All year long, KCRW digs into thoughtful, poignant, and often quite candid conversations with the creative forces behind our favorite films and Oscar considerations.
With fanfare for Sunday’s 2023 Academy Awards coursing through the halls of HQ, KCRW Music decided it was time to get in on the fun. To that end, we’re pairing each of this year’s Best Picture nominees with its musical spiritual counterpart.
Happy watching (and listening).
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Everything Everywhere All at Once x Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues
Everything Everywhere All at Once centers a craving for acceptance, purpose, and a place within whatever ‘verse (uni or multi) that we find ourselves inhabiting at any given moment — even as most of us know full well that, try as we might, nothing in any world will ever make narrative sense.
It does make sense, then, that Talking Heads frontman David Byrne contributed to two of the tracks on the film’s Son Lux-scored soundtrack. Head deeper down the rabbit hole with Talking Heads’ landmark 1983 album Speaking in Tongues, which features such indelible hits as “Burning Down the House,” “Slippery People,” “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),” and “Girlfriend Is Better.” And it’s that last song which begat the immortal line (and equally immortal concert film), “Stop Making Sense.” Suddenly, those words ring out more urgently than ever before.
Michelle Yeoh: ''Everything Everywhere' is the role I've been waiting for’
Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu on loving her vile ‘Everything’ character
Jonathan Demme on “Stop Making Sense” and working with David Byrne
Women Talking x Joni Mitchell’s Blue
Sarah Polley’s Women Talking, set within a Mennonite community whose female members plot the logistics of escaping the serial rapists who live among them, overflows with quietly devastating details: A pre-teen girl’s remarkable athleticism, unuseful to her station in life; the soul of a philosopher trapped in the body of a grown woman who will never be allowed to pursue higher education; the multiple allusions to assaults beginning as early as age four. Through all of this, the women of the film do exactly what the title suggests. They talk. To experience their conversations is to renew fury at the insidious nature of patriarchy permeating all corners of society.
This is where Joni comes in. Allow this film to enrage you, and then soothe yourself with the free flowing words, thoughts, and feelings of perhaps our greatest living songwriter — one who, in her own way, talks about it all.
More: Forgiveness and sexual assault complicity are at center of ‘Women Talking’
Tár x Daniel Avery’s Ultra Truth
Audiences will be unpacking the complexities of the story of Lydia Tár for years to come. Nominally about the descent of one very powerful woman within the seemingly impenetrable world of classical music, Tár refuses to offer any guidance as to how to think or feel about what is being presented.
A work as immersive yet inconclusive as this one finds answers in a nearly wordless suite of songs with a similar capacity to envelop. UK techno producer Daniel Avery has always had a knack for conjuring music to soundtrack the darkest dance. That’s more apparent than ever on 2022’s Ultra Truth, a slow-burning and all-encompassing trip into the abyss.
More: Daniel Avery speaks his Ultra Truth: A psychedelic guest mix
The Banshees of Inisherin x The Pastels’ Up For a Bit With the Pastels
Set on a tiny, fictional Irish island in 1923 inhabited by folks who’ve managed to abstain from the Civil War of the mainland, Banshees tells a smaller-stakes story, but one as equally violent and riddled with internal strife. Many in this tale long to escape their idyllic yet suffocatingly dull environs. Some manage, most don’t. Much discussion ensues around who is and isn’t “fecking boring.”
On their debut LP Up For a Bit, Scottish indiepop band The Pastels use classic rock tropes channeled through near-primitive skill sets (not dissimilar to the earliest work of their countrymen, The Jesus & Mary Chain) to meditate on life crises and rural malaise. Lead singer Stephen Pastel’s deadpan vocals are our earnest, weird, and occasionally hilarious guide. Much like Ireland and Scotland’s own spiritual kinship as neighboring nations, these small and strange works of art share an uncanny DNA.
The Fabelmans x Built To Spill’s There’s Nothing Wrong With Love
Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans is a semi-fictionalized biopic of the storied filmmaker’s younger self. It’s also the tale of a large, close-knit family that feels shot through with an unresolvable current of loneliness. In it, we watch teenage Spielberg analogue Sammy Fabelman continually take apart his own brain and reassemble it into heavily-stylized film strips to be projected in front of family and peers.
That same compulsion to take the world apart and figure out how it works runs through Built to Spill’s 1994 sophomore album There’s Nothing Wrong With Love. On this ‘90s indie rock classic, the band known for heavy riffs and even heavier pontificating declare: “I wanna see movies of my dreams.” Paired with a Steven Spielberg auto-biopic? No brainer.
Elvis x Yola’s Walk Through Fire
Director Baz Luhrmann’s signature frenetic visual style and pop-song-sound-bath flair show up in full force across his rock ‘n’ roll biopic Elvis. The film cleverly weaves the songs of the titular Elvis Presley through most frames, often mashed up alongside influences like Mama Thornton and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The latter is portrayed by vocal powerhouse Yola, whose excellent albums — 2019’s Walk Through Fire and 2021’s Stand For Myself — are sprawling, complex works of country-soul perfection. You really can’t go wrong with either to come down from Elvis’s breakneck pace, so why not start from the beginning?
Avatar: The Way of Water x The Comet is Coming’s Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam
Extend the wonderment instilled by James Cameron’s technical world building mastery by cueing up The Comet is Coming’s 2022 opus Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam the moment you leave the theater. One of the 22 best albums of ‘22, it’s a work of achingly beautiful controlled chaos, rife with long, lean soundwaves that crest with electrified freneticism and muscular jazz facing squarely toward the future. Your next obsession has already touched down.
Top Gun: Maverick x Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue
A film that’s as big, silly, heart warming, and adrenaline-pumping as this one is designed to explode all human synapses. A bombastic rock album may seem like the obvious choice, but we value your healthy blood pressure levels too much for that. Instead, ease back into civilian life with the world’s most popular and equally-adrenaline pumping jazz record. Whether or not each of Davis’ trademark trumpet licks are already worn into the grooves of your brain, this one always goes down like a cold one at the Hard Deck after a test run.
All Quiet on the Western Front x David Bowie’s Heroes
If you’re planning to fire up 2022’s searingly discomfiting adaptation of one of the 20th Century’s most renowned anti-war stories, we suggest the similarly disquieting, Cold War-infused work of David Bowie’s 1977 album Heroes. The ironic romanticism of the sweeping title track alone makes this a pair to turn over in your brain for days and weeks to come.
Triangle of Sadness x Todd Terje’s It’s Album Time
Audacious Scandinavians just go together. We don’t make the rules.
More: Oscars Best Song: Reviews of nominees ‘Lift Me Up,’ ‘Hold My Hand,’ ‘Applause’