Category Archives: 4

Oblivion (2013) – M83

In 2010, electronic music group Daft Punk collaborated with Joseph Trapanese on the score for director Joseph Kosinski’s first directorial effort, TRON: Legacy. This year, Trapanese is back with a new collaboration for a Kosinski film, this time with Anthony Gonzalez of M83. Like the score to TRON: Legacy (my review), the focus is on a more electronic sound mixed with traditional orchestration, and the result is quite satisfactory.

 The second track of the album, “Waking Up,” perfectly communicates the grandeur of the film, albeit an empty grandeur, if that makes sense. In fact, much of this score gives us a glimpse into the largeness of the world and the hugely epic moments, such as in “Drone Attack” and “Canyon Battle.” Tracks like “Losing Control” are a bit more muted, but the anxious undertones of low strings and electronic pulse with the overlaying high strings become more and more aggressive before being joined by the brass in a dramatic sort of fanfare that seems to emulate all of Jack Harper’s questions and doubts as he struggles to find his place in this world. “Radiation Zone” is incredibly dissonant and becomes more and more agitated, representing the conflict Jack faces in crossing into the radiation zone and the surprises he encounters there.

One thing I liked about this film, though, was its ability to move effortlessly from big, majestic sets and action scenes to the more intimate moments of contemplation and searching for answers, which the score does great as well. The opening track of the album, “Jack’s Dream,” sounds appropriately ethereal, representing the fuzziness of Jack’s “memories,” and “Horatius,” is filled with a constant pulse that drives it forward, but the quieter nature of the track fuels Harper’s question-asking. The following track, “StarWaves,” is much more personal, acting as background music to a scene between Jack and Victoria in the swimming pool. One of the final tracks on the album, “Undimmed By Time, Unbound By Death,” seems to almost be a reference to the title track from Chariots of Fire, composed by Vangelis; both tracks feature an electronic opening before transitioning into a piano-based theme, though the Oblivion track is decidedly more muted (and less likely to be the go-to song for clips of people running).

Those of you who have read my previous soundtrack reviews know that one thing I always harp on is composers who reuse themes from their previous film scores. While Daft Punk and M83 were credited as the main composers for TRON: Legacy and Oblivion, respectively, Joseph Trapanese had a hand in both compositions, and you can hear some similarities between the two. Thankfully, though, nothing is blatant enough to point out, with the fact that TRON: Legacy‘s score is a bit more electronic-based and Oblivion‘s is more orchestra-based, effectively distancing the two to make them stand out on their own merits.

A film score’s goal is to make the film it accompanies even better and to enhance the emotions and action shown on screen; for the most part, the score to Oblivion does its job. There were one or two instances while watching the film when I thought that the music could have taken a little bit more of a backseat to the visuals and dialogue, but those thoughts never lasted long because of how fun the music is. The bonus goal of a film score is to be entertaining when listened to outside of the film, and there’s no doubt that Gonzales and Trapanese have accomplished that here as well. M83’s score to Oblivion manages to continue the recent positive trend of famous music groups composing for films in a great way.

Note: I purchased the Deluxe Edition of the album on iTunes. For only $3 more, you get more than 45 additional minutes of music. Completely worth it!

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Jack’s Dream”     1:30
2. “Waking Up”     4:18
3. “Supercell”     4:19
4. “Tech 49”     6:01
5. “The Library”     3:27
6. “Horatius”     2:31
7. “StarWaves”     3:41
8. “Hydrorig”     2:23
9. “Crater Lake”     1:28
10. “Unidentified Object”     2:32
11. “Odyssey Rescue”     4:12
12. “Return from Delta”     2:22
13. “Retrieval”     6:48
14. “Earth 2077”     2:23
15. “Revelations”     1:43
16. “Drone Attack”     3:26
17. “Return to Empire State”     6:41
18. “Losing Control”     3:57
19. “Canyon Battle”     5:58
20. “Radiation Zone”     4:12
21. “You Can’t Save Her”     4:59
22. “Welcome Back”     1:47
23. “Raven Rock”     4:35
24. “Knife Fight In a Phone Booth”     4:39
25. “I’m Sending You Away”     5:40
26. “Ashes of Our Fathers”     3:32
27. “Temples of Our Gods”     3:16
28. “Fearful Odds”     3:11
29. “Undimmed By Time, Unbound By Death”     2:27
30. “Oblivion (feat. Susanne Sundfør)”     5:57

Total Length: app. 114 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of this film here!


