The disk kicks off with “Abraham’s Daughter,” an anthem from indie rock powerhouse Arcade Fire. The song is typical of their big band, brooding style and it sets the tone for the rest of the album.
By far the strongest pieces on the album come from The Civil Wars. Their song “Kingdom Come” features insanely catchy acoustic riffs and pure vocal talent. With just minimal guitar and drums, the band makes mind-blowing sound. It can easily be considered the most praise worthy song on the soundtrack.
Very close behind is their co-created melody with none other than Taylor Swift. Entitled “Safe and Sound,” the piece can be described as nothing less than beautiful. Swift could really benefit from working more on acoustically driven songs. Her voice sounds better here than it ever has carrying on about teenage heartbreak.
Other artists standing out on the album include Glen Hansard, Kid Cudi, The Low Anthem and Neko Case.
Hansard, member of the seasoned folk band The Swell Season with better half Marketa Irglova, rocked it solo with “Take the Heartland.” The man has a pension for passion and lighthearted lyrics that glide over sensational music. “Heartland” is a bit rough for him and follows the likes of Tom Gabel’s early Against Me! creations, breathing a bit of life back into the dead lungs of the punk scene.
Everyone familiar with Kid Cudi knows that the rapper breaks stereotypes of the rap scene only embodying money and women. Sure, the artist is a random choice for this mix of music, but it ends up being hardcore. Somehow, the song flows with the rest of the music featured. Watch out, though: the words “You don’t talk, You don’t say nothing” will keep running through your head long after you have finished listening.
The Low Anthem’s “Love is Childlike” slows the soundtrack down to a lovely little ditty with a pretty title.
Neko Case provides another pleasant break in the album with “Nothing to Remember,” a nice, breezy, toe-tap-happy number easing the dark tone of the rest of the album.
The Decemberists, Jayme Dee, Miranda Lambert, The Secret Sisters, Birdy and Punch Brothers contribute other highly likable songs mixing blues, country, folk and acoustic genres.
Only three songs on the album soured it. The Carolina Chocolate Drop’s “Daughter’s Lament” is as overboard as their name. The music is incredibly folksy, and the singer’s voice is powerful. The music in the background is dim but well done, and an interesting mashing of genres is at play. It could fit into the film, but as a song on its own, it grates far too much on the ears.
Adam Levine is as likable as the next guy, but the man simply does not fit into the folk and acoustic styles. His voice has become far too identifiable with pop and rock, and Maroon 5’s “Come Away to the Water” mostly just solidifies this stereotype. Levine’s vocals seriously detract from an otherwise fantastic coffee-shop track.
Taylor Swift’s “Eyes Open” is not necessarily bad, though it does sound entirely like all the other songs she has made that gained popularity. It remains unimpressive in comparison to her other piece “Safe and Sound.”
Yes, some sore spots exist within the soundtrack. Overall, however, it is a beautiful and powerful symphony of some of the best modern folk, indie and acoustic work to date.