Pimp My Soundtrack 

Garden State's Zach Braff passes on the title of "tastemaker" while The Last Kiss soundtrack namechecks him all the way to the bank.

The soundtrack to recently released movie The Last Kiss features an eclectic collection of songs, including tracks by Coldplay, Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann, Ray LaMontagne, and Rufus Wainwright. But more telling is what is on the cover of the CD: a big fat sticker solely attributing the mix to Garden State actor and director Zach Braff, despite the fact that he says all he did was pick out five or six albums' worth of songs, while Tony Goldwyn, the movie's director, selected what he wanted.

Sounds as if Lakeshore Records is trying to garner sales through Braff's reputation as a musical tastemaker. It's a title the actor doesn't exactly believe in. "I know less about music than the average person," he says from the sixth-season set of his hit TV show Scrubs. "There are plenty of bands you'd be shocked I've never listened to."

Maybe so, but Garden State's soundtrack, which Braff executive-produced and ultimately won a Grammy for, was like a nursery for up-and-coming dreampop and acoustically minded artists. Acts like Frou Frou, Iron & Wine, Colin Hay, and the Shins (who, in the film, Natalie Portman suggested could change a person's life) mingled freely with Nick Drake and Simon & Garfunkel and soon saw their record sales skyrocket thanks to Braff's inadvertent nurturing.

"Everything increased," says Stuart Meyer, the Shins' A&R man. "Before Garden State, Oh Inverted World had slowed to eight hundred copies a week [after three years out]. After Garden State, it was selling over five thousand a week." The band's Chutes Too Narrow, out a year by the film's release, doubled sales from fifteen hundred to three thousand copies a week. "It changed my life, absolutely," says Shins singer Cary Brothers, who also appeared in the movie.

Braff remains adamant about his role in the Garden State phenomenon; in fact, he likes to joke that he won a Grammy for a mix CD. "I don't have an iPod with twenty thousand songs on it," he says. "I think, if I'm good at anything, it's being able to pick the right songs to put to a picture." For example, he recalls, "When I did Garden State and Tony [Goldwyn] did The Last Kiss, very rarely did we use music under dialogue. It's usually used as a transition or under a montage."

Braff insists "there's no real science to what I do." If you ask him about some basic rules to apply when assembling your own mix CD, don't expect an elaborate list à la Nick Hornby: "There are no rules," he insists, rather anticlimactically and Yoda-ishly. "Just good music."

Whatever the case, Braff's name is about to motivate his fans to not only buy movie tickets, but movie soundtracks, too. He takes this all in stride, since, as he confesses, "I don't really know what's hip."

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