As an American teenager in 2015, I know a little something about John Green. The author/vlogger/cultural icon has come to the forefront of young adult literature, AP US History study sessions and general teen talk. Last summer, his hit novel The Fault in Our Stars was adapted to the big screen, and it was this film’s hype that led me to read the book everyone seemed to bawl their eyes out at. I certainly found something to savor in both the book and the film, and the rest of his bibliography sits on my bookshelf, being some of the only books I’ve been willing to buy (and hopefully read someday).
Next up to the box office is his 2008 novel Paper Towns, which comes to theaters later this month. My paperback copy of this book came by virtue of Green’s alma mater, Kenyon College. As an accepted student, Kenyon offered a free paperback copy of a book by an alumnus of the college, so naturally I picked the book with the large red thumbtack and a familiar name. I took the book with me when I traveled abroad to Spain amidst the stress and uncertainty of my pending college decision. Seeing Q and company, as senior year lifts them up and pushes them in different directions, seemed fittingly cliché that this was the book I had with me as I made the decision as to where I’d spend the next four years of my life.
About a month after receiving my copy, I was reading the end of the tale as my father, sister, and I drove down I-81 en route from Washington and Lee University. Two weeks prior, after a month of toiling and thinking, I made the choice to attend Kenyon College, but I had just visited a school I had fallen in love with, whose waitlist forced me to remember whether or not I still loved this place. Indeed, none of this narrative has anything to do with the soundtrack to this box office dramedy. Yeah, the soundtrack is a pretty nice listen, but it feels kind of special too. This pretty-good-book-turned-film soundtrack carries itself well as an audio blueprint of what this story should feel like.
As for the soundtrack itself, it’s sort of fascinating to see how it stretches itself musically. It makes sense that this is all for the same film, as it feels like something any teen would be okay with listening to. However, it somehow manages to click with the cues of the story that the film and book set forth. Sticking itself in the indie/indie pop realm, the contributions of Santigold, Sam Bruno and Saint Motel feel fresh and slick, sending a rush excitement through the rest of the compilation. Without having seen the film, they seem to have a fitting place to go that works with this story full of youth and exuberance. Contributions by Vance Joy and Vampire Weekend are strong pieces of the soundtrack that are sure to hit with the audience as well.
Scattered throughout are tracks that tread the line of the fun and light, to the end of melancholy and emotional. Son Lux, who also scored the film itself, balances the two on a special mix of “Lost It to Trying”, while the Svidden & Jarly remix of Galantis’s “Runaway (U & I)” is fit for a night out, but in some respects, is a little too real for Paper Towns. The tail of the compilation is where the emotions hit in. The last four songs of the record are its slowest takes, and the last three in particular work well in tandem. Indie rock stalwarts The Mountain Goats and The War on Drugs change the tone up a little bit away from the poppy side of things. Closing out the record, the Naked Brothers Band fan in me savored the nuanced maturity behind the closer by Nat and Alex Wolff.
As a soundtrack for a movie, it’s awkward trying to judge the merits of this compilation, which kind of plays out like a mixtape. It’s a prime example of how songs can mix together to create a cohesive package that radiates a combination of emotion and pleasure. It makes sense that the indie vibes and semi-pop thrills offered here are associated with the film, as they capture the essence of the story it tells, moving along with the story pretty well on an emotional level. As someone who definitely felt vague parallels, and a bit of an emotional attachment to this story, this soundtrack sends off an inexplicable sense of nostalgia that sends the images of Q, Margo, Radar, Lacey and Ben, as their journey of making sense of themselves fit nicely into my little personal episode of the same.