August: Osage County is a black-comedy-drama film about a dysfunctional Midwest family reeling from the death of its patriarch. As expected, its soundtrack matches the performances of its cast, with stellar contributions from a plethora of artists.
Listeners don’t even need to watch the film to gauge the progression of the film’s plot. The soaring synths, throbbing guitars and Justin Vernon’s reflective vocals on Bon Iver’s Hinnom, TX convey the initial shock the family experiences, making the track a delightful opener. Kings Of Leon provide the previously-unissued Last Mile Home, a fragile, acoustic-guitar-backed ballad that aches for the end of a journey, whether it’s the patriarch’s final moments or his daughters’ trips back to the family home. Eric Clapton’s quirky country classic Lay Down Sally then seems to mark the family’s coming together in Oklahoma.
Composer Adam Taylor’s offerings to the soundtrack are quiet yet evocative. On Don’t Let Go and The Kiss, plaintive strings and piano stir up powerful yet tender memories of romance and regret. This subdued section of the soundtrack is rudely disturbed by the debauched opening drumbeat and guitars of Billy Squier’s The Stroke (most recently sampled by Eminem on Berserk), followed by John Fullbright’s sensually raucous Gawd Above. All good times must end, with Taylor returning with the confronting The Decision and Forward. Violet’s Song, a new song by American blues-rock band JD and the Straight Shot, recalls a bit of Led Zeppelin’s The Battle of Evermore. With its bright acoustic guitars and positive lyrics, it softens the cold, hard reality faced by the film’s characters.
Fans of Benedict Cumberbatch will rejoice at his singing on the short but sweet Can’t Keep It Inside, but can’t help but visualise Sherlock Holmes with THAT distinctive voice.
The tail-end of the soundtrack features the work of Gustavo Santaolalla, most well-known for his Oscar-winning compositions for the soundtracks for Babel and Brokeback Mountain. Whilst End Credits and And Then They’re Here are slow-paced, hopeful contemplations of the future as the film’s characters move on with their lives, the jazzy Barb Balcony ends the album on a bizarre high note with saxophone and cowbells.
The soundtrack to August: Osage County is a stirring reflection of the themes of the film, as well as the rollercoaster of emotions undoubtedly experienced by its characters.