Director Jean-Marc Vallée might not have an entirely consistent track record as a director, but he certainly has an ear for great movie music. His new film Wild is ostensibly about a journey (although ultimately it ends up being about much more than that), and the songs chosen to accompany the movie are like the collection of tunes you and a friend might select for the car before a long, well-earned road trip.
Things are kicked off with Simon and Garfunkel’s tried and true favourite, El Condor Pasa (If I Could). Time has been very kind to the song: even after the forty plus years since the song was released, it still has a stunning power. It’s not even the only song from the pair on display here. Their Homeward Bound also features, and despite the song being a fairly predictable inclusion for a film about a journey away from – and then inevitably back to – home, it is nonetheless a solid choice.
A lot of the songs on Wild are classics: Paul McCartney’s Wings make an appearance with Let ‘Em In, as does the inimitable Leonard Cohen’ with Suzanne. Together, the songs create a mood of gentle soul-searching that fits with the rest of the album, and indeed with the film.
Wild does feature a few lesser known tracks however, including a song from Billy Swan, an artist with an impressive back catalogue that is usually ignored in favour of his hit single I Can Help. His song Don’t Be Cruel might not be familiar to everyone, but it should be: it’s a beautiful slow burn of a song, heartfelt and passionate.
Similarly, The Shangri-Las, famous for their wonderful girl-pop single Leader of the Pack, have one of their lesser known tracks chosen for inclusion on the soundtrack. Their I Can Never Go Home Again fits the plot of the film perfectly – the title could even be a line of dialogue from the movie – but it is a stand-out song even when taken on its own merit.
The real draw card for many, however, will be First Aid Kit’s Walk Unafraid, a cover of an R.E.M. tune, pulled from the album Up. First Aid Kit are on a slow path to musical world domination – the Swedish sisters are gaining popularity and critical acclaim with every release – and it’s not hard to see why. Their cover is beautiful, a stunning display of both their vocal talents and their admirable powers of restraint.
All told, Wild is a powerful collection of powerful songs, and a welcome addition to the growing catalogue of great soundtracks Jean-Marc Vallee has been responsible for.