Safety Not Guaranteed Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Various Artists

Safety Not Guaranteed Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Various Artists
(Abko Music & Records, Inc.)

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 Full disclosure: I was really looking forward to this movie, and didn’t sit down to write the review until after I’d seen it.

Like any soundtrack that isn’t a musical, this one contains both fully fleshed-out songs, and then pieces of the score that are instrumental moments of emotion and mood. We can separate the two if we want on this soundtrack because Ryan Miller (of Guster) did all the score pieces and various artists performed the others. Miller’s contributions are wistful and evocative of a different decade, the decades that we typically refer to in sepia tones. They come together, mostly, with piano and acoustic guitar to evoke a quirky charm. These parts are more Harold and Maude  and Thumbsucker, than Transformers or any romantic comedy with wide audiences. But that’s expected because it’s a movie about a man who takes an ad out in a newspaper looking for a time traveling partner. “First Car Chase” and “Slow Chase, Parts 1 & 2” are gems as they sound as if they were pulled from film noir; their pacing is perfect for dialogue with fewer shots of stressed-out faces, side shots of cars driving on, and climactic pulls into alleyways in the middle of the night. “Litterbox Beach,” by The Hoppin’ Haole Brothers, is the one song that stands out sonically from the others. It’s your typical Hawaiian feel with a charming ukulele, and a chorus that even proclaims, “and I-ka-le-le, she-ka-le-les, ukulele, we all could-le-le,” which is just the right attitude when it comes to the ukulele. The Summer Fiction provide “She’s Bound to Get Hurt,” a playful jaunt into baroque pop that imitates smiling. The vocals are calming, but laced with romance, the guitar is straightforward but light, and the jazz-style drums give the feeling of a waltz or being smitten. The Summer Fiction deserve more space here, but the song works beautifully with the score (although it’s thrown away in the film, used for only 15 seconds or less.) The soundtrack ends and begins with Mark Duplass singing “Big Machine,” written by Ryan Miller. The first track is acoustic and played successfully by the actor on the sitar. It’s everything the film wanted to be – about an outsider, who may or may not be brilliant, with a huge weight of sadness just resting on his chest.

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