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#albumoftheday REVIEW: THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)

Since the Twilight franchise concluded, there haven’t been a whole lot of must have movie soundtracks. Fortunately, The Hunger Games franchise is ripe to take over the coveted most wanted soundtracks spot in our music addicted hearts. The soundtrack to the newest installment, Catching Fire, features brand new tracks by many of today’s hottest artists. In fact, it has so many of them that we just had to do a track-by-track review of this sucker.

1. COLDPLAY: “ATLAS”

The soundtrack opens with a melancholic, down-tempo ballad from none other than Coldplay. It’s probably not the song I would have opened the soundtrack with, given that it is, again, a ballad, and also because it’s just not very catchy the first time you hear it. Quite the contrary, it’s one of those tracks that takes several listens to grow on you. But, hey, it’s Coldplay and it was probably in their contract that their song had to be first on the soundtrack. Or maybe the people who assembled the soundtrack wanted to open it with the biggest name on the collection. In any case, the song might not make much of an impression on you at first, but don’t skip it because you’ll warm up to it eventually, if your tastes are anything like ours. It’s actually quite the moving and poetic number.

2. OF MONSTERS AND MEN: “SILHOUETTES”

Of Monsters And Men’s contribution, “Silhouettes,” starts off like a somber, down-tempo ballad, too, but the tempo picks up a bit as it goes on. Unlike the Coldplay cut, this is one you’re likely to fall in love the very first time you listen to it. It’s super emotive and has a wonderful, intoxicating melody. “I’m already dead,” goes the post-chorus and it just might give you chills.

3. SIA FEAT. THE WEEKND & DIPLO: “ELASTIC HEART”

“Why can’t I conquer love?” Sia asks early on during “Elastic Heart,” a seductive and snappy collaboration with R&B sensation The Weeknd and producer du jour Diplo. If the thick and punchy Diplo-arranged beats weren’t so potent, I’d have to call this one a down-tempo ballad, too, but it’s ultimately more like a trip-hop number. And Sia and The Weeknd’s lugubrious vocals are just as potent as the infectious beats, chock full of bleeding emotion, their voices meshing together beautifully. If you only download one song from this soundtrack, make it this one. Honestly, it’s a contender for song of the year. It’s that damn good.

4. THE NATIONAL: “LEAN”

The National’s moody contribution to the soundtrack begins with vocalist Matt Berninger simply singing along to acoustic guitar. “Everybody knows the world’s about to end,” he sings, his voice as disconsolate as ever and we wouldn’t have it any other way. The rest of the band joins the mix after the first chorus, but they don’t inject much energy into the song, which is fine because this is an eerie, laid back affair with elements of folk and ’70’s rock, not a bouncy pop song.

5. CHRISTINA AGUILERA: “WE REMAIN”

Speaking of bouncy pop songs, next we have Christina Aguilera’s “We Remain,” which was written by Ryan Tedder, Christina, Mikky Eko and Brent Kutzle. Actually, it’s an uplifting but wistful ballad and it’s more punchy than it is bouncy. But, yes, it’s the closest thing the soundtrack has to a quote unquote pop song. One of the best things about this one is that Christina doesn’t do all kinds of crazy vocal runs, instead simply delivering an emotional if not entirely touching performance that does what the song calls for and nothing more. It’s nice to hear her exercising some restraint for a change, not trying to show off the full extent of her range, which everybody already knows is impressive. “Yes, I’m a sinner / Yes, I’m a saint / Whatever happens here / We remain,” goes the bleeding yet inspiring chorus.

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6. THE WEEKND: “DEVIL MAY CRY”

Yes, The Weeknd makes two appearances on the Catching Fire soundtrack. And it’s all the better for it. “The devil may cry / At the end of the night,” he sings during the evocative chorus, his vocals as soulful as ever. While his music is generally categorized as R&B, albeit dark and futuristic R&B, this diamond in the rough is more in the trip-hop vein with all the weight of Massive Attack’s best work.

7. IMAGINE DRAGONS: “WHO WE ARE”

Whether they’re doing an irresistible pop-ish rock number or a stirring ballad, Imagine Dragons always produce super passionate music that strikes a nerve. Initially, I think people thought they were going to be in the vein of Boys Like Girls and We The Kings, but they’ve proved to be more like U2 and Coldplay. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Boys Like Girls and We The Kings, both of which I quite like. I’m just saying that Imagine Dragons’ music is more… serious.) “They say we’re crazy,” vocalist Dan Reynolds sings over and over again during this chilling mid-tempo number, his voice growing more and more intense each time. In a short time, this band has released several superb singles and this is on par with the best of them. You’ll especially like it if you’re a fan of their song “Demons.”

