Everyone loves Zach Braff. Ever since he took the small screen by storm with his quirky antics on Scrubs, Braff has managed to maintain his relevance and cool-boy swagger throughout his career. His crowning achievement, however, is not as an actor, writer or director. In fact, Zach Braff may best be remembered for his mixtape skills. The Garden State soundtrack serves as a uniquely personal and influential collection of songs, a perfect companion to his 2004 hit indie film.
In Braff’s words, “your body goes through puberty in its teens, and the mind goes through puberty in your twenties,” and his 2004 film Garden State serves a testament to this. Braff plays Andrew Largeman, a deadpan and emotionless young adult, who has spent years under the influence of countless medications after an unfortunate childhood accident. After the death of his mother, Largeman returns home to New Jersey, better known as the Garden State. His adventures reconnecting with friends, loved ones and strangers, like the mysterious Sam (played by Natalie Portman), serve a greater purpose, a testament to his life in isolation and desire for a clearer future.
Twelve artists form the foundation of this thirteen-song soundtrack. A combination of Scrubs regulars such as Colin Hay & Cary Brothers, more popular performers like Coldplay and a double-dosage of The Shins, this compilation is indie rock at its very core. The songs are a combination of straight-up guitar ballads alongside more eccentric offerings, including Zero 7 and the hookah-bar fumes of Thievery Corporation. Garden State fans will fondly remember the life-changing words of “New Slang” and Iron & Wine’s fragile voice on his cover of “Such Great Heights”, as well as Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Little Boy Living in New York” highlighting the now-infamous “Infinite Abyss” scene.
Without this little compilation, the modern music landscape may have been very different. Coming at the heels of the garage rock revival, this soundtrack showed the world a new side of indie rock. The delicacies of Band of Horses and Arcade Fire may not have made it to the top of the charts had it not been for Remy Zero’s fresh melodies, or the vibrancy of “Caring Is Creepy”. Frou Frou’s contribution, “Let Go”, was many listeners’ first experience with Imogen Heap’s lush vocals and fleshy electronic style. Even in 2014, the legacy of this soundtrack, both direct and indirect, has remained an important part of popular music.
With Garden State, not only was Braff able to curate a soundtrack to complement the film he wanted to make, but that soundtrack is nothing short of remarkable. Each track is intimate and personal, allowing the listener to feel each song in their own way, just as how each song impacted Braff as he put together Garden State. All thirteen songs not only tell us the story of Andrew Largeman, but they show us the foundation of indie rock as we know it, and do a pretty good job in doing so.
Soundtrack | Epic Records