In its all-too-short two seasons, ABC’s Pushing Daisies consistently delivered witty, warm-hearted viewing. Every element of the show came together to create a perfect whole, and that includes the music. With one of the most distinctive scores in prime time, it shouldn’t have surprised me that Pushing Daisies released a soundtrack; nonetheless, I was startled to stumble upon it while browsing through my library’s music collection.
Over the course of 32 tracks, composer Jim Dooley and the Hollywood Studio Symphony, conducted by Tim Davies, weave a magical spell. It all begins with the main title, with the suspenseful brass and strings giving way to the gentle waltz that comes up again and again. In just a few notes, it evokes the feeling of blossoming - both new life, bestowed through Ned’s touch, and renewed love between him and his childhood sweetheart Chuck. It has an epic air of romance and antiquity about it that reminds me of the score for the opening scene in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
This tender thread is most prominent in the tentative Lying in the Dark; the sweet Pie Hole Holding; Morgue to Love, which intercuts with the more mysterious music; the affectionate but perilous Plastic Kiss; the initially delicate Play-Doh Dreaming; the romantic Park Picnic; and Hands Against the Wall, the very brief final track. Waltzes also come into play in the nostalgic Young Ned’s Dissection and the breezy Chucky Bees, as well as Waltz, which evokes the setting of a 1940s formal dance, and the sweeping Olive and Alfredo.
In contrast with Ned and Chuck’s tender theme, we have the punchy music indicative of crusty detective Emerson Cod. This is generally jazzy and reminds me of Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther music. Short bursts of bass, finger-snapping and keyboard are hallmarks of these tracks, which include Lefty Arrives; Jeanine Pie; Emerson and the B*tches (that‘s dogs, folks...); Knitt Witt; Who’s Smoking? and Don’t Mess With the Pie Hos.
Others present a more general aura of mystery and suspense. There’s the illuminating Chuck’s News Flash; the fast-paced Where’s My Briefcase?; the creeping, accordion-tinged Homeopaths; the ominous Poor Customer Service; the spooky, harpsichord-filled Happy Halloween; the furtive Follow the Yellow Thick Hose; and the threatening Institution Omnibus.
Other tracks have a unique sound. Chuck’s Swing feels, appropriately enough, like a big-band swing dance, while Bittersweets sounds like a slightly demented carousel ride. Wilfred Woodruff’s War makes one think of intense, carefully plotted battles, with unusual instrumentation ranging from banjos and whistles to march-like percussion. Jason Lucas Diamonds does some strange things with the guitar, while Death Came is accompanied by what sounds like an assault of squeaky toys and Victor Narrowmore creatively incorporates a typewriter.
Along with the instrumental music, we have three vocal tracks that actually start off the album. The opening track is from one of my very favorite moments in the first season, when Ellen Greene’s gentle, despondent Aunt Lily, aided by the considerate Olive, allows herself to embrace life again for the first time since her beloved niece’s death. Morning Has Broken has always been one of my favorite hymns, and all that vibrant imagery about fresh life feels incredibly fitting on a show that is so much about starting again. Greene’s performance is exceptional, first hesitant, then exuberant, and it felt particularly meaningful when the episode initially aired the day before Thanksgiving.
Also included are Hopelessly Devoted to You, sung with heartfelt affection by Kristin Chenoweth’s lovelorn Olive Snook, and Greene and Chenoweth’s infectiously cheerful duet on They Might Be Giants’ Birdhouse in Your Soul, a song as sweetly daffy as the show itself. Ever since I popped in the CD last week, this one has been running through my head, and I don‘t mind.
Pushing Daisies is long off prime time now, but this soundtrack offers another opportunity for those who fell under its enchantment to recapture the magic.
Season One * Season Two
This review is part of Carstairs38's All Things Disney Write-Off, Sleeper54's Lean and Mean IX Write-Off and my Tales to Warm Your Mind Write-Off.