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Movie soundtracks aren't what they used to be, so thanks '(500) Days of Summer'

St. Vincent

Album: Actor (4AD)

In stores: Now

Cinderhella: St. Vincent, a.k.a. saucer-eyed singer Annie Clark, works in deceptive malaise, joyful woe. One critic described the 26-year-old Oklahoman as a gloomy Disney princess, and that's about right: She's Cinderella with an ax behind her back. Or maybe the Little Mermaid with a lust for sharks. Watch your back, Prince Eric.

Up with losers: This 11-track album — my fave disc of the summer so far — soars on swoony strings, vaguely operatic vocals and quietly macabre lyrics. (One track is called Laughing With a Mouth Full of Blood.) Clark is formerly of the Polyphonic Spree, a cheeky ensemble that mixed Up With People glee with a good case of the creeps. The singer has said that this, her second solo disc, is about "losers." She's not laughing at them; but she's not exactly clucking 'em on the chin, either.

Reminds us of: Snow White's Scary Adventures

Download this: Actor Out of Work

Grade: A

Mariah Carey

Song: Obsessed

Album: Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (Island Def Jam)

In stores: Single available on iTunes; album out Aug. 25

Mimi fights back: Mariah Carey's new single isn't very good. At best, it's expensively mediocre; at worst, Advilian. But the midtempo putdown is rather interesting, at least from a pop culture standpoint. First of all, it's a dis track, aimed at Eminem, whose lascivious new song Bagpipes From Baghdad ripped on Carey and her hubby, Nick Cannon. Here, Mimi taunts back, tweaking the rapper about his drug use, his career, his fantasies. "See right through you, like you're bathing in Windex," she smirks.

Tuning out: That's not the ugly part, though. Obsessed is grotesquely Auto-Tuned. Sure, everyone from Cher to Kanye West to Miley Cyrus indulges in digital trickery these days. But although no one would accuse the 40-year-old Carey of being original, she's always been vainglorious about her octave-spanning pipes. But now even Carey sounds like a randy robot, besmirching her one genuine talent (other than owning the world's largest collection of ill-fitting bras).

Reminds us of: Either the end of Mariah or the death of Auto-Tune. I'd call that win-win.

Grade: D

i love soundtracks, always have. Purple Rain, The Graduate, even Willie Nelson's exceptional Side 1 of The Electric Horseman. A good soundtrack enhances a movie, but it also stands alone, evoking grandeur, romance, cinematic derring-do. I recently played both Vision Quest and Butch Cassidy and the Sundace Kid on vinyl for my kids. They didn't leave or cry, which I took as an endorsement for both.

Unfortunately, my desk these days is littered with utterly useless soundtracks for, say, Transformers 2, crass ploys featuring Nickelback-y sludge that have little to do with the film and nothing to do with enjoyment. As the 21st century music marketplace has turned into a one-hit-wonder wasteland, movie studios and record labels want quick, iPod-able hits, not soundtracks that last. Such modern directors as Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie and Cameron Crowe are the rare helmsmen these days with an ear for cool, enduring compilations.

That's why the tunes gathered for new romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer — which opens locally July 31 — are so good, so refreshing. I have no idea if the film itself works (although Times critic Steve Persall loves the Sundance darling starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt). But I can say for certain that the accompanying soundtrack is a smart, bittersweetly nuanced mixtape blending old weepers (Simon & Garfunkel, the Smiths, Hall & Oates) and new heart-stabbers (Regina Spektor, Doves, Wolfmother). Not only does it make me want to see the movie, but I also have a strange urge to make a Kleenexian mixtape of my own.

ALBUM REVIEW

SONG REVIEW

Movie soundtracks aren't what they used to be, so thanks '(500) Days of Summer' 07/18/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 18, 2009 5:31am]

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