Mac McCaughan is probably one of the hardest working guys in indie rock. Not only is he a co-owner of Merge Records, but he's a member of the band Superchunk, as well as the main person behind his side project Portastatic. Even though Superchunk is known as a prolific band, Portastatic isn't exactly a sluff-off deal either, as the group has released something like 20 different split 7 inches, as well as three full length releases and EPs.
Now, as their fourth official full-length, Portastatic has done a film score for a movie that has yet to be released (but will be eventually I'm sure). The 14-track effort is yet another step in sort of a different direction for the group (the last EP, De Mel, De Melao was all covers of Brazilian songs sung in Portuguese), including nods to work by artists such as Ry Cooder, while still incorporating the groups style into things.
The album opens up with "Looking For Leonard - Theme," and while the fairly simple track sort of just repeats the same melodies over and over again offset with pretty little stringed choruses, it swirls with keyboards and guitars and wraps you up with a lush sound that starts off the album on a very high note. The second track "Stumbling Music" much less cohesive coming right on the heels of it, as a short track of twinkling guitars and mingling feedback. "Luka's Theme" mixes up jangling guitars with a clunky drum machine beat while Shaker Mix of the same track replaces the drum machine with shakers (as the title suggests), giving the track an almost spaghetti western feel.
The lone bit of dialogue from the actual movie itself comes in the form of the fourth track "Do You Speak English?" The first time you hear it, it sounds a bit strange just dropped into the middle of things, but works as a perfect, playful intro to the next track. "Stealing Romance" mixes a repeated violin and viola theme with some odd little keyboards for a very beautiful little theme that simply doesn't go on long enough.
Actually, the main problem with the album is just a variation of that. The whole release only runs just over a half hour long and most of the tracks on the release clock in at the 2 minute mark or under. While there is some undoubtedly fun music on the release, many times the songs end far too soon and the album again switches gears just as you're getting into things. In the end, the more developed tracks are the ones that really stick with you (like the amazing "The Chase"), while many of the other releases sort of feel incidental because of their length. Still, there are defintely some gems within the release, and it's yet another feather in the cap for Mac McCaughan.