Consequence of Sound critic Frank Mojica described the soundtrack of Lost in Translation as the “third star of the picture” – a bold statement, perhaps, but not an inaccurate one. Would shoegaze have been such a big thing in the mid-2000s without it? Would Bloody Valentine have reformed? Would The Jesus and Mary Chain have come back together to perform with Scarlett Johansson at Coachella? Nothing’s certain, but probably not. A woozy, beautifully crafted celebration of shimmering dreampop that compliments every mood and emotion of the film, while still being strong enough to stand independent of it, it’s a must-listen. Here’s how we rank all the songs on the Lost in Translation soundtrack.
15. More Than This – Bill Murray with Roger J. Manning Jr. and Brian Reitzell
Bill Murray, Roger J. Manning Jr., and Brian Reitzell bring their A-game to this darkly moody version of Roxy Music’s 1982 hit, More Than This.
14. Goodbye – Kevin Shields
Kevin Shields contributed four songs to the Lost in Translation soundtrack, along with one with his band, My Bloody Valentine. The hazy, fragile quality of the contributions are pitched perfectly against the tone and aesthetic of the movie, as reflected in the shimmering dreampop of Goodbye.
13. On the Subway – Brian Reitzell and Roger J. Manning Jr.
Jellyfish, the Moog Cookbook, and Imperial Drag co-funder Roger J. Manning Jr. has performed alongside numerous artists, including Beck, Jay-Z, Blink 182, and Johnny Cash. For Lost in Translation, he teamed up with Brian Reitzell, the film’s music coordinator, to create the dreamy instrumental, On the Subway.
12. Shibuya – Brian Reitzell and Roger J. Manning Jr.
Brian Reitzell and Roger J. Manning Jr.’s second contribution to the Lost in Translation soundtrack is Shibuya, a moody, dreamy instrumental that somehow manages to sound old and new, synthetic and soulful, all at the same time.
11. Too Young – Phoenix
Taken from their debut album United, Too Young became Phoenix’s first song to ever chart, reaching number 97 on the French singles chart.
10. Ikebana – Kevin Shields
Kevin Shields dishes up another exquisite serving of evocative dream-pop next with the sublime Ikebana.
9. Are You Awake? – Kevin Shields
Kevin Shields was the perfect choice for the Lost in Translation soundtrack, here delivering another moodily elegant nugget of dreampop.
8. Alone in Kyoto – Air
Considering Air scored The Virgin Suicides, Sofia Coppola’s first movie, it’s not too surprising that they show up again on the soundtrack to her second feature film. Elegant, tender, and wonderfully evocative. Alone in Kyoto matches the moody tone of Lost in Translation perfectly.
7. Fantino – Sébastien Tellier
When French singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Sébastien Tellier released his debut album Vérité in 2001, he issued strict instructions that the album should only be listened to by candlelight. How many of his fans followed the guidance, who knows, but what we do know is that it was a triumphant debut, with Fantino standing out as one of the chief highlights.
6. Girls – Death in Vegas
Scorpio Rising, Death in Vegas’ third album, has provided material for dozens of film and TV soundtracks, including Big Little Lies, ER, The Other Final; and 12 and Holding. The song to make it onto the Lost in Translation soundtrack is Girls, which has also been used in the 2004 film D.E.B.S., the TV show Veronica Mars and the BBC’s production of Sense and Sensibility.
5. Tommib – Squarepusher
After dabbling with jazz fusion on 1999’s Sweet Sixteen, Squarepusher returned to his roots on 2001’s Go Plastic. With its fractured breakbeats and frenetic twists, it’s a masterclass in heavy drill’n’bass. Several of its tracks have worked their way onto film soundtracks since then, with Tommib being the one to make it to the Lost in Translation soundtrack.
4. Kaze wo Atsumete – Happy End
MTV once described Japanese folk-rock band Happy End’s style of music as “rock with psych smudges around the edges,” which perfectly sums up the vibe of Kaze wo Atsumete.
3. Sometimes – My Bloody Valentine
In addition to the four solo songs Kevin Shields contributed to the Lost in Translation soundtrack, he also shows up on Sometimes alongside his band, My Bloody Valentine. The song was originally recorded for the 1991 album, Loveless, a vague, strange, and utterly wonderful album that’s been described by Select as “an album without parallel” and by Rolling Stone “as an album that oozes a sonic balm that first embraces and then softly pulverizes the frantic stress of life.”
2. Just Like Honey – The Jesus and Mary Chain
The Jesus and Mary Chain’s 1985 debut album Psychocandy.was a major influence on shoegaze, shaping the direction of alt-rock and its subgenres with its fuzzy, distortion-laden sound. Thanks to its inclusion in a handful or more films and TV shows (other than Lost in Translation, it’s also appeared on American Horror Story: Hotel and The Man Who Loved Yngve, among others), Just Like Honey is perhaps its most well-known track.
1. City Girl – Kevin Shields
According to Kevin Shields, writing and recording City Girl was “very simple, in the sense that it was just me teaching Brian (Reitzell, the film’s music coordinator) the chord structure and Brian just jamming along to it.” Reitzell, meanwhile, described the process as “slapdash,” saying there was no “point in laboring over something … because you don’t know what’s going to work.” Either way, it’s a beautiful song, with an ethereal, fragile vulnerability that matches the tone of the film perfectly. After winning widespread praise, it picked up nominations for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award for Best Film Music, an Irish Film and Television Academy award for Best Music in a Film, and an Online Film Critics Society award for Best Original Score.