Skyfall (2012) – Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman is a composer who I’m fairly familiar with; I own his soundtracks for Finding NemoWall-ELemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and The Help, all of which are pretty good. BUT they are all quite outside the action genre, so you can imagine my surprise when I learned that Newman was composing the score to the newest James Bond film. I must admit, I was a bit unimpressed during my first listen, but over time, especially after seeing the film, I’ve grown to really enjoy it and was happy to see it nominated for Best Original Score at the 85th Academy Awards.

The very first track, “Grand Bazaar, Istanbul,” opens with the familiar trumpet notes heard in David Arnold’s arrangement of Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme” from Casino Royale (2007), called “The Name’s Bond…James Bond.” This transitions into a sort of groove that takes us completely through the opening chase sequence through the bazaar and on top of the train. It perfectly captures the excitement and anxiety of the moment, pushing forward with brass and an energetic percussion beat. There are a lot of these action-packed tracks that match the action-packed film, including tracks such as “Granborough Road,” which uses mainly strings to drive the music forward and closes with a soft rendition of the “James Bond Theme” on guitar, and “Welcome to Scotland,” which relies again on brass and percussion. A wonderful moment in the soundtrack is heard in “Breadcrumbs” when we’re treated to a more complete rendition of the main theme, typical of the James Bond films of old.

The score is not without its light moments though, which is appropriate since this is one of the more thoughtful and contemplative of the film series. “Day Wasted” features a shimmery sort of electric background before the strings come in with gentle interruptions that hint at the main theme. A later track, “Mother,” which almost sounds like it has a couple of featured voices, though it may just be an instrument that emulates the voice. Halfway through the track, warm brass sounds join the mix, helping to emphasize that Bond is home again and is being faced with his past. Other more gentle tracks include “Enjoying Death” and “Close Shave.”

Newman has done a fine job with the music to Skyfall after taking over from David Arnold, who had composed the scores to five previous Bond films. My one disappointment is that, aside from the main theme, the bits of Adele’s “Skyfall,” and a couple of instances of repeated musical ideas, there isn’t another unifying theme heard throughout the soundtrack. I had the same complaint in my review of James Newton Howard’s score for The Bourne Legacy, which lacked the unifying theme heard in John Powell’s scores to the original Bourne trilogy. Despite that disappointment, the score to Skyfall is an excellent action film score, which you don’t often get.

I would be remiss to not say a couple of things about Adele’s “Skyfall,” the title song for the film, though it was not composed by Newman (bits of it can be heard in the soundtrack tracks “Skyfall” and “Komodo Dragon”). It’s probably my favorite Bond title song (that I’ve heard), and I’m certain that it will win Best Original Song at the 85th Academy Awards.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Grand Bazaar, Istanbul” 5:14
2. “Voluntary Retirement” 2:22
3. “New Digs” 2:32
4. “Sévérine” 1:20
5. “Brave New World” 1:50
6. “Shanghai Drive” 1:26
7. “Jellyfish” 3:22
8. “Silhouette” 0:56
9. “Modigliani” 1:04
10. “Day Wasted” 1:31
11. “Quartermaster” 4:48
12. “Someone Usually Dies” 2:29
13. “Komodo Dragon” 3:20
14. “The Bloody Shot” 4:46
15. “Enjoying Death” 1:13
16. “The Chimera” 1:58
17. “Close Shave” 1:32
18. “Health & Safety” 1:29
19. “Granborough Road” 2:32
20. “Tennyson” 2:14
21. “Enquiry” 2:49
22. “Breadcrumbs” 2:02
23. “Skyfall” 2:32
24. “Kill Them First” 2:22
25. “Welcome to Scotland” 3:21
26. “She’s Mine” 3:53
27. “The Moors” 2:39
28. “Deep Water” 5:11
29. “Mother” 1:48
30. “Adrenaline” 2:18
31. “Old Dog, New Tricks” 1:48

Total Length: app. 80 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of this film here!


