A.C. Newman's first foray into film composing, What If (released under the moniker The F Word in the United Kingdom and Ireland) offers up a winning mix of homespun melodic cues and wistful indie pop ambience that sounds exactly like one would expect from the head New Pornographer. Michael Dowse, who directed the Daniel Radcliffe- and Zoe Kazan-starring romantic comedy, also directed a pair of New Pornographers videos ("Letter from an Occupant" and "The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism"), and his gracious liner notes suggest that utilizing Newman's pop acumen in a silver screen venture was a long time coming. Largely instrumental with an emphasis on mandolins, acoustic guitar, wordless vocals, and keyboards, Newman's score is a winning pastiche of his most recent (and quite wistful) solo outing Shut Down the Streets, the amiable power pop of his flagship band, and the quirky, yet warmly lit audio vignettes that Mark Mothersbaugh used to punctuate Wes Anderson's early films. Rounded out by four non-score cuts (the Parting Gifts' Brill Building-inspired rendering of the Rolling Stones' "(Walkin' Through The) Sleepy City," Patrick Watson's soulful and cinematic "Into Giants," Marsha Hunt's offbeat and undeniably funky "(Oh No! Not) The Beast Day," and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes' retro-flower power anthem "Let's Get High"), What If/The F Word, for the most part, feels cozy and lived in, and unlike some soundtracks with a quirky, rom-com indie pop pedigree, it manages to convey some of the melancholy and not just the exhilaration of love, which is something that Newman has been championing (quite melodiously) for years.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
feat: The Parting Gifts
feat: Patrick Watson
feat: Marsha Hunt