Given that Grizzly Bear's lush experimental pop often sounds like it conjures days gone by, their music was an inspired choice for the soundtrack to Blue Valentine, Derek Cianfrance’s unflinching look at a relationship from its sweet early days to its bitter end. When the film’s release date was moved up, the band compiled some of its previously recorded songs, alternate takes, and instrumental versions into an apt and sometimes painfully ironic musical backdrop that works as well as if these tracks were composed for this project. The dreamy atmosphere of these songs, mixed with found sounds and earthy banjo on tracks like “Granny Diner,” hovers between memory and reality, as if trying to recapture something that was gone a long time ago. Blue Valentine's track list focuses on Grizzly Bear's emotional side rather than their more cerebral experiments, revealing the heart of the band’s music as it captures the way the film contrasts the bright beginning and inevitable finale of its love story. “Easier,” in its regular and instrumental versions, sounds like a fairy tale dawning, all swirling flutes and twinkling glockenspiels. Meanwhile, Veckatimest's closing track, “Foreground” (arguably the most beautiful song the band has written), is all the more devastating because of its gentleness. The soundtrack’s non-Grizzly Bear selections are just as carefully chosen: Department of Eagles' “In Ear Park” also glitters with nostalgia, which isn’t surprising since it’s the project of Grizzly Bear member Daniel Rossen, while Ryan Gosling's singing on “You Always Hurt the Ones You Love” echoes the band’s crooning vocals. However, Blue Valentine's real treat is “You & Me,” a soul-pop obscurity by Penny & the Quarters that is charming and affecting despite -- or perhaps because of -- its anonymity. Blue Valentine is a spellbinding soundtrack to a glimpse at the big and little things that can kill love, and reveals more about Grizzly Bear's music in the process.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
feat: Department of Eagles
feat: Ryan Gosling
feat: Penny & The Quarters