Category Archives: television

Soundtrack Review: The Walking Dead (2010-present)

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Unbelievably, in over seven years, there has never been a soundtrack release from The Walking Dead…until now. Composer Bear McCreary chose his personal favorites from the innumerable themes he has written for the series, along with tracks the fans begged to have included. Selections from the soundtrack include:

  • The Walking Dead “Main Theme”
  • “Sophia”
  • “Carl”
  • “Farm Invasion”
  • “Welcome to the Tombs”
  • “Negan”

This is just a sampling of what’s available, as there are 23 tracks in total. The “Main Theme” is probably one of the most iconic pieces from the series. The quickly moving strings that turn dark as the credits show how civilization has completely broken down (time winding to a stop, buildings decomposing, etc.), it just sucks you in to this (thankfully) fictional world where the dead walk and life as we know it will never be “normal” again (I haven’t watched in years but I AM curious as to what the endgame of this series will be, because nothing lasts forever).

And then there’s “Sophia.” Oh Sophia Sophia…the fate of that little girl came in one of the last episodes I remember watching and this theme fits her so perfectly. This young girl who had to live through the worst kind of apocalypse and (spoiler alert) ultimately didn’t make it deserves a theme that highlights her nature and this theme delivers. It is unexpectedly rich, warm at times, but there is always a hint of sadness, almost like McCreary was foreshadowing her fate (and he likely was). The detail I like the best is, in the middle of the theme, there is a hint of what sounds like a music box, something that is often associated with young girls. I liked that little touch to “Sophia.”

“Carl” is very different from some of the others because, until the last 30 seconds, it is entirely piano. It reminds me very much of this scene where Carl “rescues” a can of chocolate pudding from a ruined house and eats it while sitting on the roof contemplating his surroundings. Now in the last 30 seconds some relatively ominous strings come in, but the piano simply repeats its theme. It’s simple, but beautiful in its simplicity.

“Farm Invasion” actually reminded me very strongly of his theme for Constantine (the short-lived TV show) and that’s because it’s a perfect blend of classical and rock elements. There are strings, yes, but there is also drums, modern percussion, I do believe there is an electric guitar mixed in as well. The snapped strings (a technique where you hold up the violin/viola/cello/bass string and let it snap back against the fingerboard) create the effect of gunshots and given the title of the theme, that seems very appropriate. You can almost follow the action that this scene accompanied: any time the group directly confronts walkers, the music is in your face, up-tempo, heavy string snaps. When they’re running or there’s some emotional drama, it pulls back a bit (but not by much). There’s an awesome guitar moment around 4:28 as well. What makes McCreary’s music so good is that it pulls you in by constantly keeping the pace moving, there’s no way to lose interest. I also hear fragments of the main theme mixed in, or at least something reminiscent of it. But when I say fragments I mean that literally; it sounds “broken”, like he took the theme and smashed it apart. This is a much longer track (almost 9 full minutes) but it is definitely worth listening to.

The last track I will highlight is “Negan” and boy oh boy, based on everything I’ve heard, this theme describes him perfectly. The opening note is this long synthetic “whine” that immediately puts you on edge. And what’s interesting is, you’re not confronted with the “idea” of Negan right away in the music. It’s not until the electric guitar comes in that you realize HERE is the essence of Negan, and it’s nothing good. It’s dark, ominous and I’m kind of glad I left the series before he was introduced because some of the things he’s done would’ve completely broken me.

And that’s my look into the soundtrack of The Walking Dead. I highly recommend this soundtrack, not just for fans of the show, but also if you’re a fan of really good television music. Bear McCreary is one of the best in the business and it definitely shows here. Enjoy!

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Brace yourselves: A Lord of the Rings prequel TV series is coming…

Well, by now I’m sure you’ve heard the news, but just in case I’ll recap: Amazon just spent a LOT of money to acquire the rights to produce a multi-season prequel television series set in the fantastical realm of Middle-Earth. In other words, they’re going to make a prequel of some kind to The Lord of the Rings.

