The indie movie of all indie movies, Garden State, stars a very young Natalie Portman and Zach Braff. This flick has been my absolute favorite since I first saw it almost a decade ago, partially because of its striking visuals and deadpan humor, but mostly because of the vibrant, haunting and hand-picked soundtrack.
I say hand-picked because Braff himself was responsible for putting together the music featured in this film, similar to his involvement with the soundtrack for medical dramedy “Scrubs”. He is famously a big fan of The Shins and popularized their album Oh, Inverted World by featuring “Caring is Creepy” and “New Slang”, giving musical birth to instant classics.
This magical relationship is just one of the many reasons why this soundtrack tugs at my heart strings so very successfully, a few more are Coldplay, Iron & Wine and Simon & Garfunkel.
Here, I will give you a short and sweet musical tour of one of my favorite movies.
New Slang | The Shins
This is one of the most memorable moments of the film, and when our main character, Andrew Largeman, meets his sidekick/love interest, Sam. He is sitting next to her in a doctor’s office and asks her what she is listening to under her fabulous 1990’s headphones. She places them over his ears after replying, “The Shins”, and immediately you are immersed in “New Slang” cryptic lyrics and dreamy vocals underlined with the steady beat of a tambourine.
Don’t Panic | Coldplay
“We live in a beautiful world,” Coldplay vocalist chimes. The film, in the meantime, is dripping with irony, showing Braff disgruntled and continuously finding himself in mundane and completely not beautiful situations. The use of music for sarcastic humor in this is completely on point with the tone of the rest of the film.
Caring is Creepy | The Shins
This song is the second Shins song to appear in Garden State and it perfectly explains the situation Andrew finds himself in. This song is all about suppressed emotion and dealing with tragedy when the all the warmth and light have been ejected from life. He’s not sad, he’s not happy, he’s not anything.
Such Great Heights | Iron & Wine
This cover of The Postal Service is the most stripped down of the indie folk making its way onto the soundtrack. The slow and dragging vocals make you want to clutch your chest and sway, especially with that husky voice.
The Only Boy Living in New York | Simon & Garfunkel
This song plays as our protagonist stands over a giant dump, looking down into the abyss with Sam behind him. They scream into the nothingness and collapse into giggles. He spreads his arms out wide and for once in the film you see a glimmer of humanity slip across his face. You can feel the humidity in the air from the rain in the film. Braff stands completely alone over a giant hole, and for once, he doesn’t feel so alone. He turns to Sam and *spoiler alert* they share one of the dampest, rainy evening movie kisses I’ve ever seen.