Life of Pi (2012) – Mychael Danna

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Mychael Danna sort of came out of nowhere for me. The first of his film scores that I’d ever heard of was his score for the 2011 film Moneyball, a score that was minimal but effective. A brief look at his Wikipedia filmography reveals other such scores as (500) Days of Summer, Capote, and Little Miss Sunshine, none of which are films that I’ve seen, let alone heard music from. Despite my unfamiliarity with Danna’s work, though, his score for Life of Pi is enjoyable and fits in nicely with the film.

The soundtrack opens with the track “Pi’s Lullaby,” which is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Though I don’t think it’ll win, its soothing vocals and relaxed accompaniment are nice to listen to. Bits of this track are heard throughout the score in different forms, building onto the character of Pi Patel with each occurrence. The sitar, a guitar-like instrument traditional in Indian music, is featured prominently in many tracks, emphasizing the heritage of our main character, but the Indian-inspired music fades with Pi’s family’s move to Winnipeg, Canada. In fact, in the track “Leaving India,” there is a moment when we hear bits of “Pi’s Lullaby” played by (what I think to be) the ney, a wind instrument that is often heard in Middle Eastern music, but this is taken over by a similar Western instrument, the flute.

Danna does an excellent job with incorporating vocals into the score to evoke emotion. For example, in the track “First Night, First Day,” we hear a low male vocal drone with a solo soprano line sung over it. Eventually, other female chorus members join in, giving the whole track an air of both remorse and mystery, alluding to Pi’s recent tragedy with the loss of his family and to his unknown future while stranded alone at sea. Another instance of good choral work is toward the end of “Back to the World,” in which we can sense Pi’s mixed senses of relief in returning to civilization and disappointment in the loss of Richard Parker.

Not all of this score is so depressing, though. “Piscine Molitor Patel,” which serves as the backdrop to Pi’s explanation of his name, features some schmaltzy accordions that fit in the with the bits of the story involving Paris and French (his first and middle names are derived from the name of a well-known public pool in France). As I mentioned in my review for Alexandre Desplat’s score for Argo, there is also a beatboxing segment in this track, a trait shared by both scores…unusual, but it doesn’t seem inappropriate for either film. Another “fun” track is “Flying Fish,” which comprises of a string melody that starts off light and bouncy and grows a little weightier as the track comes to a close.

While I do enjoy all of the music presented here, the reason that I don’t place it as high as Desplat’s score for Argo or Williams’ score for Lincoln (my review here) is because much of it is so repetitive. The same themes are presented over and over again from track to track, and, though this could be interpreted as a conscious decision on Danna’s part to emulate Pi’s increasingly mundane day-to-day routine in his music, I think that it is unnecessary. There are complex emotions and ideas presented in the film, and I think that the score could have done a better job of highlighting all of these.