I’m so happy they clarified that this was going to be a prequel because I originally thought they were just going to tell the main story over again which is the LAST thing we need. Peter Jackson’s trilogy did the job so well that I think (and hope) that the film trilogy is one that will never be remade.

So now that we know it’s a prequel series, what could it possibly be about? Well, I have a few ideas on that subject…

The one thing I do NOT want this to be is a rehash of The Hobbit. While I know The Hobbit trilogy wasn’t the best, there’s still no need to cover that ground over again. So if Amazon knows what’s good for them they won’t cover that ground (at least not right away).

While I’m not sure they’d go this far back, I would be interested in seeing the series start back in the early history of Middle-Earth, say around The War of the Jewels? I’m talking Beleriand, Luthien and Beren, Morgoth is on the loose, fun stuff like that. If you’ve ever read that section of The Silmarillion, then you know that would make for some epic storytelling.

But the story I’d like to see most of all is the complete story of Numenor. If you haven’t read all the appendixes of The Lord of the Rings, Numenor was this beautiful island in the middle of the Western Sea, a hair closer to the Undying Lands than Middle Earth (Tolkien said that on a clear day one could just glimpse Tol Eressea on the horizon). Elrond’s brother Elros was the first King of Numenor and Aragorn is his distant descendant (which makes him and Arwen 1st cousins MANY times removed). The island (spoiler alert) was eventually destroyed by the Valar (the gods of Middle-Earth for lack of a better word) when Sauron tempted the last King of Numenor to make war on the Elves and the Valar and claim the Undying Lands for himself. The island has never been depicted and I would love to visit that place in all its glory.

And speaking of the Undying Lands, let’s have a few episodes set in that locale shall we? I was so mad when The Return of the King (the film) ended and we didn’t get to see Frodo’s glimpse of that place. So I really want to see the Undying Lands, with Mt. Taniquetil, the Pelori Mountains and all those wonderful places Tolkien described.

If the series covers any of this, then I think I could get behind it. But I swear, if this turns out to be another excuse to cover The Hobbit, I will rip this series apart!!!

But for now, we can only speculate.

There’ll be a soundtrack review up later tonight. I’m finally looking at The Walking Dead soundtrack! Can’t wait to share my thoughts on it!

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Soundtrack Review: Stranger Things 2

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First off, I have a shocking confession to make. I have not seen a single episode of Stranger Things. It’s not that I don’t WANT to, but when it came down to subscribing to Netflix or Hulu…Hulu won. But I’ve heard amazing things about it (most of my friends are in love with the series) especially that the music soundtrack is very good. So when the opportunity came to review the soundtrack for the second season of Stranger Things, naturally I leaped at the opportunity.

The album became available for digital download on October 20th, and a physical CD release will be coming later (along with an LP version).

The first thing I have to say about this soundtrack…it is huge! There are 34 track listings which is a lot of music to find in a soundtrack. The average soundtrack album has around 12-14 tracks (more if it’s a “deluxe edition” or something of that ilk).

The second thing I noticed straight away: none of the tracks are particularly long. I don’t mean this in a negative way, it’s actually refreshing to have a list of tracks that aren’t all ten minutes or more in length. Most of the tracks are between two and three minutes in length, which is more than enough time to get a feel for the music. And speaking of the music…

The music for the second season of Stranger Things sounds amazing! Since the series is set in the 1980s, the music has a distinct 80s sound, which means a lot of synthesizers in the mix. Particular favorites I’d like to highlight include: “Home”, “She wants me to find her”, “The First Lie” and “Connect the Dots.” This last one is particularly interesting to me because the title refers to “dots” and the music itself is full of “dots”, that is to say, there are many plunking sounds that create an aural image of dots in the imagination.

