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Karen O & The Kids- Where the Wild Things are (Album Review)

Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are means so much to so many generations that Spike Jonze’s film adaptation couldn’t be just a typical kids’ movie — it had to be a movie for the entire family. And on every part of the production, Jonze worked with artists so close to him that they might as well have been a family: while bringing the book’s story to the big screen, he developed a tight friendship with Sendak; for Where the Wild Things Are’s music, Jonze recruited former lover and frequent collaborator Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In turn, O drafted a who’s who of indie rock talent, among them her chief co-writers Bradford Cox of Deerhunter and Yeah Yeah Yeahs associate Imaad Wasif and her bandmates Brian Chase and Nick Zinner, all of whom perform under the aptly storybook name Karen O & the Kids. With their help, O uncovers new musical directions. Wildness abounds in her work with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Native Korean Rock, but neither band’s music is particularly childlike. Here, she taps into a rainbow of youthful expression, from “All Is Love”‘s pure joy to the tribal festivity of “Rumpus” to “Animal”‘s feral folk, which puts O’s ferocious scream in a completely different context than her other work. Yet on “Igloo” and “Sailing Home,” her voice is gentler than it’s been almost anywhere else — the only other time she has sounded so soft is on “Hello Tomorrow,” the song she wrote for Jonze’s 2005 Nike television commercial. Likewise, despite the wealth of indie rockers on it, Where the Wild Things Are rarely sounds self-consciously indie, even on the cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Worried Shoes.” Cox’s xylophone gives the album a dreamlike feel, particularly on “Rumpus Reprise,” while Zinner’s guitar is unmistakable on the excellent “Capsize,” which moves from a fierce tantrum to sweeping mystery like its own self-contained story. Balancing abstract pieces with more attention-getting pop songs like the adorable “Heads Up,” Where the Wild Things Are doesn’t resemble a typical children’s film soundtrack, although it will make a great first soundtrack for kids’ music collections. Neither a straightforward score nor a collection of kid-friendly indie rock songs, it lies somewhere intriguingly in between — and it’s just as good, if not better, than the music these artists make with their main projects.