Cliff Martinez – Only God Forgives OST
Most of the soundtrack to the upcoming Bangkok crime thriller Only God Forgives (starring Ryan Gosling) consists of moody, minimalist instrumentals that paint a menacing but fantasy-like picture of the city’s underworld. The songs of true interest, however, are the three with vocals, each sung in Thai by Thais. Actor Vithaya Pansringarm, who plays a retired cop in the film, sings a beautiful, haunting version of “Mai Leum (Can’t Forget)” by luk thung legend Surapol Sombatcharoen. Actress and singer Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, who also appears in the film, is featured here singing the pop song “Jai Orn (Falling In Love)”, with Martinez’s production adhering closely to the string-laden karaoke version. The last track is a re-recording of the 90s rock ballad “Tur Kue Kwam Fun (You’re My Dream)” by original artist P.R.O.U.D., whose vocals are accompanied only by the plaintive sounds of a toy music box. What’s most impressive is how these tracks and the instrumentals flow with and complement each other, and that they were chosen in place of obvious English-language tunes, suggesting that the film itself may intend to pay its respects to Thailand rather than simply reinforcing typical cinematic stereotypes of the country.
Mayer Hawthorne – Where Does This Door Go
In a move that should surprise no one, neo blue-eyed soul singer Mayer Hawthorne has joined one of pop’s styles du jour in imitating the sound of “yacht rock” duo Hall & Oates. The crooner from Michigan has bubbled just beneath the surface in recent years by paying homage to Motown-era soul. Now, with the help of a new label and producers like Pharrell Williams on board, Hawthorne is trying to break through on a new album. Aside from a handful of modern hip-hop touches, most tracks go the route of “Reach Out Richard”, which sounds too close to Steely Dan’s “Peg”, with none of that group’s instrumental prowess or clever lyrics. If one of the goals of Where Does This Door Go was for it to be easy to swallow, it succeeds winningly, but the lite-funk sonics ultimately fail to make up for a lack of memorable songs
The Garifuna Collective – Ayo
The Garifuna people, a small ethnic group in Central America descended from West African slaves and native Caribs, were dealt a great blow in 2008, when leading music star Andy Palacio suddenly died of a heart attack. His group, The Garifuna Collective, had just released the award-winning Wátina the previous year, and his culture was for the first time gaining international attention. The Collective may have lost their iconic leader, but their new album shows that no lack of talent was left behind. The so-called “punta rock” sound features prominent percussion, electric and acoustic guitars, and beautiful singing, all of which leans towards Afro-pop with a touch of reggae but remains its own thing entirely. The title track translates to “goodbye” as a tribute to Palacio, but the mood does not stay somber. Three different singers lead the group through mostly upbeat and groovy numbers like “Kame Báwara (Why You Call?)” and “Aganba (Listen)”, which may remind some listeners of The Buena Vista Social Club.