Various Artists - Lost In Translation
Sofia Coppola was responsible for the delicately unsettling adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides in which five teenage girls kill themselves within a single year as the boys in the neighbourhood look on uncomprehendingly. With Sofia Coppola's use of Air to provide the soundtrack, themselves blending electronica with the sweet pop of Burt Bacharach, The Virgin Suicides shimmered with a sound that will be forever remembered from a couple of decades before, much like the ghosts of the five Lisbon girls.
For her follow-up to The Virgin Suicides, Sofia Coppola turned to a story of a relationship that blooms between Americans who feel lost, not only in Japan, where the film is set, but also in their own marriages. Lost In Translation, in using its soundtrack as effectively as Coppola's earlier film, mixes Japanese pop, chilly electronica, swirling eighties indie and drunken karaoke to reveal how foreign it's possible to feel when in Japan.
The Lost In Translation soundtrack album sounds as modern and as soulless as a city that becomes deserted at the weekend but rather than that being a criticism, it appears to have captured the very essence of the film. Anyone who is aware of the novels of Haruki Murakami - Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Norwegian Wood - will be familiar with how distant one can feel when they are unable to conform. Be it Toru Okada in Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, who faces a dizzyingly complex conspiracy or Toru Watanabe in Norwegian Wood, who drifts out of life after the death of his best friend and his meeting with two incredible women who he recalls years later on hearing the same song by The Beatles, Murakami's subjects take solace within intense relationships as life in Japan bustles around them, much as Bob and Charlotte, played by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, respectively, do in Lost In Translation. For this soundtrack, Sofia Coppola has selected music that, when brought together, emphasises these feelings.
Following a short introduction, Lost In Translation, drifts into form with Kevin Shields' City Girl, which is a spiraling, delicate song about infatuation, hums with the kind of guitars that were all over My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything rather that the blur of noise that became associated with Loveless. Such a comparison is made clear given the album's inclusion of that album's Sometimes, which is such an exceptionally beautiful song that, alongside The Jesus And Mary Chain's Just Like Honey, few of the other thirteen songs come close. Yet, it's possible that they were never meant to, being far more suited to this being a soundtrack to a film than an individual album, much as Air's soundtrack to The Virgin Suicides pales alongside both Moon Safari and 10,000Hz Legend despite containing, in Playground Love, the band's best song. Instead, the few songs by Kevin Shields included here are short and fleeting but which hint at a direction My Bloody Valentine may have taken had Shields delivered any recordings after Loveless. Yet, as tender as they are, Goodbye, Ikebana and Are You Awake? are as far removed from the MBV Arkestra's remix of Primal Scream's If They Move Kill 'Em as it is possible to get. Even now, as with his failure to follow up Loveless, Shields remains as elusive as ever.
As for Air's one contribution to this album - Alone In Kyoto, which is also slated to appear on their forthcoming Talkie Walkie album - fits seamlessly amongst the songs that surround it and, alongside the still images taken from Lost In Translation that appear in the booklet that are credited to Sofia Coppola, reinforces the feeling of isolation despite living in a busy city. Elsewhere, no track ever shames the Lost In Translation soundtrack other than Phoenix's Too Young, which is desperately clunky amid the softly sophisticated music that surrounds it but Death In Vegas, Squarepusher and Sebastien Tellier have all contributed wonderful songs that both fit the tone of the album as well as never sounding like a scrap of music unfit for little more than a soundtrack.
Interestingly, given the setting of the film, there is only one song on the album by a Japanese artist and that is Happy End's Kaze Wo Atsumete. It's a definite highlight, is as light and breezy as the summer wind blowing off the sea and offsets the chill across much of the rest of the album. Finally, there is a bonus track if you leave the album playing, which features Bill Murray singing Roxy Music's More Than This in a karaoke bar.
After The Virgin Suicides, Lost In Translation demonstrates that Sofia Coppola is as capable of putting together a soundtrack album as she is of directing the accompanying film and in dragging Kevin Shields out of wherever he was, she has shown an appreciation for musicians that would otherwise have been considered lost. Lost In Translation is a hazy collection of songs that would doubtless sound distant when placed against a collection of great love songs but it reveals a love that is made up of the smallest moments to bring people closer together.