When I review an album, I listen with pen and paper. I take notes song-by-song, recording the vibe and mood of each song, how each flows, and how they work together to make a complete album. While listening to ELiZA WREN’s Returns to Oz, I wasn’t able to do that, and I could not be more delighted.
This double album of 110 minutes of music is set to the movie Return to Oz, one of my childhood favorites. If you are not familiar with Return to Oz, watch it right this minute. Otherwise, here’s a three sentence synopsis: It’s a very dark, somewhat creepy non-musical 80’s sequel to the 1939 musical The Wizard of Oz in which an inexplicably younger Dorothy, played by Fairuza Balk (who I had a crush on as a kid and again later after watching The Craft), gets sent to an asylum by her loving aunt and uncle to get electroshock therapy to rid her mind of the Oz mumbojumbo that she won’t shut up about. Whilst escaping the asylum, she falls asleep and wakes up in Oz, only to find it has been ruined by the creepy wheelers (imagine less cool flying monkeys on rollerblades), a gnome king who is sporting the ruby slippers, and a headless witch who has a varied collection of heads she can swap. Oz can only be returned to its former glory by stopping these evil characters, and the only ones who can stop them are Dorothy and her verbose chicken, along with the help of a robot soldier, a jack-o-lantern headed dude, and a flying couch with a talking moose head.
If that amazing preview didn’t immediately compel you to watch Return to Oz, I have yet another excellent reason: EliZA WREN’s album Returns to Oz. Much like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz (the syncing of which is commonly known as Dark Side of the Rainbow), ELiZA WREN’s album can be synced with the film Return to Oz. However, when playing Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz, coincidences are few and you really have to be generous in accepting things that seem moderately in sync. With Returns to Oz, the songs are purposefully and amazingly crafted to accompany the movie, and they do a fantastic job of enhancing each other. The moods of the songs fit perfectly, and the lyrics are usually, though cryptically, describing what is happening in the movie. I can’t quite describe the audio/visual aspect of the whole experience, all I can do is recommend you try it (start by watching the trailer).
Apart from the visual, the music definitely holds on it’s own. The album uses ongoing motifs and recurring song themes that range from old timey bluegrass and folk music to indie rock to piano-based spacey tunes that would fit very well on a Pink Floyd record. Whether you experience the album on its own or accompanied by a delightfully creepy Disney movie, I highly recommend giving it a watch and/or listen!