Wish I Was Here – Soundtrack Review

It is countdown time now for Zach Braff’s new film ‘Wish I Was Here’, his crowd-funded follow-up to the hugely successful yet cult film ‘Garden State’ back in 2004. With preview screenings for over 45,000 pledgers from 1am GMT on Saturday 12th July and physical premieres to take place from 18th July in USA, Zach has released the soundtrack stream online through Entertainment Weekly’s Website here – http://music-mix.ew.com/2009/07/08/stream-the-wish-i-was-here-soundtrack-with-exclusive-commentary-by-zach-braff/ – complete with his commentary on each of the tracks and the making of the album. Here is my track for track breakdown of the Wish I Was Here OST: A beautiful collection of intimate wonders.


Track One – The Shins: “So Now What”

As a long-term fan of The Shins, Zach’s use of their timeless track “New Slang” in his debut Garden State proved to be more crucial for both parties than they had ever imagined, with it helping to boost the popularity of the film and the band, simultaneously skyrocketing them both to the dizzying heights of fame, helped by Zach’s popularity from his role as the charmingly goofy character of J.D in the American medical comedy series SCRUBS.

Their latest collaboration keeps the catchy vocals, this time with a full band sound rather than the stripped back acoustic feel of “New Slang”. On first listen, I can already imagine a montage scene at some point near the end of the film with this song underscoring it. In the commentary Zach says that this is the first track for the credits at the end, which I’m sure will make people stick around after the film!

 With a whirling synth sound giving a slightly other-worldly feel and the chorus starting the track with the line “I have this crazy idea, somehow we coast to the end”. The arrangement of the song is full of highs and lows, far from your typical verse/chorus indie pop track. A PHENOMENAL start to the soundtrack!

Track Two – Gary Jules: “Broke Window”

It’s been a Mad World for Gary Jules. As Zach Braff says in the commentary “I can’t believe he’s not a household name yet!” This song opens the film with its gentle brushed drums, rich double-tracked vocals and an upbeat acoustic/folky vibe, somewhat reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel.

Track Three – Radical Face: “The Mute”

Best known for his haunting track “Welcome Home”, Radical Face is a one-man music making machine, playing pretty much every instrument under the sun. His track “The Mute” features his trademark “oohs”, wide vocals, thought provoking lyrics (reminiscent of Ben Gibbard’s Death Cab For Cutie) and folky percussion from a tambourine and bass drum.

Track Four – Hozier: “Cherry Wine (Live)”

Zach describes this song as “heartbreaking lyrics and poetry”, recorded in a field with background bird-song within earshot. A sweet acoustic guitar plays a beautiful melody by itself full of slides and turns, which is then joined by a delicate vocal in serene counterpoint. “Open hand or closed fist would be fine. The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine.”


Track Five – Bon Iver: “Holocene”

Already well established amongst the Indie scene, this beautiful song is sure to be reaching a much wider audience with the sure success of Wish I Was Here. As a relative newcomer to the Bon Iver fanclub, I must say that I’d not heard the track, but it does offer everything that you might come to expect from a Bon Iver track: carefully spaced vocals, a gentle percussive groove underneath and an overwhelming feeling inside that listening to it brings. There are also some unexpected woodwind sounds in places! What more could you ask for?

Track Six – Badly Drawn Boy: “The Shining”

Badly Drawn Boy often write songs for the underdog, which Zach related to a lot when he was a struggling actor in L.A. “The Shining” is used in the film when Zach’s character is bonding with his children for perhaps the first time. Opening with an unexpected trombone and cello duet, the “song” part of the track drops after 1 min 20 into the track. With acoustic guitars and bass underpinning the typical BDB vocals, which hang heavy with melancholy and a 00’s indie sensibility.


Track Seven – Jump Little Children: “Mexico”

Unfortunately they’ve now split up, so don’t get too into them, but still this soaring track has “aspects of lost love and sadness, but also hope” as Zach describes it. With a clear American twang, it has a kind of Coldplay “In My Place” feel about. The simple lyrics about running away have an immense feel-good feeling. Definitely a song to sing-a-long to driving along in a convertible on the open highway (or in the UK, in your Ford Fiesta with the windows slightly lowered) 

Track Eight – Cat Power & Coldplay: “I Wish I Was Here”

Another one of Zach’s old favourites, Coldplay have often featured in his playlist and films, especially with the little making of videos that accompanied Wish I Was Here. This song sounds like a great early Coldplay track with its ripples of piano accompaniment and backing vocals from Chris Martin complimenting the poignant lyrics, sung by Cat Power. The song was specifically written for the film after Chris Martin was shown an early cut of the film, so you know it’s something special! The reverb laden vocals are really very moving, with the song being understated, simple and perfect.

Track Nine – Allie Moss: “Wait It Out”

After meeting her at a party through a mutual friend Ingrid Michaelson, Zach was captivated when he first heard her playing an original track “Passerby”. This track is an acoustic version of Imogen Heap’s song “Wait It Out”, originally written for another Zach Braff film that never was, whilst she was in Hawaii on holiday (the original below). With this ukulele and vocal super-stripped back version, the lyrics cut like a Samurai sword through a watermelon: “Pain on pain on play repeating, with a back-up makeshift life in waiting” 

Track Ten – Paul Simon: “The Obvious Child”

Another repeat offender on Zach’s most wanted list, he admitted that “I’d been wanting to cut something to Obvious Child since I was in film school”. Well it’s a dream come true because there it is in the film! Combining African drumming with Simon’s signature vocals, guitar and lyrics, the track is sure to give a great momentum to whichever scene it is used in! Check out the original video below.

Track Eleven – Japanese Wallpaper: “Breathe In (feat. Wafla)”

Recommended by a couple of Zach’s friends and acquaintances, this was a new band/song to Zach’s ears, but he felt that it went perfectly with the scene for the film. The heavy echo of the track masks the single picked guitar notes in a warm wash of sound. The track is deep and all-consuming, like a beautiful cathedral of a sunken city at the bottom of the seabed.

Track Twelve – Bon Iver: “Heavenly Father”

He’s back again, with an original track recorded for the soundtrack of the film. This track was released as a stream a few days ago and exploded all across the internet worldwide. Starting with a drone of sound, foreshadowed by Justin Vernon’s vocals. The production on this track is incredible, definitely best appreciated with headphones on. Not exactly a sing-a-along track, it is a painting of sound by a master craftsman.

Track Thirteen – Aaron Embry: “Raven’s Song”

Zach describes this as “The perfect song for the end of the movie”. It has an old-fashioned feeling, like a Western scene in a saloon bar somewhere in a town in the middle of nowhere. Zach even had to extend the song because he wanted more of it for the film!

Track Fourteen – The Weepies: “Mend”

Reminding Zach of Zappa, Hendrix, The Mama’s and The Papas, The Weepies are another old favourite of Zach’s. This previously unreleased track was sent by the band to use in the film and is sure not to disappoint. A rich bassline underpins the strings, acoustic finger-picking, piano and vocals in this incredibly peaceful song. With so much going on, it still feels very relaxed and not overloaded at all, with again a slightly reminiscent feel. Lovely lyrics too: “This is where my heart begins to mend”. 

Track Fifteen – The Head and Heart: “No One To Let You Down”

Zach tells of how this track was “Recommended by Sony, The Head and The Heart are a great new band that everybody was talking about and fitted in line with the movie”. A great way to end the soundtrack, the track builds up and drops out, shifting like the tides. “When you’ve got no one, there’s no one to let you down.”

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