If you would've told me - before I listened to this CD - that fake funk band Maroon 5 could do a chilling Fleet Foxes imitation and that bubbly pop queen Taylor Swift could sound comfortably like Cat Power, I would have thought you were crazy.
But, I'm telling you now, it happens on the "Hunger Games" soundtrack, which is helmed by - no surprise here - T Bone Burnett, who was responsible for penning the gorgeous, Grammy-winning songs in 2009's affecting Jeff Bridges vehicle "Crazy Heart." Burnett also produced the popular music for the film "O Brother Where Art Thou" in 2000.
Besides pop bands sounding like indie darlings, the CD actually features some real indie stars as well - Arcade Fire, who turns in the best song on the CD, and the Decemberists, who slightly disappoint by providing what sounds like a B-side to "The Crane Wife."
Arcade Fire's "Abraham's Daughter" features Win Butler's wife, Regine Chassagne, on lead vocals - a smart move for music that accompanies a movie featuring a firey female lead. Chassagne usually gets one or two songs to shine on an Arcade Fire album and here she is front-and-center. Her softness counters the melodramatic subject matter and her voice chimes along with the marching beat perfectly.
Adding to the mood, the Durham-based Carolina Chocolate Drops perform the soulful, almost a cappella (there's a sneaky, skittery beat that barely makes itself known) "Daughter's Lament," which has the feeling of an old Irish ballad, and pop country star Miranda Lambert - another artist I've never been able to stand - gives us "Run Daddy Run," a stark, moving, sing-a-long song that brings to mind yet another favorite of critics, Mumford and Sons, because of its prominent banjo and chamber-pop style.
There are a few missteps - Glen Hansard's riff-heavy, punkish "Take The Heartland" seems out of place (it sounds like it would fit well on an album by the Sound), as does Kid Cudi's "The Ruler and the Killer." Cudi has the unfortunate role of the being the only rapper on the CD and his effort is mired by distortion and labored hooks.
Overall, the CD is a satisfying exercise in ambitious folk pop. Sign me up for anything that has Burnett's name on it in the future.
DOWNLOAD NOW: "Abraham's Daughter" by Arcade Fire and "Daughter's Lament" by The Carolina Chocolate Drops.