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SoundTRAX: The Shins from "Garden State"

Zach Braff, Natalie Portman and Peter Sarsgaard are dressed in garbage bags on the movie poster for "Garden State."
Epic Records
Fox Searchlight Pictures

SoundTRAX is a dive into notable music from iconic films and TV shows every Monday-Thursday at 8:10.

Actor and director Zach Braff is celebrating a birthday today, which gives me the perfect excuse to feature Braff's 2004 directorial debut Garden State and, above all, the film's marvelous soundtrack.

I loved them both.

I know over the years the movie has gotten some flak for the "manic pixie dream girl" trope embodied by Natalie Portman's character, Sam, which Braff took in stride in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly:

"Of course I've heard and respect the criticism, but I was a very depressed young man who had this fantasy of a dream girl coming along and saving me from myself. And so I wrote that character."

For me, though, no apologies or justifications are necessary in terms of the soundtrack, consisting of songs that Braff chose himself.

"Essentially, I made a mix CD with all of the music that I felt was scoring my life at the time I was writing the screenplay."

He's clearly pretty damn good at this. The compilation even won a Grammy.

Timeless classics from Nick Drake and Simon and Garfunkel meld seamlessly with selections by Coldplay, Iron & Wine and Colin Hay (who also had a memorable encounter with Zach Braff a few years earlier on Scrubs, which you should totally check out.) Plus marvelous tunes from Zero 7, Cary Brothers, Frou Frou (with the amazing Imogen Heap) and Thievery Corporation.

But if you've seen the movie, you know who the musical VIPs are.

The Shins.

Two songs from their 2001 debut album Oh, Inverted World show up on the soundtrack, "Caring is Creepy," and the one Natalie Portman's character introduces this way:

"You gotta hear this one song — it’ll change your life; I swear."

How could it not be today's SoundTRAX?

From Garden State, it's The Shins with "New Slang."

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.

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