By: Dennis Cook
Some things bowl us over with the power of their simplicity. Think of the first bite of a perfectly ripe piece of chilled melon or the bitter hello of well-brewed coffee. Think of the way your lips tingle after a sweet kiss you weren't expecting or a quiet break in a hectic day that arrives precisely when you need it most. These sorts of purely wonderful pleasures form the undercurrent of this charming soundtrack assembled by The Frames' leader Glen Hansard.
Once (Canvasback/Columbia/Sony) shimmers with the craftsmanship of Bread's David Gates, Jerome Kern and Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdock. Hansard co-stars with real life coconspirator Czech singer-songwriter Markéta Irglová as a pair of emerging tunesmiths whose talents blossom alongside their uneasy romance. There's the air of old Hollywood musicals melded with the quivering introspection of contemporary folksy indie rock. In another era, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy would sing these tunes. Instead, we have a modern answer to Neil Young and Nicolette Larson crooning:
Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You've made it now
Five of the tracks here originally appeared on Hansard and Irglová's 2006 joint release, The Swell Season, and the rest were written specifically for this critically lauded, hyper low budget indie film. The sincere, direct lyrics recall Broadway, where songs move the plot forward and take us inside a character's heads, offering perspectives that'd ring false in straight dialogue but penetrate us in rhymed, melodic verse. Taken beyond the camera's frame, these selections have a heartfelt honesty that's pretty disarming. The pains and lofty highs of love are puzzled over so plainly it's easy to accept their feelings, be they dark or light, as true.
The music ranges from the skeletally basic (Hansard alone with an acoustic guitar) to a deftly grand mini-symphony of piano, cello, guitar and subdued percussion. The notes echo the rise and fall of lover's breasts with all the requisite sighs and screams, strong emotions left intact.
Irglová and Hansard embark on a seven city U.S. tour starting July 24 at the Blender Theater At Gramercy in New York City and ending at the Noe Valley Ministry in San Francisco on August 4th. If they retain the delicacy and unvarnished beauty of the Once soundtrack these will be very special shows.
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