That’s not to say that it’s not still a pretty great score, though. Danna has composed a score that generally fits the film well, and it’s certainly pleasant to listen to. The score for Life of Pi walked away with the Golden Globe, but I don’t think that it’ll get the Academy Award for Best Original Score. Who knows, though? I’ve been wrong before. It’s entirely possible that my view is skewed since I’m partial to Williams’ scores.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Pi’s Lullaby” 3:42
2. “Piscine Molitor Patel” 3:39
3. “Pondicherry” 1:12
4. “Meeting Krishna” 1:51
5. “Christ in the Mountains” 1:13
6. “Thank You Vishna for Introducing Me to Christ” 0:55
7. “Richard Parker” 0:54
8. “Appa’s Lesson” 1:06
9. “Anandi” 0:55
10. “Leaving India” 1:20
11. “The Deepest Spot on Earth” 0:48
12. “Tsimtsum” 2:49
13. “Death of the Zebra” 0:33
14. “First Night, First Day” 3:45
15. “Set Your House in Order” 2:10
16. “Skinny Vegetarian Boy” 2:16
17. “Pi and Richard Parker” 2:14
18. “The Whale” 2:02
19. “Flying Fish” 0:49
20. “Tiger Training” 1:22
21. “Orphans” 1:36
22. “Tiger Vision” 4:31
23. “God Storm” 3:42
24. “I’m Ready Now” 3:21
25. “The Island” 1:59
26. “Back to the World” 8:20
27. “The Second Story” 4:02
28. “Which Story Do You Prefer?” 2:05
Total Length: app. 66 min.
iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Rise of the Guardians (2012) – Alexandre Desplat

I had never listened to an Alexandre Desplat score before 2010’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1, and I’ve been hooked ever since. His scores for The King’s Speech was simple and wonderful, and I’m still astounded by the fact that his score to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2, was not nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score, as it is one of the most beautiful, emotional scores I’ve ever listened to. That being said, when I saw that his score for Rise of the Guardians, a film that I’ve been excited for for quite some time now, was available, I purchased it without hesitation.

*possible spoilers due to track titles; I haven’t seen the film*

The score starts out with a very Harry Potter-esque track titled “Calling the Guardians;” in particular, the first few seconds remind me of the track “Snape to Malfoy Manor” from the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1, soundtrack, mixed with a little of Danny Elfman’s theme to the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film. It’s quite an exciting entrance which quickly transitions into something more typical of Desplat’s music – a sweeping string melody accompanied by a charming piano countermelody. The brass eventually come in with a triumphant fanfare fitting of the track title, suggesting a different kind of superhero than we are accustomed to…which certainly seems to be the case with this film.

Throughout the score, we are treated to quiet, tender tracks such as “Alone in the World” and “Jamie Believes,” the latter of which contains what I would consider to be the main theme of the film, taken from the track “Still Dream,” composed by Desplat with lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and sung by Renée Fleming. We also hear fast-paced, raucous tracks such as “Tooth Collection” and “Pitch At North Pole,” as well as tracks that seem to emanate hope and magic, including “Sandman Returns” and “Oath of the Guardians.”

When I think of Desplat’s music, I think of beauty; his score to Rise of the Guardians only helps to reinforce this association. Every bit as colorful as the album artwork, Desplat’s music soars and never bores. His rich strings and powerful brass will leave you refreshed and wishing for more – it makes me even more excited for the film!

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1.

“Still Dream” (performed by Renée Fleming)

3:12

2.

“Calling the Guardians”

2:06

3.

“Alone in the World”

2:04

4.

“Fanfare of the Elves”

0:53

5.

“Wind Take Me Home!”

1:28

6.

“Dreamsand”

2:03

7.

“Pitch on the Globe”

0:57

8.

“The Moon”

1:32

9.

“Snowballs”

1:31

10.

“Busy Workshop”

1:33

11.

“Sleigh Launch”

1:45

12.

“Nightmares Attack”

7:17

13.

“Tooth Collection”

2:22

14.

“Jamie’s Bedroom”

2:31

15.

“Jack & Sandman”

4:18

16.

“Memorial”

1:21

17.

“Guardians Regroup”

0:58

18.

“Easter”

3:39

19.

“Jack Betrays”

3:20

20.

“Kids Stop Believing”

2:35

21.

“Jack’s Memories”

2:24

22.

“Pitch at North Pole”

2:00

23.

“Jamie Believes”

3:01

24.

“Jack’s Center”

4:52

25.

“Sandman Returns”

2:36

26.

“Dreamsand Miracles”

2:18

27.

