On paper, The Never List seems like one of those things that’s really hard to sell to an audience. Following the story of Eva who growing up alongside her best friend Liz, have lived under the scrutiny of overprotective parents causing the two to create their titular “Never List” of things they’ll do together one day. Then Liz dies. That’s not a spoiler, by the way, it’s in the trailer.
Dealing with loss at a young age is incredibly difficult and can skew a person’s perception of life and mortality for the rest of their lives, but the tone of the soundtrack of the same name is shockingly breezy and the better for it. Because the album is 17 tracks long and features a who’s-who of rising indie-pop talent, some might get breezed over, but I want to emphasize that this is a very good, very well-curated album. I don’t know how it might flow in the context of the film since the sequential order of a soundtrack doesn’t always match the order presented in the film but starting off with the buzzy teenage hellion energy of “Bad Girls” by LVVRS, I immediately could feel that sense of being back in high school and the music fits the taste of my youth and I wanna’ assume, the kids of today (Jesus I’m 27 and I feel ancient already). I think older music listeners might have a little less to cling onto if only because these songs are very indicative of the current generation indie-pop scene.
They’re bouncy and certainly have a sense of “sameness”, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, more that since these songs have to fit cohesively in the context of the film, its characters, and tone they can feel a little repetitive when paying little attention to it, but when you’re dialed in every track has something that really shines. “I’m OK” by Honest Men with its soaring vocals and Tambourine infused party jams, “When The Lights Go Down” by Shannon Curtis and its painfully intimate exploration of isolation (something I’m sure has plenty of punch in the film itself), and “Break Me” by the Frets which has the energy of a high school party with zero supervision help make the soundtrack feel rounded and diverse. By virtue of it being a soundtrack, not every song will be everyone’s thing, and there were a couple on here that left me indifferent. None are bad, but I suspect many will walk away with something speaking to them particularly. A joy about soundtracks is that they also act as a jumping-off point for people to discover new talents and there’s plenty to get lost into here.
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There’s even a brief piece of the score by Jordan Coffing featured that makes me wish there were more instrumentals on the record in general. This is the kind of album I’d either have listened to or heard in high school and even though it’s been a decade since I’ve been in those halls, this is a soundtrack that brought me back and it was a fun trip.