Blue Valentine Composed by Grizzly Bear
Lakeshore Records (2011)
though, no matter what emotions the film may convey, the score is an
altogether different and often difficult listening experience.
Grizzly Plays the Blues
Review by Richard Buxton
In recent years a number of major releases have been scored by artists who
have established their talents in drastically different musical forums to
that of the motion picture, and often these experiments have resulted in
successes. DAFT PUNK’S TRON LEGACY is a recent and very successful example
of this. Yet despite the likes of DAFT PUNK and JONNY GREENWOOD (of THERE
WILL BE BLOOD fame), the choice to employ an artist that resides in other
genres of music is still one that is often frowned upon by film score
enthusiasts. Perhaps it is a lack of trust in their scoring ability or a
feeling that other genres of music are encroaching upon their preferred
genre, or perhaps, and in the case of BLUE VALENTINE it is merely
The decision to employ the talents of the band GRIZZLY BEAR can surely be
attributed to the nature of BLUE VALENTINE itself. Rather than take the
traditional romantic comedy route, BLUE VALENTINE is a romantic drama that
attempts to portray a more realistic vision of a real life relationship
and the moments that fill its lifespan. This choice is an admirable one
and would suggest a break from the clichéd music heard in the majority of
romantic films in modern times. Unfortunately though, no matter what
emotions the film may convey, the score is an altogether different and
often difficult listening experience.
What is immediately noteworthy is a number of the tracks titles. Tracks
3-7 are all named (instrumental) and a quick look down the tracklist will
reveal why. Tracks 3-6 are actually instrumental versions of tracks 12-15.
On a regular album this may not seem out of place; on a score it is
glaring. It effectively reduces the number of tracks by a quarter, as the
instrumental versions of each track are virtually identical to their vocal
versions. The fact that three of the various other tracks are by artists
other than Grizzly Bear suggests that a lack of material may have been a
problem in the scoring of BLUE VALENTINE.
Even with this distinct lack of substance, surely the strong compositions
can erase any further doubts though? Unfortunately not. The majority of
BLUE VALENTINE, while admittedly just about appropriate to the tone of the
film, contains very little in the way of structure and contains nothing
resembling a theme.
The soundtrack opens with “Granny Diner”, a lethargic, almost ambient
piece that culminates in a confusing finale of sudden vocals. This,
unfortunately, is about as good as it gets for the original music.
The instrumentals such as “Easier”, “Lullaby” and “I Live With You” all
seem to reside in a musical limbo. Neither particularly stimulating as a
regular release nor appropriate for a score, the tracks would be more
suited to a montage sequence rather than the backbone of the entire score.
The vocal versions of these tracks offer little to nothing more, as the
inconsequential lyrics drone by. “I Live With You” is a particular
challenge to listen to; the constant refusal to evolve above mere
repetition and noise is infuriating and almost singlehandedly kills any
momentum the score might have gained.
Surprisingly, the highlight of the original music heard in the soundtrack
comes from the lead actor himself, RYAN GOSLING. “You Always Hurt The Ones
You Love” never approaches brilliance, but amongst such mediocrity it
The two licensed tracks “In Ear Park” by DEPARTMENT OF EAGLES and “You and
Me” by PENNY & THE QUARTERS provide a welcome respite from the original
music, but cannot rescue the score.
The nature of BLUE VALENTINE is a deliberately realistic and depressing
one, but it is thus out of artistic intention and merit. The score however
multiplies this mood, not through ingenious scoring ability, but
through its incessant and mind-numbing droning. In this case it seems the
experimentation has proven that the tried and tested route of the film
composer is often the preferable one.