Top-Five Albums of 2012: #5 - Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond

Now that the honorable mentions are out of the way, on to the “real” picks.

Normally, I’ve always thought these types of albums are stupid. The ones that seem to be put together for a quick buck to capitalize on a particular name or license—seeing as the music isn’t even a part of the film proper. (Two songs in the credits don’t really count as being “in film.”)

But when I first heard the final track during those credits—the latter of the two, “Kingdom Come” by The Civil Wars—and recognized that it was Civil Wars, I thought I’d track the song down. Once done, I read through the rest of the bands that contributed to the album and was impressed. However, I didn’t buy this straight away.

It wasn’t until Amazon sold it for a sweet deal of $2.99 that I picked it up. Some of the best $3.00 I’ve ever spent.

Not only does this album have some extremely solid tracks by those artists I already knew and enjoyed—The Civil Wars, Arcade Fire, The Punch Brothers, and Glen Hansard—but it also introduced me to some new and outright fantastic bands: Secret Sisters, Birdy, and The Low Anthem. Really, this album has some excellent tracks if you’re into the indie-folk scene. (Yes, it’s a rather hipster album, but I’m becoming more and more comfortable with my emerging hipster.)

Even the bands or artists that I don’t much care about have some solid offerings here, namely that of Kid Cudi’s “The Ruler and the Killer.” (After reading more than one of my students essays analyzing his lyrics, I’d pretty much written him off as anyone I’d ever care about. But, damn, this is a wonderful track with an excellent beat and singing style.)

Ultimately, though, what finally impressed me about this album is how many of the songs were actually written for/inspired by the story. It’s not a huge thing, and perhaps the songs could’ve been better otherwise, but I can’t help but give a few props to those that can pay tribute to another creation while making their own unique offering.

True, the album has some duds—I can’t stand Maroon 5—but the highlights overshadow the downers. Even if you ignore the rest of the album, you need to check out the following tracks:
  • “Abraham’s Daughter” by Arcade Fire
  • “The Ruler and the Killer” by Kid Cudi
  • “Kingdom Come” by The Civil Wars
  • “Run, Daddy, Run” by Miranda Lambert and Pistol Annie
  • “Just a Game” by Birdy
In particular, I’ve listened to that final track by Birdy countless times. That girl has a gorgeous voice, and this is a perfectly toned song for what the film turned out to be, and is an excellent close to an album that’s way better than it ever had the right to be.