Easy Listening Soundtracks

By Jo Phillips

There are few things more relaxing than lying in your living room in the evening, with a glass of red wine and listening to swanky music to drift yourself away. Some of music’s most tranquil and elegant tunes hail from movies. Why not allow some of these songs to ooze class and relaxation next time you have a moment to yourself.

Audrey Hepburn’s rendition of ‘Moon River’ for her role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a classic example of easy listening jazz. Hepburn’s smooth range over deep strings provides a delicate and laid-back listening experience, transporting the mind to a romanticised 1960s cocktail bar. The song has since been a popular one to cover; Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams are just two famous names attached to ‘Moon River’, so if Hepburn’s version doesn’t suit you, why not try other renditions?

The 1958 film Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) stars Jean Seberg in the role of an irresponsibly decadent young lady plotting to end the relationship between her father and his grounded, more mature lover. One scene features Juliette Greco performing a silky yet haunting song also called ‘Bonjour Tristesse’. Although the film’s version is in English, Greco’s native French rendition was also made available through the release of the soundtrack.

Another film which also shares its name with the soundtrack’s stand-out track is the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. Despite starting with grand strings, the song slowly melts into Nancy Sinatra’s bewitching vocals…perfect for those more dramatic moods.

Let’s jump ahead to modern times. Lana del Rey is an artist recognisable for adopting the sultry, lounge singer persona prevalent in the 1960s. Much of her work is melancholic and cinematic in nature, so it’s of no surprise she has become a highly-sought after singer to have in film soundtracks. Her most famous contribution to film is ‘Young & Beautiful’, penned for 2013’s The Great Gatsby. Symphonic like Sinatra’s track, the song is perfect easy-listening due to Lana’s expansive and soothing range.

Not all great, soothing soundtrack tunes have to have vocals. Some of the best are solely instrumental in composition. Take Le Mépris (Contempt) for example. Directed by French art house legend Jean-Luc Godard, the score is a beautifully fluid collection of orchestral arrangements mimicking the sensual visuals of Godard’s work.

The Graduate, released in 1967, focusses on the seduction of a 21 year old man by an older woman. The movie, considered a significant addition American cinema canon, is accompanied by a smooth soundtrack featuring tracks from Simon & Garfunkel as well as original compositions. The blend of Simon & Garfunkel’s contemporary folk-rock sound with the jazz tunes framing them provide a neat dichotomy reflecting the protagonist’s youth and the older woman’s sexuality.

Another iconic piece of French cinema and music to make the list is Amelie and its accompanying soundtrack. Composed by Yann Tierson, the film’s musical pièce-de-resistance is the now iconic piano piece titled ‘comtpine d’un autre été’.  The album additionally features accordion-driven tracks that give the soundtrack a classically Parisian vibe.


For those interested in film soundtracks, there will be a special event taking place 12 February 2017. The Barbican’s ‘Film in Focus’ series includes a unique viewing of Asunder by Esther Johnson. Chronicling the involvement of a coastal English town during WW1, the film features not only both old and modern footage, but also an orchestra to accompany the viewing with a live soundtrack.


For more information about the Asunder viewing, click here.

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