After over 20 years of collaborating with composer Carter Burwell, it’s pretty clear that the Coen brothers have found their musical counterpart when it comes time to score a film of theirs. In the Coen’s latest darkly comedic film, A Serious Man, Burwell provides some of the most contemplative music of his career. And in addition to the 17 tracks of Carter Burwell’s score music, this soundtrack album features three Jefferson Airplane songs featured in the film. Interestingly enough, these tracks provide Burwell with some of his best material, as he fits his score music to flow perfectly into the Jefferson Airplane tracks. In “Good Riddance/The Canal” the rocking guitar licks picks up the pace until the track fades out and we hear the same guitar licks repeated in “Somebody To Love.” Similarly, the track “The Roof” blends effortlessly into the slow-moving Airplane track “Comin’ Back To Me.”

With his tie to the Coens, Burwell is known for low-budget, quirky, high-profile films, such as Being John Malkovich, The Spanish Prisoner, and In Bruges. This makes his lack of any considerable score-related nominations rather interesting. From the sound of it he’s got the talent to continue working and deliver music that fills in the storyline of notable films such as No Country For Old Men, A Knight’s Tale, and Where the Wild Things Are, but not enough to create an overtly memorable collection of music a la John Williams, James Horner, Hans Zimmer, etc. The 18 and a half minutes of score music Burwell provides here aren’t enough to change that perception of his music. He’s got some solid score work, but there’s nothing that really stands out above the Jefferson Airplane tracks, or the closing piece by Sidor Belarsky. Perhaps Burwell’s trick is that, like many of the Coen’s characters, he’s so subtle that we as listeners overlook his true skill.

Overall, this is a thematic thirty minutes of music, with so much melancholy overtones sewn into the lines of the tracks that Larry’s struggles in the film come out full-force in the music. Sidor Belarksy’s yiddish recording “Dem Milner’s Trern” wraps the album up nicely and serves as a reminder of the steadfastly Jewish outlook of the film.

Zach’s Rating: B
Perfect For: Fans of Jefferson Airplane looking to see how a score can be built around the band’s music
Stay Away if: You’ve never particularly cared to find out what a yiddish singer might sound like

To purchase the soundtrack for A Serious Man, visit Amazon

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