Soundtrack (Film)
Inside Llewyn Davis



by RivalSkoomaDealer USER (30 Reviews)
April 8th, 2014 | 12 replies

Release Date: 2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: While perhaps not quite as successful as the soundtrack to O’Brother, Where Art Thou?, Inside Llewyn Davis is a nice compilation of songs that greatly contribute to the success of the film.

Film soundtracks are often a difficult thing to appreciate for their own merits. Music that is crafted or compiled specifically to accompany a visual experience can make for an uneven listen when heard out of context of “the viewing experience.” The Coen Brothers, who are responsible for some of the most acclaimed films of the last couple decades, have clearly put a great deal of thought into the musical aspects of their work as well. Take 2000’s O’Brother, Where Art Thou? for example. The film’s use of southern bluegrass, gospel, and folk songs were a major component of the movie and producer T Bone Burnett’s hand in the production helped to elevate the soundtrack to garner perhaps as much sales and recognition as the film itself did.

Last year’s Inside Llewyn Davis was similar in the respect that the film was heavily influenced by its musical arrangement. T Bone Burnett’s production elements are all in place and are used with similar effect to that of O’Brother’s. Unlike that record’s use of a variety of musicians however, this soundtrack is mostly rooted in the soulful croons of lead actor Oscar Isaac, who serves as the film’s struggling protagonist during the 1961 folk movement in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Your enjoyment of the soundtrack and probably even the film itself will depend on how much you enjoy Isaac as both a musician and a character.

The opener “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” is a heartfelt piece that perfectly captures the tone of the entire soundtrack, save for a few oddballs which I’ll discuss in a moment. The acoustic ballads that pepper the record are beautifully composed, giving the listener an intimate connection with Isaac’s performance. The guest features work with varying degrees of success. Marcus Mumford is clearly a good folk singer, contributing vocals to several of the tracks here, but perhaps not the best when you’re aiming for a more traditional ‘60s folk sound. The same could be said for Justin Timberlake’s performance which gives the record some popish sensibilities that tend to feel somewhat out of place from time to time. Still he manages to deliver a catchy and even beautiful vocal performance on “Five Hundred Miles” alongside Carey Mulligan’s gorgeous delivery. The inclusion of Bob Dylan’s unreleased b-side from The Times They Are A Changin’ is excellent in its own right, but heard here really sets itself apart from the contemporary pieces that dominate the record. It's a stark contrast which the filmmakers probably didn’t intend. Dave Van Ronk, the folk artist that allegedly inspired Oscar Isaac’s character in the film, ends the soundtrack with “Green, Green Rocky Road,” a song that actually makes Isaac’s version of the same track sound pretty authentic when heard side by side.

The one song really holding the soundtrack back from being able to stand on its own is “Please Mr. Kennedy.” This satirical number was used in the film to show the differences between Isaac’s character’s heartfelt compositions and the rise of the corporate music takeover. When heard in the context of the film it makes sense but on record it's jarring and takes the listener completely out of the established mood of the overall experience for several minutes. Ironically the song was nominated for this year’s Best Original Song category at the Academy Awards, which speaks volumes to the way in which corporate music still dominates the industry today. Even the Oscar snobs didn’t have the decency to select one of the finer cuts from the soundtrack. But the song clearly makes its point in this way.

While perhaps not quite as successful as the soundtrack to O’Brother…, Inside Llewyn Davis is a nice compilation of songs that greatly contribute to the success of the film. The music here is a spiritual successor to the music on the O’Brother soundtrack, with perhaps more emphasis on emotional resonance. If you can get past the fact that these are songs meant to mimic a half a century old musical movement in the age of wi-fi and cell phones, you’ll probably find much to appreciate here.

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user ratings (14)

Comments:Add a Comment 
April 8th 2014


This movie was excellent. I can't really rate the soundtrack well since I barely care about folk music, but that one song...
"Please Mr. Kennedy" was pretty entertaining.

Have a pos, good review.

Digging: Dr. John - Gris-Gris

April 8th 2014


Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks man. I thought the movie was alright, but probably still one of my least favorite Cohen Bros films.

Digging: Freddie Gibbs - Shadow of a Doubt

April 8th 2014


Fantastic Cohen effort, (possible spoiler) the soundtrack in my memory was soulful/intimate and overall pretty cool but I gotta say I just loved that part when even the hero gets mad and sick at folk music with all the bile and fury necessary to attack the genre's eventual tediousness in a funny manner. def a film to see for any fans of the Cohen's slightly odder/darker side

Digging: Aes Dana - Pollen

April 8th 2014


Album Rating: 3.5

My biggest critique of the movie was just a general lack of substance. It had some great moments but I was really left wanting more of them. But then again, maybe that was the whole point.

April 8th 2014


great soundtrack, great movie. probably in my top 5 cohen movies

April 8th 2014


the story seemed kinda directionless but the melancholy and the atmosphere makes up for it. highlight was john goodman without hesitation. pissed myself.

Contributing Reviewer
April 8th 2014


great soundtrack for sure

Digging: Ulvesang - Ulvesang

April 9th 2014


Album Rating: 4.5

Pretty sure it was nominated for a Golden Globe, not an Oscar...

April 9th 2014


Album Rating: 3.5

It was both as it turns out.

April 9th 2014


The story was directionless for a reason.

Llewyn didn't commit to anything, so neither did the plot. All of his problems we self inflicted, yet he blamed everyone else. In a way, he was the movie...

October 30th 2014


I thought the movie was interesting but it just kind of ended bluntly and abruptly so I wasn't sure what the purpose was. Music was cool

January 8th 2015


The movie was a reflection of Llewyn's character as mentioned earlier. Great movie and soundtrack.

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