8: LORDE: “EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD”

Yes, this is a Tears For Fears cover. It’s not a paint-by-numbers affair though. On the contrary, Lorde has changed the melody, tempo and just about everything about this song, rendering it all the more haunting if not entirely creepy. Even the boisterous beats are creepy, many of them so very loud that they damn near startle you every time they strike (like thunder). The only unfortunate thing about this cover is that it’s only 2:36 and you want it to go on longer than it does. I don’t know why she couldn’t have repeated the chorus again at the end of the song. As it is, it almost feels more like an interlude than an actual song. It’s fantastic though. Easily one of Lorde’s best tracks so far.

9: THE LUMINEERS: “GALE SONG”

After listening to the first eight tracks, you’ll probably expect The Lumineers to drop some trippy beats here, but this one is very much in the vein of their usual exquisite folk music. In fact, there aren’t many beats here at all, the song mostly consisting of acoustic guitar and tender piano. That said, what beats there are happen to be rather punchy, almost as rattling as those in the Lorde track. I don’t think anybody will say that this is one of The Lumineers best songs ever, but it’s a great one nevertheless.

10. ELLIE GOULDING: “MIRROR”

Not to be confused with her Live Lounge cover of Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors,” which was phenomenal, Ellie Goulding’s contribution here, a ditty called “Mirror,” is an ethereal gem, her vocals as affecting as ever. “I was a girl who was on fire,” she sings sorrowfully. If you liked spell-binding tracks like “Figure 8” and “Anything Could Happen” from her album Halcyon, you’re going to love this track. It’s the most splendid piano ballad slash electro-pop cut you’ll hear this year and, yes, one of her best songs ever, which is saying a lot because she’s managed to pump out quite a lot of brilliant stuff since she debuted not all that long ago.

11. PATTI SMITH: “CAPITAL LETTER”

What can we say about Patti Smith? She’s a living legend and she’s fucking brilliant. With poetic lyrics and a plaintive melody, this is a song that will linger in your mind long after you’ve listened to it. If you like Laura Marling, you’re sure to adore this one. (Patti is clearly one of Laura’s biggest influences.)

12. SANTIGOLD: “SHOOTING ARROWS AT THE SKY”

If you liked Santigold’s first album more than her second then you’ll likely be delighted by this catchy track, being that it’s less mainstream pop and more abstract, artsy pop like her first album. Well, perhaps it’s not fair to call her second album mainstream pop, as it’s still quite artsy, but it was closer to mainstream pop than her first album, to be sure. If I had to compare this one to any of her previous songs, I’d say it’s like a peppier version of “L.E.S. Artistes.” The timing of the guitars and style of the beats make me think of that one every time I listen to this.

13. MIKKY EKKO: “PLACE FOR US”

“Your eyes are the only refuge I find,” Mikky Ekko sings during the first verse of his uber-passionate contribution here, “Place For Us,” which is easily the most optimistic song on the soundtrack. Everything about this song is uplifting, really, and the chorus evokes none other than The Beatles with its precious and irresistible melody.

14. PHANTOGRAM: “LIGHTS”

Phantogram recently dropped a killer 4 song EP featuring some of the year’s best electro-pop and we’re dying to hear their upcoming second full-length album. While their debut was kind of abstract, they’ve since refined their sound, polishing it and constructing songs that are a bit catchier while still remaining entirely artsy. To that end, “Lights” is a rather addictive and energetic electro-pop confection that sneaks inside of your head and stays there, making you want to listen to it again and again. If you like Ellie Goulding’s Halcyon album — or her song here — then you should dig this as well.

15. ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS: “ANGEL ON FIRE”

Everything Antony sings is haunting. And brilliant. And this song is a fine example of that. His vocals here are as gloomy — and beautiful — as ever and the music, which simply consists of string instruments, is just as evocative. It’s a bit of an abstract song, but it works perfectly as a moody outro here.

So, there you have it, the deluxe edition of the Catching Fire soundtrack, 15 stellar, must-have tracks. If you only buy one soundtrack this year, it should definitely be this one.

Catching Fire album cover art Hunger Games artwork

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Written by

Paris365

An entertainment journalist for 20 years, Michael McCarthy was a columnist and contributing editor for the magazines Lollipop and LiveWire. He co-created and wrote for Cinezine, one of the '90's most popular movie E-zines. The only time he's not listening to music is when he's watching television shows and movies or reading, usually music magazines.

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