I do have one small criticism of the overall soundtrack. Because so many of the tracks use synthesizers, some of the tracks have the tendency to sound very similar to one another.

Bottom line: if you love Stranger Things, you will definitely love this soundtrack. And if you’re like me and you haven’t seen Stranger Things yet, then this soundtrack will make you want to go see it as soon as possible.

The digital album of Strangers Things 2 is available now, keep an eye out for the physical CD release in the near future. My thanks to The Krakower Group for making the soundtrack available for review.

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Soundtrack Review: Teen Wolf (2011-present)

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Teen Wolf is an American television series that airs on MTV (the final season is currently airing). It is loosely based on the 1985 Teen Wolf film and tells the story of Scott McCall (Tyler Posey), a teenager who is bitten by a werewolf and must learn to live with the consequences. The soundtrack is composed by Dino Meneghin, who has worked on the series since its premiere in 2011 (which has really allowed for the musical themes to develop). The soundtrack for Teen Wolf was released on September 15th, so be sure to check it out!

In listening to any television soundtrack, I like to start with the main title. This sets the tone for any series and is usually a good indicator of what you’re going to get (that’s why McCreary’s theme for Constantine is one of my favorites). The main title for Teen Wolf is largely what I expected for a series of this kind: fast-paced, frenetic, a blend of symphonic instruments and electronic sounds, with a firm drum beat as well. I say this is what I expected, but that does not make it a bad thing. This is a show aimed at young adults after all, so the sound is right for that audience.

The next piece I listened to was “Hellhound” and for a few seconds I wondered if the track had been mislabeled. It starts out very soft and quiet, not what you’d expect. And then, out of nowhere, there’s a HUGE crash of drumbeats and you finally have the feeling of something menacing going on. It was still more melodic than I expected for the track title, but I enjoyed listening to it.

Of all the tracks I heard, “Fear Defeated” might be my favorite (with the main title running a close second). The track begins with an eerie sort of sound, followed by a strange clanking noise. I think this might be a mallet dragged over xylophones, or better yet, it may be the xylophone bars themselves clanked together to make a really creepy sound. The music then shifts into a dark and at times triumphant symphonic quality that I really enjoyed listening to. It really felt like the music you might hear in a movie, not a television show.

One thing I’ve taken away from listening to these recent television soundtracks is that the nature of television scoring has really changed from the early years. In some high-quality productions (most notably Game of Thrones), the music is so complex and thematic that it really stands on the same level as film music. But even in smaller (compared to GoT) productions, the music is now more symphonic, more nuanced and I couldn’t be happier. Whether it be television or film, music is often the make or break ingredient in any production.

I hope you enjoyed this short look into the music of Teen Wolf, the soundtrack is available now if you’d like to hear it in full. My thanks to The Krakower Group for making the soundtrack available for review.

 

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“Behold the King…” Sampling Triple H’s memorable Wrestlemania entrances

Earlier this year I talked about how wrestling can be considered a musical event due to how much music it employs in its production. Nowhere is this more true than in Wrestlemania, the “Superbowl” of the wrestling world (or one of them anyway, but that’s a discussion for another day). Having aired 33 editions since 1985, “the showcase of the Immortals” has seen some truly epic entrances (with thrilling musical performances to boot). But I want to focus on one wrestler in particular today: Hunter Hearst Helmsley, better known to all as Triple H. Given his dominant position in the industry, Triple H has taken part in some of the most elaborate entrances EVER. While I can’t list ALL of them, I do want to go through some of the more memorable entrances (note: this is not ranked in any particular order at the moment, though I may change that in the future).

