The myth of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon pairing up perfectly with The Wizard of Oz still endures in the culture despite firm evidence against it. But aside from the sure-to-catch-on pairing of Dark Side of the Moon and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, there haven’t been any additional album/film pairings to spark people’s imagination (or spawn dorm-room conversation). So I would like to offer suggestions for albums that may very well synch up with two recent films. Do you have any examples of this, recent or past? Or are you still just playing Dark Side of the Moon over every movie you watch in hopes that it fits them?
Sufjan Stevens’ The Age of Adz and Alex Garland’s Annihilation
This one was inspired by a first-hand experience on a bus where I was listening to songs from Age of Adz and looking at someone watching Annihilation on their phone. Annihilation is centered around an incomprehensible phenomenon called “the Shimmer” which takes the past traumas of those who enter it and folds them into new, horrifying shapes, and in that way, Age of Adz is the Shimmer in album form. Its basis is Sufjan Stevens’ disease-addled mind refracting his religion and failed relationships into epics that are sometimes awe-inspiring and sometimes deeply frightening. The album even has much the same ramp-up as Annihilation, with two more accessible songs opening the album before it goes into the title track, which is as overwhelming and grand a creation as the Shimmer. Elsewhere, Stevens displays the jumble of heightened emotions that plagues the Shimmer’s inhabitants, with standard romantic resentment soon curdling into religious fervor and Stevens demanding he be sacrificed to a volcano. And the album’s 25-minute closer, “Impossible Soul”, feels like an encapsulation of the film’s much talked-about conclusion; they both veer from postmortems of a relationship to abstract doppelganger imaginary (Natalie Portman definitely won’t be at rest when she meets her own “stupid man in the window”) to, finally, the realization that they can do much more together (it’s just that Stevens finds that inspiring and Garland finds it chilling).
St. Vincent’s Actor and Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane
This one came to me when listening to Actor for the first time this week, when Unsane is coming out on home video. Actor was already a horror movie soundtrack without the movie (for fuck’s sake, the chorus of one of the songs goes “H-E-L-P / Help me / Help me”), and with Unsane, it finds its accompaniment. Actor is all about women who appear on the verge of hurting themselves or others, and Claire Foy’s Sawyer Valentini seems to fit many of the characters St. Vincent creates her. The narrator of “Laughing with a Mouth of Blood”‘s assertion that “all of my old friends aren’t so friendly” and “all of my old haunts are now all haunting me” is a good summation of how Sawyer’s life is irreparably damaged by being stalked (as does “The Strangers”‘s ominous mention of “the strangers who sleep where I sleep”). And “Marrow”, the one with the “help me” chorus, conveys Sawyer’s suffocation as she’s involuntarily committed to a mental institution (the feeling of her having “ten strings attached to all ten of my fingers” really starts to kick in at this point). And she even has a disastrous Tinder date not unlike the botched fling described in “The Party”. But what really drove the comparison to my mind is Actor‘s aesthetic, a mixture of lush, Disney-esque strings and volatile live instrumentation, including some Robert Frippian guitar freakouts. It captures aurally what Unsane does visually, with its elegant, thought-through compositions butting up against the unpleasant harshness of the iPhone image.