“Oath of the Guardians”

3:11

Total Length: app. 69 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!


Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) – Michael Giacchino

Much like the Mission Impossible films starring Tom Cruise are almost spoofs of themselves, Michael Giacchino’s score to the latest installment, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, spoofs both itself and every other action movie score…and it’s fantastic.

The album is as over-the-top as you can get, transitioning from eerie background music, such as in the opening track, “Give Her My Budapest,” into long, sweeping melodies, as heard in “A Man, a Plan, a Code, Dubai,” to exciting action music, such as in “World’s Worst Parking Valet.” All the while, we hear the iconic Mission Impossible theme song interspersed throughout, brilliantly blended into new music that manages to sometimes disguise it and at other times enhance it. Giacchino gives us music that is as loud and rambunctious as the action in the film itself, helping to form a sort of caricature of the action genre of film and the stereotypical action score.

Despite his ability to deliver these moments of almost obnoxious (in a good way), rowdy music, Giacchino sticks to his guns and manages to give us plenty of brilliant, quiet moments as well, such as in the tracks “Moreau Trouble Than She’s Worth” and “Putting the Miss in Mission.” Additionally, “Ghost Protocol” provides us with some chillingly dissonant music that slowly builds into a theme that I would describe as angsty and conflicted – a perfect embodiment of what is going on in the film at the time.

Giacchino, known for his scores to Disney/Pixar’s The Incredibles and Up, as well as his score to the J. J. Abrams Star Trek reboot, continues to show his diversity across genres with this score to Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, a score that is just as smart as it is fun. With the traditional wit found in the track titles (e.g. “In Russia, Phone Dials You,” “From Russia With Shove,” “Mumbai’s the Word,” etc.), this score is yet another testament to the fact that Giacchino is one of the best in the business.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

  1. Give Her My Budapest (1:57)
  2. Light The Fuse (2:01)
  3. Knife To A Gun Fight (3:42)
  4. In Russia, Phone Dials You (1:40)
  5. Kremlin With Anticipation (4:12)
  6. From Russia With Shove (3:37)
  7. Ghost Protocol (4:58)
  8. Railcar Rundown (1:11)
  9. Hendricks’ Manifesto (3:17)
  10. A Man, A Plan, A Code, Dubai (2:44)
  11. Love The Glove (3:44)
  12. The Express Elevator (2:31)
  13. Mission Impersonatable (3:55)
  14. Moreau Trouble Than She’s Worth (6:44)
  15. Out For A Run (3:54)
  16. Eye Of The Wistrom (1:05)
  17. Mood India (4:28)
  18. Mumbai’s The Word (7:14)
  19. Launch Is On Hendricks (2:22)
  20. World’s Worst Parking Valet (5:03)
  21. Putting The Miss In Mission (5:19)
  22. Mission: Impossible Theme (Out With A Bang Version) (0:53)

Total Length: app. 77 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!


TRON: Legacy (2010) – Daft Punk

I think that the high quality of Daft Punk’s score for TRON: Legacy was unexpected for most people, but, in retrospect, it makes perfect sense: get a musical duo famous for their electronic music to compose the score to a film whose setting takes place primarily in an electronic world.

And it’s the electronic music featured in this score that makes it so great. From the Vangelis-esque “Overture” to the infectious club groove “End of Line” (the title a reference to the original TRON film) to the aggressive “Disc Wars”, Daft Punk has managed to create a score that works well as both a companion to the film it was written for and as a standalone work of art. However, there is plenty of traditional film music – that is to say, orchestral rather than electronic – that is just as good, such as in the tracks “Recognizer”, which sort of emulates the feel of electronic music, the beautiful “Nocturne”, and “Finale”, which features some excellent brass as well as some soaring strings.