  1. Wrestlemania 22 (2006): Triple H enters as “King Conan” (“King of Kings” entrance theme combined with classic “The Game” entrance)

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Triple H Wrestlemania 22 entrance (2006)

This entrance is a particular favorite of mine, and one of the better examples of how wrestling can resemble musical theater. The music begins with smoke hovering over the stage (as a weird video occasionally flashes on the screen). Seated on a throne, Triple H slowly rises through the smoke as Motorhead’s “King of Kings” plays out. Triple H is dressed for the occasion as King Conan (as in Conan the Barbarian), with a crown and fur lined cloak. While he looks inimidating, the effect is somewhat ruined by the fact that he’s also carrying a plastic water bottle in one hand (another trademark of his). Once the throne fully raises up, the music fades out and as “The Game” roars to life, Triple H stands up from his throne and dramatically makes his march to the ring, shaking off his cloak and roaring that HE will be the winner (spoiler alert: he loses).

2. Wrestlemania X-Seven (2001): Motorhead plays Triple H’s entrance music live (“The Game”)

Motorhead performs “The Game” live (2001)

This is actually the first time Motorhead performed Triple H’s theme music live at Wrestlemania; they would repeat this at Wrestlemania 21 (although Wrestlemania X-Seven is considered the superior performance). It starts out pretty much like a mini-rock concert: the band plays the song (to the delight of the crowd) and goes through a large portion before Triple H’s entrance even starts. And it’s at THAT point that the crowd remembers that this is all for a villain and they promptly begin to boo. Triple H noted later that while he had to keep his “mean face” on for his character, inside he was practically screaming with joy because Motorhead was a favorite band of his.

3. Wrestlemania 27 (2011): “The Gladiator Entrance”: Triple H emerges behind a ring of gladiators (Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”+ “The Game”)

Triple H’s Gladiator Entrance for Wrestlemania 27 (2011)

For the last five to six years, it has practically been a guarantee that Triple H’s entrance will be one of the most elaborate and Wrestlemania 27 showed this in spades. This would mark the second time that Triple H would meet The Undertaker at Wrestlemania and the stakes for this match were through the roof. The entrance begins with Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” As the music grows louder, images of flames begin pouring up the ramp and the stage, making it look like it is all on fire. A ring of “gladiators” (in reality independent wrestlers looking to make some extra money) emerges from a lowered ramp in the stage floor to form a ring with their shields. Suddenly the lights drop to a single spotlight and the gladiators move forward to reveal Triple H in a creepy-as-hell skull and crown mask (this is a look he’s repeated several times, I guess he likes it). He stands motionless for a good thirty seconds when the music abruptly stops and the lights go out. And then…out of nowhere, the stage blares to life and there stands “The Game” in all his glory (he did a quick change in the dark) as Motorhead’s music takes over.

These are the three entrances that stand out the most in my mind, the honorable mentions included:

Triple H’s EPIC entrance at Wrestlemania 30 (2014)

“The Terminator Entrance” at Wrestlemania 31 (2015)

If anyone tries to tell you that wrestling is not connected to musical theater, show them these examples, they really do speak for themselves. Hopefully in the future I can expand more on this idea. I hope you enjoyed reading and watching 🙂

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10 awesome connections between The Clone Wars and the Star Wars films

I was thinking about Star Wars (again) and I started to consider all the ways that The Clone Wars series ties back into the films (both prequel and original). The following list is by no means exhaustive, but I thought it would be fun to share all of this with you. Enjoy!

