Though Short Careers is a masterfully emotive film score for the twisted, evil baseball player flick Ball of Wax, the songs lack the pop crunch of Eric Bachmann's Archers of Loaf and the folk song structures of Crooked Fingers. Short Careers is reminiscent of the score work of two other indie gurus turned film composers -- Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields and Mac McCaughan of Superchunk and Portastatic. Like Merritt's Eban & Charley, Short Careers lacks the pop center and rolling melodies so present in both musicians' other projects, and it never really matches the accessibility of Portastatic's Looking for Leonard. But it's difficult for music to function as both a film score and an album, and Short Careers does excel in the former. The string arrangements on tracks like "Finding the Holes Filling the Gaps" are beautiful while being unsentimental. "Jimmy the Enforcer" has the feeling of a fun house -- a twisted carnival underworld that glitters on the surface -- and recalls both the theme from the film Boogie Nights and "Shadow's Theme," the Dark Fantastic's ending to their first self-titled album. The title track is a somber, piano affair, equal parts David Lynch and Atom Egoyan. Short Careers proves that Eric Bachmann is the go-to guy for indie filmmakers, but that the score might not sell all that many records.
AllMusic Review by Charles Spano