Zach Braff’s Garden State was—and continues to be—known as much for its soundtrack as for, well, everything else. The 13-song mix introduced The Shins and Frou Frou to a wider audience and gave well-established bands like Simon & Garfunkel and Coldplay a new home. And it gave thousands of Garden State fans something to pop into their CD player and keep there for days (or, you know, months) on end.
Braff’s latest film, Wish I Was Here, also has an impressive, already-released soundtrack. But in time for the film’s Friday release, here’s a look back at the soundtrack that started it all—and ranking all of its tracks, because not every song can be a life-changer.
13. “Winding Road” by Bonnie Somerville
Do you even remember this song? Does anyone even remember this song?
12. “Don’t Panic” by Coldplay
Coldplay is typical Coldplay here: Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that you want to make all your friends listen to right away.
11. “One of These Things First” by Nick Drake
Nick Drake’s lyrics in this song are fine, if a bit overly wistful thanks to the series of “I could have beens” that come off as whiny. But it’s the actual music, with a combination of piano and guitar that’s reminiscent of tunes from The Sims, that makes it forgettable.
10. “Lebanese Blonde” by Thievery Corporation
This soundtrack is full of emotional, rock-leaning tracks, but “Lebanese Blonde” is anything but: It’s a dreamy song highlighted by sitar and a funky bass that would make more sense playing over the speakers of a dimly lit bar than in a Zach Braff movie.
9. “Blue Eyes” by Cary Brothers
Cary Brothers—who is one man, not the brothers Cary—is a go-to artist for soundtracks: His songs have been featured on shows like One Tree Hill, Grey’s Anatomy, and Scrubs, just to name a few. His acoustic-driven, love-focused songs are appropriate for those small (and in Garden State’s case, big) screen moments that need that extra dose of emotion. But alone? “Blue Eyes” isn’t much more than sentimental love song.
8. “In the Waiting Line” by Zero 7
Imagine lying down on a giant, comfy bed after a long, exhausting day—this song matches that feeling.
7. “Caring Is Creepy” by The Shins
“Caring Is Creepy” is no “New Slang,” but it’s a solid rock-inspired song that could be easily mistaken for a track off an old record many years before its 2001 release.
6. “Fair” by Remy Zero
With its swelling chorus and the singer’s rocky rasp, “Fair” is one of those songs that’s the perfect soundtrack for a moment when two characters are about to make out for the first time—fitting, since it plays at the point in Garden State when Braff’s Largeman confesses his crush to Natalie Portman’s Sam.
5. “Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” by Colin Hay
A melancholic tune that seems only appropriate for a rainy day, “Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” is sad and meditative in a way that makes it the ideal song to cry along to. What, that’s not what you do when you listen to this soundtrack?
4. “Such Great Heights” by Iron & Wine
Originally an up-tempo song by electronic duo The Postal Service, Iron & Wine took “Such Great Heights” and made it into a delicate, sweet ballad only faintly like its (also great) parent.
3. “Let Go” by Frou Frou
Imogen Heap (one-half of Frou Frou, along with Guy Sigsworth) sings in her typical breathy style for “Let Go,” a song that invites the listener in with the beginning crescendo and keeps you staying with that dramatic cello and Heap’s uplifting lyrics. It’s a could-be dance track but with more drama, more heart, and just enough Imogen Heap.
2. “Only Living Boy in New York” by Simon & Garfunkel
This 1970 song is about loneliness, but without the somberness that usually accompanies songs about loneliness. Instead, its angelic background vocals create a hopeful vibe that works wonders behind the now-famous(ly cheesy) scene of Braff and co. screaming into the infinite abyss.
1. “New Slang” by The Shins
Yes, it’s the song that Natalie Portman told us would change our lives. Maybe it didn’t change your life, but it probably got stuck in your head thanks to its strange, open-to-interpretation lyrics and a folk sound that’s easy to bop your head along to. It doesn’t matter if “New Slang” is actually life-changing or not—it’s a beautiful song that one fictional character thought was good enough to alter someone’s perspective. And that’s enough to make it memorable, even 10 years post-Garden State.
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