Listen Up: Must-Hear Tracks from “Wish I Was Here” and Alt-J

Is it just me, or is summer the best time for music?

There’s something indescribably freeing about truly jamming out, windows down and sunglasses on. That June-August spread is optimal road-trip time, and a perfectly-picked soundtrack is sure to enhance even those early morning drives to your summer job.

With the importance of good music in the summer, it’s no surprise that artists and producers are stepping up their game. My favorite sources for road-trip playlists this summer arrive via the Wish I Was Here indie movie soundtrack and Alt-J’s new singles.

Wish I Was Here is Zach Braff’s (of Scrubs and Garden State fame) latest project; the film centers around what it means to grow up when losing a parent or becoming one. Reviews on the actual film have been mixed so far – although the movie doesn’t come to theaters until July 18th – but the killer soundtrack has been very much acclaimed. It’s for good reason, too. Braff especially curated buzz-worthy tracks for the film, living up to the indie-cred established in his first directorial project, Garden State. The soundtrack features a new track from Bon Iver (“Heavenly Father”), an original from the Shins (“So Now What”), and a surprising and soulful collaboration between Coldplay and Cat Power (“Wish I Was Here”). Other artists include some of my personal favorites, namely Radical Face (“Mute”), The Weepies (“Mend”), and the Head and the Heart (“No One to Let You Down”). Check out the full list of tracks here

Wish I Was Here promotional poster via
Wish I Was Here promotional poster via

While the whole soundtrack is gold, it’s the new singles that really stand out.

Bon Iver’s brilliant “Heavenly Father” incorporates the Justin Vernon’s trademark ethereal, folk sound with a new hypnotic,experimental element. The song leaves you transfixed with its spiritual and introspective power.

The Shins’s “So Now What” plays in the film’s trailer and is equally uplifting. It’s classic Shins’s, built with grounding rock elements and sailing with elevating lyrics and lightness. Like all great Shins songs, this is one for the ages.

The album’s core, however, is the Coldplay and Cat Power collaboration, “Wish I Was Here.” This song is quietly melancholy and endlessly soulful, in Cat Power tradition. Zach Braff says, “Chris (Martin, of Coldplay) had the idea that it would be sung by a woman. I thought that was a genius idea because one of the things the film is about, is a strong woman (Kate Hudson’s character) becoming the matriarch of her family.” (quote from NPR Music). You can listen to most tracks from the soundtrack on YouTube, and the original songs are available for streaming via NPR’s All Songs Considered. 

Also for your listening pleasure this summer, is Alt-J and their groundbreaking new singles “Hunger of the Pine” and “Left Hand Free.” Although the band’s sophomore album, This is All Yours, isn’t officially out until September 22nd, the group has released these teaser tracks to tide us over. Alt-J’s first album, An Awesome Wave, gave the band a reputation clever, eclectic, and experimental alt-pop. If these two sneak-peak songs are any indication, Alt-J hasn’t lost their edge, but has gained expert control.

“Hunger of the Pine” is an intense and bubbling track about the physical pain of yearning, or “pining.” The song builds with synth-y, trippy elements and loops Miley Cyrus singing one lyric, “I’m a female rebel,” from “4×4” off Bangerz. The song both grooves and haunts, with wonderfully-crafted layers and arcs. The other released single, “Left Hand Free,” encompasses almost a totally different sound. Where “Hunger of the Pine” is other-worldly, “Left Hand Free” is a swooning, swaggering rocker anthem. If these songs are an indication of what’s to come, we can prepare our selves for incredible versatility from Alt-J in September. Listen to both tracks below:

– Jenny Henderson


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