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Various Artists

The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond – 2012 (Universal Republic)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Many might quickly dismiss the soundtrack to "The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond," were it not for the presence of T Bone Burnett as producer. In addition to multiple industry awards, Burnett has evolved into one of Americana music's best friends due to his reliable ear for good music. This album's big commercial draw is Taylor Swift, who sings with The Civil Wars on Safe & Sound, as well as solo for Eyes Open. She's never sounded prettier.

While acoustic mountain music is the overriding style saturating this 16-song set, there are also a few memorable side trips to the city. Glen Hansard rocks hardest during the guitar-driven Take the Heartland, while The Decemberists show that they learned their lessons well while recently working with Peter Buck, as One Engine sounds like it would have fit right in on R.E.M.'s "Document" album. Kid Cudi's turn with The Ruler and the Killer is one of this recording's best surprises. Known mainly for his rapping, Cudi gives us a druggy rocker that tips its hat to Ozzy Osbourne's Black Sabbath days.

Best of all, these soundtrack songs are all directly related to the film's story. In other words, nothing sounds like it was included simply to give the disc extra commercial punch. Although Swift may be the biggest country star going these days, she nevertheless falls right in line with songs that amplify the movie's dramatic themes. For what it's worth, no one will go hungry for quality music after ingesting this fine soundtrack album.