Life is way too short to worry about soundtracks. Like 90 percent of live albums, the comedy of Carlos Mencia, and the Electoral College, they suck. Except when they don't. Music from the Motion Picture Juno does not suck at all. It's actually fairly terrific from beginning to end, in no small part because it features seven songs by the antifolk, ex-Moldy Peach Kimya Dawson. As Juno the soundtrack has followed Juno the film into becoming a hit, Dawson has become one of the most unlikely recording stars in many a year.
Why? Well, Dawson's songs — often plunked out in a rudimentary way on an acoustic guitar — are delivered in a childlike voice that can be charitably called weak. When Dawson was paired with partner Adam Green in the Moldy Peaches, the duo put out one eponymous album on Rough Trade in 2001. It got a lot of critical love and had the misfortune of being released right around the September 11th attacks and to include the pre-9/11 written tune "NYC Is a Graveyard." (Did I mention that Dawson sometimes performs in a bunny costume and has an Afro the size of a beach ball?)
Green and Dawson have since gone their separate ways, releasing solo albums to less and less fanfare. The Juno soundtrack culls several numbers from Dawson's 2006 Remember That I Love You. "Tire Swing" and "Loose Lips" have the pared-down sound of the Moldy Peaches with the incredible lyrics that are the reason Dawson was invited to this Hollywood party.
Dawson is singular in her ability to be funny, vulnerable, raw, and childlike in the span of a few verses. "If I am a spinster for the rest of my life/My arms will keep warm on cold and lonely nights" she tosses out toward the end of the heartbreaking "Tire Swing."
Other artists that come along with Dawson for the Juno ride include Sonic Youth with their deliciously spacey cover of the Carpenters' "Superstar" and Mott the Hoople via their indestructible glam kiss "All the Young Dudes." But this is Dawson's show, and, taken as a whole, the soundtrack for a movie about a precocious adolescent who learns to cope with the horrible, awesome, funny, life-changing event of pregnancy couldn't have a more apt voice. — Werner Trieschmann