I haven’t seen La Gran Familia Espanola, the movie attached to Josh Rouse’s soundtrack. But, chances are you haven’t either. After all, it’s from Spain and has only had limited release in North America (under the title The Family United). This is okay, because we’re talking about a soundtrack here. Something to be listened to independently from the film it was attached to. And the best soundtracks stand on their own two feet and provide quality listening on their own, movie be damned.
The soundtrack to this film is a hodge-podge of Rouse tropes and styles – from singer/songwriter pop to atmospheric instrumental to Americana, to some more Spanish-influenced sounds a la his more recent work (Rouse relocated to Spain in the mid-2000’s). Moving out of his comfort zone a bit, there’s an electric blues (“One of These Days”) that sounds for all the world like a Chris Rea song, while “Brother Caleb” shares the same chord pattern as Jackson Browne’s “These Days”, but adds a funky banjo break in the middle.
Running through the soundtrack are certain musical themes that recur. One of the predominant ones is a reworking of Rouse’s melancholy “Twilight” instrumental from his Under Cold Blue Stars, while another is a slinky “Pink Panther Theme”-like number called “Friends” appearing as short instrumental excerpts and as a full version with lyrics.
Rouse also dips into his odds n’ sods Bedroom Classics compilations series with an extract from “Neighborhoods”, a song searching for a soundtrack since its first release in 2006. A few additional tunes -“To the Clock, To the City”, “Wonderful”, “Diggin’ in the Sand”- are also recycled from past albums.
Otherwise most of the material is new, including the eight minute instrumental title song: a mellow, pensive, wistful acoustic guitar, piano and strings overture. “Do You Really Want To Be In Love” is a poppy track – the kind of thing that Rouse does best. It’s catchy and infectious, but unfortunately too short and, as a result, incomplete sounding. Similarly, “The Family Relies On You” suffers from abbreviation – it’s a track that could have been stretched out on the soundtrack, even if it was too long for the movie.
If you’re thinking the soundtrack sounds a little scattered and all over the place in styles, you’d be right. In its defence, it’s a collection of tracks designed to fit the mood of different scenes in the film. For a more cohesive flow, you’d be better off with Rouse’s excellent The Happiness Waltz from earlier in the year or one his previous albums. La Gran Familia Espanola, rather, works well as an intro to Rouse’s oeuvre and as an accompaniment to its namesake movie.
With Rouse’s skills as a writer of memorable and melodic singer-songwriter fare and his more recent instrumental compositions, he’s a natural choice for a soundtrack composer. It’s a sure bet that we’ll see more soundtracks from him in the future.