Who doesn’t love a good coming of age soundtrack? From vintage hits of The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueler, and even recent successes like Booksmart, it’s always fun experiencing the sounds of teenagerhood in a cohesive musical form.
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The Never List from Director Michelle Mower and screenwriter Ariadne Shaffer have a simple, if not heartbreaking premise. A pair of childhood best friends with overprotective parents has curated a list of both dangerous and potentially illegal acts as a cathartic way of dealing with their repressed adolescent freedom. This is made more tragic when one of the friends dies in a tragic accident, leaving the other to mourn and navigate the uncertainties of high school and dealing with her overbearing parents alone.
You can see where this goes as she begins to make the most of her life and cross of acts on this list by herself, going through a coming of age tale in the process. The soundtrack delivers a heartfelt roller coaster experience that matches the soaring heights of the film and the weight of its emotional pathos. Featuring acts both domestic and international, there’s so much variety here from indie-pop, garage rock, electronic pop, and even snippets of instrumental score.
Most of the album is heavy on what might be considered too much teen indie pop and even at parts, I felt my age wondering if this was “the sounds the kids of today enjoy’, but the album actually has a lot of universal appeal beyond the intended audience if you open yourself up to it. Songs like “Far Away” from Gallie Fisher, “Do It All Louder” by Uche, and even “Salvador Dali” by That Band Honey which features one of the most unorthodox choruses’ I’ve heard in a long time are all standouts. Any time it feels like the album is slowing down with more somber hits like “Let Her Be Beautiful” by Prince Ivan (another highlight with a great hook), and album closer “I’m Not Sold” by Krikit never bring the pace or rhythm of the album down to a grinding halt, and that’s probably helped by the structure of the film but also the track organization for the album too.
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Personally, I prefer the back half of the record if only because I think the emotions of those songs are more powerful, but that’s clearly by design and I can easily hear the front half of the album being played at full blast at someone’s party both in high school or out. It also sounds very “Californian” if that makes sense? It has a west coast sense that oozes all over the album and that’s even before I found out that a lot of the bands on the record are from California.
It makes you think of sunsets, summer days, adventures and getting into trouble which is an apt way to describe the film too. I highly recommend this as both a companion to the film, but also as a springboard for anyone looking for new artists to give a shot and maybe some artists you’ve been meaning to cross off your list for some time now.