Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – Once Soundtrack

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
Once Soundtrack
Columbia Records

Of all of the songs ever written, it’s a fair assumption to say that most are about love, loss, or both. But it’s a much rarer occurrence when love songs are constructed so poignantly and beautifully that even their opening chords are enough to throw you back to vivid memories both painful and breathtaking, to stop time for a moment and rush the blood through your chest. The soundtrack for Once is full of those moments, and it’s one of my favorite albums of the year.

Of course, it helps that I absolutely adore the movie Once. But to be fair, I listened to and fell for the soundtrack before I had even seen the film; going into the theater and watching the musical moments play out on screen only cemented my positive opinion of the album. The majority of songs were written Glen Hansard, lead singer of The Frames, who shows an impeccable skill at writing sparse, meaningful acoustic tunes that are honest and heartfelt without being overly sentimental.

“When Your Mind’s Made Up” is a delicate, cascading song about a lover still attached to a fleeting idea of romance. “There’s no point trying to fight it,” admits a forlorn Hansard, whose vocals fly from breathy to agonizing and heart wrenching at the drop of a hat. In the threadbare “Lies,” Hansard shows off his masterful falsetto with the line “The little cracks they escalated/before we knew it was too late,” which is punctuated by a sighing violin.

And, as if Hansard’s own songwriting abilities weren’t enough to bring a sap like me to tears, Czech singer (and Once co-star) Marketa Irglova adds a feminine perspective and emotional depth to the album with her own musical contributions. The duo originally penned many of the songs together for their new recording project, Swell Season, and they play off each other’s strengths well. In addition to harmonizing perfectly with Hansard’s falsetto, Irglova steals the spotlight with the treacherous and haunting “The Hill,” a tale of struggle set to a weeping, cyclical piano part. “I wish I didn’t have to make all those mistakes and be wise,” sings an almost-crying Irglova. “Please try to be patient, and know that I’m still learning/I’m sorry that you have to see the strength inside me burning.”

It’s hard to talk about the movie or the soundtrack, of course, without getting too personal. Both the experience of viewing the film and pressing play over and over again on the record makes me want to write volumes about my own loves, and my own losses. But that’s what makes a record like this so enchanting; after all, isn’t the best art the kind that can be applied tenfold to one’s own life? So I’ll spare you the bloody details and just say this: if you’ve ever been in love, or glimpsed at love, or wanted love, see the film and listen to this soundtrack.

Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova – Falling Slowly (live)

Bonus Video: Into The Mystic (Van Morrison cover)

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