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Are We in a New Golden Age for the Movie Soundtrack?

After watching “I Saw the TV Glow,” the new film from the director Jane Schoenbrun, I felt a sensation I hadn’t felt in a while: I need this soundtrack.

The genre-defying movie is a surreal story about two high schoolers in the 1990s who become obsessed with a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”-like show called “The Pink Opaque.” It’s a rich film that draws on horror, ’90s television and Schoenbrun’s experience coming out as transgender. But it also boasts some incredible tunes, like a hypnotic cover of Broken Social Scene’s “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl” by the artist yeule and performances from King Woman, Sloppy Jane and Phoebe Bridgers, who appear onscreen as musicians at a club the characters visit.

The full soundtrack has more to love: The swelling emotion of Caroline Polachek’s “Starburned and Unkissed” and the throwback rock of Proper’s “The 90s,” with lyrics about the TV show “Xena: Warrior Princess.” Listening, I felt like a kid again.

That was just Schoenbrun’s intention. The director thought the film needed a “great teen angst soundtrack.” But they were also nostalgic for the idea of soundtracks in general. They remembered thinking, “‘Wait, where did those go?’ You know, because the soundtracks of my youth were such a huge part of what brought me to movies,’” they said in a video call.

Citing soundtrack “canon picks” like “Donnie Darko,” “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Garden State,” which turns 20 this year, they admit these are “pretty obvious slash perhaps a little embarrassing” choices. I relate. I also had an iPod in the early 2000s filled with soundtracks, and one of the most frequently played was “Garden State.” The accompaniment to Zach Braff’s indie breakout — about a man in the midst of a quarter-life crisis who goes home for his mother’s funeral — was as much a cultural moment as the actual film, going platinum and elevating bands like Frou Frou and the Shins.

Indeed, the beginning of the aughts felt like the last great heyday for the soundtrack. Think of the indie vibes of “Garden State,” the bluegrass foot-stompers of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” or even the pop rock of “Shrek.” (If you want embarrassment, just ask me how much I loved that soundtrack.)

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