While it’s not the greatest film score of all time, it’s definitely one of the better scores composed by a musical group not known for its film scores. Daft Punk’s music for TRON: Legacy fits the setting tremendously well, enhancing the crisp visuals with an exciting soundtrack that combines traditional film scoring with newer ideas to create something unique and satisfying.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Overture” 2:28
2. “The Grid” 1:37
3. “The Son of Flynn” 1:35
4. “Recognizer” 2:38
5. “Armory” 2:03
6. “Arena” 1:33
7. “Rinzler” 2:18
8. “The Game Has Changed” 3:25
9. “Outlands” 2:42
10. “Adagio for Tron” 4:11
11. “Nocturne” 1:42
12. “End of Line” 2:36
13. “Derezzed” 1:44
14. “Fall” 1:23
15. “Solar Sailer” 2:42
16. “Rectifier” 2:14
17. “Disc Wars” 4:11
18. “C.L.U.” 4:39
19. “Arrival” 2:00
20. “Flynn Lives” 3:22
21. “Tron Legacy (End Titles)” 3:18
22. “Finale” 4:23

Total Length: app. 59 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Tangled (2010) – Alan Menken

Alan Menken’s score for 2010’s Tangled is like a modern update to the scores of the classic Disney films of the 1990s; who better to bring new life to the classic scores than the man who originally scored/wrote songs for The Little MermaidBeauty and the BeastAladdin, PocahontasHercules, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame?

The best part about this score is that the styles vary so completely from track to track. The first instrumental track we hear is titled “Flynn Wanted”, and it manages to effectively capture the swashbuckling, adventurous feel that Eugene Fitzherbert tries to emulate as the thieving Flynn Rider. Two tracks later, “Horse With No Rider” introduces an eerie, anxious theme that serves as a backdrop to Mother Gothel’s realization that Rapunzel may have been found and the subsequent panicked flee back to the tower. And still something different is “Campfire”, in which we hear some subtle hints at the main theme for the musical number “I See the Light”, a play at the budding relationship between our two protagonists. The ending to “The Tear Heals” is filled with the emotion appropriate to the situation; it’s grand, heartfelt, and, to use a bit of a cliche, magical.

Of course, the real highlights of Tangled‘s soundtrack are the musical numbers, which the score only serves as backup to. In “When Will My Life Begin” and its two reprises, we see the main conflict within Rapunzel: her desire to do something with her life other than stay in the tower forever. While I’m not a particular fan of “Mother Knows Best”, it is an appropriate introduction to Mother Gothel, and, even more, a setup for an excellent reprise. “I’ve Got a Dream” is a hilarious, raucous sing-along that shows us that “our differences ain’t really that extreme”. The real standout song of this album, though, is “I See the Light”, a beautiful duet between Rapunzel and Eugene that reminds me of Aladdin‘s “A Whole New World” every time I hear it…but in a good way.

Overall, while the score only features a couple of standout moments (“Kingdom Dance” is my favorite), the musical numbers are what you buy the album for. With fantastic performances by Mandy Moore and Zachery Levi, the score for Tangled is a return to the classic Disney singalong animated film; it’s fun, it’s touching, and it tells a wonderful story.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

  1. “When Will My Life Begin”   2:32
  2. “When Will My Life Begin (Reprise 1)”   1:03
  3. “Mother Knows Best”   3:10
  4. “When Will My Life Begin (Reprise 2)”   2:06
  5. “I’ve Got a Dream”   3:11
  6. “Mother Knows Best (Reprise)”   1:38
  7. “I See the Light”   3:44
  8. “Healing Incantation”   0:54
  9. “Flynn Wanted”   2:51
  10. “Prologue”   2:03
  11. “Horse With No Rider”   1:57
  12. “Escape Route”   1:57
  13. “Campfire”   3:22
  14. “Kingdom Dance”   2:20
  15. “Waiting for the Lights”   2:48
  16. “Return to Mother”   2:07
  17. “Realization and Escape”   5:51
  18. “The Tear Heals”   7:38
  19. “Kingdom Celebration”   1:51
  20. “Something That I Want”   (Grace Potter)   2:43

Total Length: app. 56 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!