Home > Reviews > YEAR OF THE DOG – Christophe Beck

YEAR OF THE DOG – Christophe Beck

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of those ‘indie comedy-dramas’ which come and go without much fanfare throughout the year, Year of the Dog starred Molly Shannon, Laura Dern, John C. Reilly and Peter Sarsgaard in a film about a lonely, but content office worker whose life is shattered by the sudden death of her little dog. Struggling to come to terms with her surprisingly bitter feelings about her pet’s death, she struggles from one failed romantic possibility to another – until, eventually, she finds new meaning in her life: the animal rights movement, and specifically her intention to save a pound full of incarcerated pooches.

This quirky little tale was directed by Mike White and features an equally quirky score by Christophe Beck. From the beginning, it’s clear that Beck was going for a variation on the Thomas Newman-American Beauty sound, with orchestrations that feature little plucked strings, strummed guitars, little fiddle textures, marimbas, pianos, and twinkly percussion via xylophones and glockenspiels.

The score’s thematic material is built around “Pencil’s Theme” (Pencil being the fated fido in question), a generally quite sweet and fluffy piece, but all just a little too insubstantial and understated to be truly engaging. And it’s quirky. There’s that word again – quirky.

“Death of a Pencil” features a bittersweet piano solo, “Fifteen Dogs, One Car” builds up a funky vibe through the use of bass guitars and accordions, and the conclusive “Peggy’s Goodbye” restates the core thematic material with the addition of a soulful solo cello, but beyond these brief highlights the score maintains the light, idiosyncratic tone throughout the score’s running time, making for an enjoyable but somehow strangely uninvolving album. Oh, the reason “Music for a Found Harmonium” by The Penguin Cafe Orchestra is familiar is because it featured prominently in the soundtrack to Napoleon Dynamite!

Rating: **½

Track Listing:

  • Year of the Dog (2:05)
  • Pencil’s Theme (0:46)
  • Tee-Tee (1:20)
  • Death of a Pencil (2:42)
  • Veganism (0:34)
  • Cupcakes (1:02)
  • The Bookstore (0:33)
  • Leaving Newt (0:51)
  • Forgery (0:49)
  • Road Trip (0:53)
  • Paradise Farm (1:45)
  • Welcome Back (0:42)
  • Looking for Valentine (1:42)
  • Fifteen Dogs, One Car (1:53)
  • Crowded House (0:28)
  • Snail Bait (1:38)
  • To Be Hunted (2:01)
  • Peggy’s Goodbye (1:57)
  • Music for a Found Harmonium (performed by The Penguin Cafe Orchestra) (2:42)
  • Steady State (performed by The Penguin Cafe Orchestra) (3:34)
  • Lose Yourself in Nature and Find Peace (performed by The Naysayer) (2:23)

Running Time: 32 minutes 20 seconds

Lakeshore Records LKS-33916 (2007)

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