most interesting sounds on the record. It really lets the instrumentalists of Karen O and The Kids shine.

“Lost Fur” is Carter Burwell’s contribution to the album, and it both stands apart from the rest of the album and yet finds a place within it. Karen O is definitely back in her element with “Heads Up” which would fit perfectly with her other indie rock repertoire.

“Building All Is Love” acts as another reprise of sorts and brings back the themes of the main single. “Food Is Still Hot” brings Karen O back to the slower chanting of earlier songs like “Cliffs” and “Igloo,” maintaining the connection between the up-tempo songs and the ballads. The album ends with “Sailing Home,” which is short and features only humming. However, it ends the album on an upbeat note and is sure to excite those waiting for the chance to see it.

Until “Where the Wild Things Are” opens on Friday, the jury is still out on how well the soundtrack will fit with the movie. However, Karen O did a wonderful job creating a cohesive yet totally diverse and bizarre album. All the songs capture both childhood wonder and mature wisdom masterfully, and, as an added bonus for those about to hit the books hard this week, the album works great as study music.

At the least, the “Where the Wild Things Are” soundtrack promises to accompany an exciting and unique movie-going experience.