Various Artists, “The Mortal Instruments Soundtrack” (Republic Records)
Successful film soundtracks have to complete a pair of difficult tasks. They must creatively echo the film they enhance and also stand up on their own.
“The Mortal Instruments” soundtrack manages to encapsulate the spirit of the story’s adventure into the violent world of shadowhunting (demon killing), the teenage protagonists’ restless spirit and the fragile love story that weaves itself into the narrative. The recipe for the album is simple: take an indie rock/pop band’s song, shake, stir into a hypnotic EDM track, add a serene ballad, repeat half a dozen times, cook on high and, voila, you’ve got a healthy, balanced mix of action and emotion.
From the dangerously dark and stormy dance track “Into the Lair” by Zedd to the catchy wails of AFI remix “17 Crimes,” to the bizarrely compelling low frequency tubular vibrations of Jessie J’s remixed “Magnetic,” it all coagulates into a moody party.
The high energy beats are tempered by Demi Lovato’s lovelorn “Heart by Heart” and Colbie Caillat’s evocative “When the Darkness” — two tracks recorded especially for this soundtrack. And He is We’s “All About Us” is a playful invitation to love that will lodge itself deep into your brain.
The teenage baiting becomes obvious with “Almost is Never Enough,” a duet from Ariana Grande and The Wanted’s Nathan Sykes. It’s a throwback to the 1990s power ballads that are just too cheesy for contemporary tastes but will never go out of fashion for feelings-ravaged adolescents.
On an album full of memorable songs, perhaps Bassnectar’s too-short “Calling From Above” sums it up best — a torrent of eerie, dynamic electronic sounds punctuated by siren calls to get lost in the music.