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Soundtrack review: Mistress America (Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips – 2015)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Mistress America (Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips – 2015)


Mistress America is a 2015 American comedy film directed by Noah Baumbach. College freshman Tracy’s (Lola Kirke) life is turned upside down by her adventurous soon-to-be stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig). The score was written by duo Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips, a husband and wife pair with a long history in pop and indie music. They were in a couple of bands together and they’ve only recently turned to film music. So far transitions like theirs resulted in great film scores by the likes of Nick Cave, Trent Reznor or Gary Numan.

Uh oh… what do we have here… is this for real? What’s this magical sound that caresses my ear as soon as “Mistress America” starts…? Am I dreaming? Or it’s my old, best friend the 80s synth coming for a surprise visit. I forget everything around me and I sit here with a big dreamy smile on my face. Don’t stop me now, I am travelling back in time t my happy childhood years and their unforgettable sound. Please don’t let this be just a one cue wonder…

“Tracy and Tony” adds guitar to the dreamy electronic sound and 80s romance comes flying in to charm me. This echoes back to so many movies, so many moments, so much joy. Nostalgia is high with this one and I am already counting the score as one of the nicest surprises of the year. The insert of an OMD song in there only helps and I don’t care it’s not part of the score…It’s freaking Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark and they are royalty in these electronic parts.

Let’s get back to the score by Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, these two magicians. I am listening to “Mom’s” and I don’t need anything else. I feel complete, fulfilled; all my musical needs are concentrated right in this joyful and simple electronic tune. This score takes us through all the corners of the 80s sound, from romantic to alert to eerie and it’s one of those albums I know I will keep close and return to over and over again whenever I’ll need a healthy dose of nostalgia.

There’s little more to say really. If you grew up in the 80s and if you love that sound, this score will be on top of your Christmas tree this year. What a nostalgic tour de force… it even reminded me of the immortal The Cure sound from “Disintegration”. I’m going to go look for more music from Dean and Britta because I have a feeling this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Cue rating: 95 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 15 / 24

Album excellence: 61%


Mistress America

Tracy & Tony

Do Everything Soul Cycle


Do everything (gas station)

Hooks & Ladders

Tracy & Tony Reprise

Tracy & Brooke (Mom’s Reprise)



Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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