Dean Wareham / Britta Phillips

Mistress America [Original Soundtrack]

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The dreamy soundtrack to director Noah Baumbach's 2015 film Mistress America features music composed and performed by Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips. Both Wareham and Phillips, who were in the band Luna and went on to perform as Dean & Britta, previously supplied the music for Baumbach's acclaimed 2005 film The Squid and the Whale. With that soundtrack they took a more languid, acoustic approach that spoke to the film's dramatic, melancholy story of divorce. For the more lighthearted Mistress America, they've gone for an '80s synth pop vibe. In fact, with the percolating drum machines, analog synthesizers, and laser-toned bass, their music here sounds a lot like that of synth pop pioneers New Order, minus leader Bernard Sumner's flat, yearning vocals. It's a sound that, to some degree, informed Wareham's work with Luna, and which pops up from time to time in his 2010s work. It's also a style that Baumbach seems to favor, having prominently featured David Bowie's 1983 single "Modern Love" in his previous film, 2013's Frances Ha -- which also featured several Dean & Britta cuts. There's a buoyant, hazy tone to many of the tracks on Mistress America, evoking the style of '80s bands like the Cure and the Ocean Blue. Similarly, cuts like the moody "Do Everything (Gas Station)," and pulsing "Robbers," with their icy keyboard backdrops, also bring to mind the arid, disco-era aesthetic of composer Giorgio Moroder. One gets the sense that, if any of these songs had vocals, they'd be fairly catchy pop tunes. Not surprisingly, Baumbach also largely sticks with the '80s vibe here on the non-Dean & Britta cuts, weaving in songs by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Suicide. He even finds room for Paul McCartney's own 1984 classic "No More Lonely Nights." These additions are fitting, but they're here primarily for color, providing an effective context for the inventive, '80s-inspired work of Wareham and Phillips.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:46
2 1:29
3 3:34
4 1:18
5 1:40
6 2:49
7 1:16
8 1:30
9 5:12
feat: Suicide
11 1:27
12 3:09
13 5:09
14 1:22
15 3:40
blue highlight denotes track pick