Mychael Danna

Little Miss Sunshine [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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The quirky Hoover family's travels from New Mexico to California in order to support 7-year-old Olive's dream of being in a beauty pageant and the events that occur during the trip provide the back line to the soundtrack to the film Little Miss Sunshine. With the exceptions of the pop-dance "Catwalkin'" and the remix of "Superfreak," which presumably are played during the actual competition, the music that accompanies the film is pretty, introspective, and vaguely sad -- the perfect choice for a 2006 Sundance-celebrated film (it was the reception it received at that festival that prompted Fox Searchlight to buy the distribution rights to it). Indie rock à la Sufjan Stevens (who, in fact, contributes two songs, "Chicago" from Illinois and "No Man's Land" from its outtakes album), courtesy of composer Mychael Danna and Colorado band DeVotchKa, rolls and sweeps across the Southwestern landscape with strings and horns and melancholic chords as family drama plays out, both the film and the soundtrack resolving in the final notes of the album. But that song, "How It Ends," which returns to a theme found in the opener "The Winner Is," with arpeggios and eighth-notes that move sadly along as violins fade out and end, leaves questions unanswered. Because Little Miss Sunshine isn't trying to give definite reasons for anything, instead it's exploring relationships and life, and so as the songs go from Rufus Wainwright-esque ballads to spaghetti western-inspired instrumentals, these same feelings of searching and discovery come through in the notes. Everything has that kind of sad and funny and yet achingly beautiful feel that you get when tragedy or hardship strikes in an absurd manner, and you're not sure whether to laugh or cry. It's a touching album for a touching movie, good enough to be enjoyed on its own but better still as a reminder of the film.

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