Songs in the Key of Wes Anderson


[At the end of this week Wes Anderson will release Moonrise Kingdom. That means all this week we’ll be celebrating by diving into his past films with a slew of features on the distinctive director and his films. Head here to see all our coverage during this week of Wes Anderson.]

An essential component to the movies of Wes Anderson is the music. For the most part his films are steeped in the 60s and early 70s; heavy on folk, the British invasion, and with drops of jazz and a little French yé-yé. There are several exceptions — Elliott Smith, The Clash, The Ramones, all that Bowie, The Stooges, snippets from Satyajit Ray movies, Jarvis Cocker, Devo, and almost New Order — but generally there’s a common era and feel on his soundtracks. (Even the outliers evoke that feel regardless.) My friend Jeff Terich over at the music webzine Treble did a feature on directors adapting albums into films, and rightly picked Wes Anderson to helm The Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks.

After the cut are 13 bands/musicians I think will appear on future Wes Anderson soundtracks (that haven’t already). I tried to keep them in that 60s and early 70s corridor. It’s not a comprehensive list by any means, so feel free to add some suggestions of your own in the comments.

The Action

Signed by George Martin (one of many Fifth Beatles), The Action were a mod/R&B group that were outsold by other bands of the era and mostly forgotten. Rolled Gold was a great reissue of their demos, and songs like “Something to Say” (above) or the much bouncier and punchier “Strange Roads” seem ideal candidates for a future Wes Anderson picture.

Jacques Dutronc

Jacques Dutronc - Fais Pas Ci Fais Pas Ça

In his underrated directorial debut CQ, Moonrise Kingdom co-writer Roman Coppola used the Jacques Dutronc song “Le Responsible.” In the trailer for Moonrise Kingdom, the song “Le Temps de l’Amour” by Françoise Hardy is used. Hardy is Dutronc’s wife. It’s just a matter of time before this happens, and Dutronc’s got a great catalog to choose from.

Johnny Hallyday

Johnny Hallyday is the French Elvis. He even does the bow-legged dancing, hip swiveling, and mimics the yipes in delivery sometimes. While not all songs by this French rock and roller would fit, his early tracks are pretty good candidates, as is this cover Los Bravos’s “Black is Black.” (Los Bravos would also be pretty great for a Wes Anderson film.)

Marianne Faithfull

marianne faithfull - this little bird

Given Marianne Faithfull’s (sometimes infamous) association with The Rolling Stones and the sound of her 60s records, she’s bound to have a song on a Wes Anderson soundtrack. With that harp at the beginning, “This Little Bird” sounds ready made for inclusion.

The Left Banke

Here’s the British invasion by way of NYC in the form of The Left Banke. One of the musicians I was going to include on this list was Swedish indie rocker Jens Lekman, whose song “Black Cab” borrows its harpsichord riff directly from The Left Banke’s “I’ve Got Something on My Mind.” In a way, he’s represented, though I went with another Left Banke song to showcase.

Syd Barrett

Syd Barrett - Octopus

I don’t know if all of Syd Barrett’s work would fit (especially as it can get too chaotic and psychedelic for the manicured style of Wes Anderson), but there are a couple songs from his solo albums and bits from Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn that still ought to make the cut.

Chantal Goya

A 1960s pop singer and star of Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin Féminin, Chantal Goya has since built a career as a singer of children’s songs. I went with this ready-for-Anderson non-kids-song to showcase, but here’s a video of her singing and dancing with a panda, no doubt recreating a scene from one of Margot Tenenbaum’s later plays.

John Cale

John Cale - Paris 1919

This is another bound-to-happen person on the list, and Cale’s been on the periphery of a Wes Anderson soundtrack for a while. (Ex-Velvet Underground, also appeared on Nico’s Chelsea Girl.) Lots of great songs from Vintage Violence through Helen of Troy to pick from, but I went with “Paris 1919” given Anderson’s recent time spent in France.

Marie Laforêt

Another actress/recording artist on this list, Marie Laforêt made some diverse music throughout her career, including poppier songs, silkier ones, and quite a few covers. Her French cover of “Paint it Black” is pretty excellent, though she recorded in Italian as well. There’s also an Italian version of “A Demain, My Darling” (above), though the French version seems more aligned with Anderson’s sensibilities.

Sixto Rodriguez

Rodriguez - Cause (HD)

Ever since seeing the documentary Searching for Sugar Man, I’ve been listening to a lot of Sixto Rodriguez, and I figure it’s right to have him on this list. “Crucify Your Mind” seems like it could be a good fit for a Wes Anderson film, but “Cause” (above) is a good contender as well for hitting the right beautifully sad note.

Os Mutantes

It’s going to happen eventually. There is something just right about Os Mutantes’s sound, even when it’s buzzy and psychedelic as hell. There’s the right amount of color and play going on in their music, the sort of thing that you could build a scene or montage around pretty easily.

Anna Karina

The ex-wife of Jean-Luc Godard and one of the key actresses of the French New Wave, Anna Karina recorded a number of songs, several appearing in Godard’s films. The above song is from the French TV movie Anna (which also starred Marianne Faithfull). The film and song were written by Serge Gainsbourg, and Gainsbourg himself would’ve made it onto the list if his music wasn’t so damn sexy.

Manfred Mann

Manfred Mann - Fox On The Run

Before doing “Blinded by the Light” with his Earth Band, Manfred Mann played in a band that was a lot closer to The Kinks in sound. There’s a touch of “Village Green…” in “Fox on the Run,” and also some of that Davies-like vibe on “The Mighty Quinn” or “Pretty Flamingo,” but not in a bad or overly derivative way.

Hubert Vigilla
Brooklyn-based fiction writer, film critic, and long-time editor and contributor for Flixist. A booster of all things passionate and idiosyncratic.