Out of Context – Doctor’s Orders
By Casey Zakin
Outside of Sacred Heart Hospital, Zach Braff isn’t a doctor, clearly. But he isn’t purely an actor, either. His list of credentials now include writer, director, comedian, and voice actor, and his awards for directing and compiling a soundtrack came from a film he began writing in college.
Released in 2004, Garden State was written, directed, and stars Zach Braff as Andrew Largeman, an actor/waiter out of LA who must go back to his New Jersey hometown for his mother’s funeral. At his father’s insistence, he visits a doctor for frequent headaches and meets Sam in the waiting room, portrayed by Natalie Portman. The next few days are spent following Andrew, Sam, and Mark (an old school friend of Andrew’s) as Mark hunts to locate something for Andrew. Without giving much of the plot away, the movie deals with themes of emotional change and growing up, with maybe a dash of love thrown in to keep things interesting.
The film won Hollywood’s Breakthrough Director of the Year Award at Hollywood Film Festival and placed 393rd on Empire’s ‘500 Greatest Films of All Time’ list. In 2005, Braff won a Grammy award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for a Motion Picture, TV, or Other Media. It is the soundtrack he hand-picked that is so incredibly crucial to the film; Braff believed the songs he chose went with the film so well, he sent a copy of the script out every time he requested a song be included in the soundtrack.
The soundtrack is eclectic but works together phenomenally well; starting with Coldplay’s “Don’t Panic,” before moving on to The Shins and Zero 7; Colin Hay, Nick Drake, Simon & Garfunkle, and Bonnie Somerville appear on the soundtrack as well, making for an all around fantastic “Rainy Day” playlist.
The Shins are credited with two songs on the soundtrack, “Caring is Creepy” and “New Slang”. When Andrew meets Sam, she hands him her headphones and says “You gotta hear this one song — it’ll change your life; I swear.” The song playing is “New Slang”, and it’s a great track by The Shins, very indicative of their subtle indie, dream-pop style. Begun in 1996, The Shins didn’t come out with an album until five years later, titled ‘Oh, Inverted World’. They followed it up with their 2003 release ‘Chutes Too Narrow’ and ‘Wincing the Night Away’ in 2007. ‘Port of Morrow’ is scheduled to be released later this month, so keep an eye out on the 16th for what promises to be a great fourth studio album. For fans of The Format, Bright Eyes, Of Montreal, and The Decemberists, this Portland-based quintet deserves to be a staple of any music library if it isn’t already.
While Iron & Wine is credited with a cover of The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights”, Samuel Beam’s solo project has released four studio albums, 1 compilations, 2 live albums (including one Bonnaroo performance), and 7 E.P.s, His first album, ‘The Creek Drank the Cradle’, was released in 2002, and his latest album, ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’, was released in January of last year. He is credited with a large amount of soundtrack work outside of Garden State, including The OC, The L Word, Degrassi, Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty, House, and Numb3rs. Originally from South Carolina, Beam, his wife, and their five daughters now live outside of Austin, Texas.
Known in some circles as ‘Imogene Heap’s Band’, Frou Frou appear on the Garden State soundtrack with the song “Let Go”. A duet between Heap and Guy Sigsworth, Frou Frou only released one album in 2002 – Details – which featured an eclectic assortment of instruments and Heap’s usual layered vocals. A combination of electronic, trip-hop, pop, and rock sound, the duo use Indian drums, cellos, autoharps, keyboards, and guitars to achieve their particular sound. Heap has released four studio albums dating back to 1998, with her latest release scheduled for this October. Guy Sigsworth is a producer, composer, and song-writer, who has worked with such acts as Seal, Blondie, Madonna, Britney Spears, Alanis Morissette, VersaEmerge, and Josh Groban; Frou Frou is his only personal musical project.
Considered among the most influential singers of the last 50 years, Nick Drake knew little notoriety during his short 26-year old lifetime. Having overdosed on antidepressants in 1974, he left the world with only three studio albums – Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970), and Pink Moon (1972) – though eight compilations have been made. However, he’s been cited by R.E.M. and The Cure as influential to their music and has only been gaining popularity since. The Dream Academy wrote and dedicated their “Life in a Northern Town” song to him. Known for his nature driven, detached lyrics as much as his alternative tunings and cluster chords, his addition to the Garden State soundtrack is a decisively upbeat song called “One of These Things First”. If you’re ever looking for good road trip music, Pink Moon is a delightful album to just drive to, though all of his work is quite excellent.
So, if you find yourself with time to spare this spring break, or a rainy afternoon with little to do, pick up Garden State and watch it over lunch. Listen to how closely and how well the soundtrack intertwines with the plot, and how well the two fit together. Pick up the soundtrack, and then get The Shins’ newest album. Tell them Dr. Dorian sent you.