With as many impressively high-profile (or at least high-brow) films as Jon Brion has to his name, it’s almost more impressive that he’s scored so few films overall. It seems that Brion, the man who composed music for I Heart Huckabees, Punch-Drunk Love, Magnolia, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, tendsÂ towards movies that are slightly more creative than the norm. (He also composed music for Step Brothers and The Break-Up, but hey, they can’t all be artsy). His latest composition work is for Charlie Kaufman’s latest mind-twisting film, a film Kaufman decided to make his directorial debut with: Synecdoche, New York. The film tells the story of a theater director (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) who attempts to construct a life-sized theatrical version of his life in a New York City warehouse.
Brion’s work isn’t known for being flashy or overdone, but on Synecdoche, New York, his subtle compositions, filled with creeping piano and slow violins becomes a bit, well,Â dull. The slight edgy playfulness that has been present in much of Brion’s previous work seems to be missing here, leaving only the quieter, almost traditional composition work. Soaringly hopeful pieces like “OK” (a piece that is unarguably beautiful) and “SexÂ Based Decision Making” (a track whose title is much more intriguing than the music contained therein)Â Â feel like they could have come from any soundtrack. It’s not that the music is unenjoyable, it’s just that with Brion at the helm I didn’t expect things to be so… repetitive – it almost feels as if the same four-note theme plays out in every piece.
This repetitiveness does give the soundtrack a very clear theme and an easy throughline to follow. And longer pieces, such as the four-minute “Piano Three,” give Brion time to spread out and give his tunes some variance. This track in particular, while still falling into line with the rest of the soundtrack, has a particularly airy quality that makes it especially memorable. Whether or not the constantly repeating musical theme is meant to provide some insight into the obsessive character played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, it does grow a bit tiresome, even if it is slightly hypnotic in its constantness. This constantness puts even more emphasis on the superb jazz tunes “Little Person” and “Song For Caden” – songs written by Brion and crooned sweetly by vocalistÂ Deanne Storey.Â These tracks,Â reminiscent of the unbeatable “Strings That Tie To You” from the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack, display Brion’s true talent. Due to these two tracks and the final “Schenectady” the album ends on a musical high note, but it’s unfortunate that it takes a lot of slow plodding to get there.
Bottom Line – Jon Brion is clearly a musical force, but his subtleness doesn’t pay off on the score for Synecdoche, New York, as the repetetive nature of the music starts to hypnotize listeners before they can get to the winning payoffs of hearing Deanne Storey croon a few Brion originals.
Zach’s Rating: C+
Perfect For: Those with a “weird knot in your gut or some things you can’t let go of or return to,” or so says composer Jon Brion.
Stay Away if: You’re trying to get yourself out of a depression
If you buy only one track, make it this one: “Little Person” – jazz singer Deanne Storey provides perfect vocal stylings to this Brion tune.
To purchase the soundtrack for Synecdoche, New York, visit Amazon