  1. Anakin Skywalker meets Captain Tarkin (the future Grand Moff) while rescuing a Jedi Master. Tarkin is decidedly NOT impressed with the Jedi (though he and Anakin do come to a grudging understanding by the end of the arc). Knowing this, it REALLY makes you wonder if Tarkin knew who Darth Vader really was…
  2. Earlier in this same arc, Anakin unveils a plan whereby he, Obi-Wan, and the rest of their team will smuggle themselves onto a Separatist-controlled planet by freezing themselves in carbonite. Vader (apparently) remembered this idea years later and attempted to implement it on Luke.
  3. Anakin was friends with the future Admiral Ackbar. No, really! When Anakin and Padme are dispatched to Mon Cala, home planet of the Mon Calamari, they are forced to rescue the Crown Prince whose captain of the guard is one Captain Ackbar. Knowing what happens in the future, seeing them work together was surreal to say the very least.
  4. Anakin (and his Padawan Ahsoka) pays a visit to Mustafar long before Anakin has his fateful duel with Obi-Wan there.
  5. The Clone Wars series is the reason Darth Maul was (technically) resurrected and made into one of the greatest villains in the Star Wars canon. In one of their early encounters, Maul taunts Obi-Wan by reminding him how he killed Qui-Gon Jinn (at the climax of Episode I).
  6. Mon Mothma (the leader who gave the briefing in Episode VI) appears as a Senator in multiple episodes. Watching her talk with Padme is cool and really sad at the same time since we know what happens at the end of Episode III.
  7. The Clone Wars establishes even more that Anakin and Bail Organa are friends which is so ironic to me given how Anakin (as Vader) will be a part of the Empire that destroys Bail’s home planet (and kills Bail himself).
  8. You know Sy Snootles, the alien singer with the awesome performance number in Return of the Jedi? Well, as it turns out, during the Clone Wars, Sy (who was still a performer) had a love affair with Jabba’s uncle Ziro the Hutt, only to ultimately betray and kill him in order to retrieve some damning information.
  9. Think back to the Death Star conference meeting in Episode IV. Remember that older officer with a white moustache and off-white uniform? The Clone Wars reveals that this was formerly Admiral Yularen, fleet commander serving under General Anakin Skywalker. It blows my mind that Yularen’s former Jedi commander is walking mere steps from him and he has no idea at all.
  10. Last, and to me most importantly, in the earth-shattering Mortis arc, Anakin is shown EXACTLY what he will become in the future by a living incarnation of the Dark side of the Force. He sees visions of Padme dying, the death of the Jedi and most terrifyingly, a vision of himself as the masked Darth Vader. Now, one could argue that since Anakin’s memory of his vision is wiped out, that this doesn’t really count. But to me it does, because it answers a long-burning question (for me anyway): if Anakin HAD known what was coming, would he have acted differently? Had he not been stopped, I think the answer would have been yes. Anakin is HORRIFIED by what he sees and desperately wants to stop this future from happening (though at this late stage, I’m not sure if that is even possible).

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Soundtrack Review: BoJack Horseman (2014-present)

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Well this is…different. I’ve never really watched BoJack Horseman, but I’ve heard enough of my friends talking about it that I decided it was worth checking out the soundtrack. If you haven’t seen it, the story takes place in an alternate world (largely in the Los Angeles and Hollywood area) where humans live side by side with tailless anthropomorphic animals. BoJack (voiced by Will Arnett) is the washed-up star of a 90’s sitcom called Horsin’ Around and seeks to re-ignite his stardom via a tell-all autobiography. The series is a satire of Hollywood and celebrity culture.

I sampled several pieces of the soundtrack that was composed by Jesse Novak and the music makes it pretty clear that this is not your typical show. Oddly enough, I found myself drawn to “BoJack’s Theme” which I can only describe as a quirky mesh of synthesizer, drums and brass that has a rather jazz-like tone to it. It’s actually pretty catchy in that I feel that it is growing on me.

“Seaport” also heavily employs synthesizer, and actually reminded me of a short theme from an anime (one of those scenes were the camera is pulling back and showing the viewer a landscape).

I was pleasantly surprised to find several songs on the soundtrack as well, the two I came across were “I Will Always Think of You” and “Back in the 90’s.” Now I haven’t seen any episodes of the show, but it sounds like these are being sung by BoJack (please correct me if I’m wrong on this detail). I say I was pleasantly surprised because, well, most television soundtracks don’t have songs (You’re The Worst is another wonderful exception). “I Will Always Think of You” is actually a really nice song, it’s a duet between a male and female singer, and it really puts me in mind of a classic love song circa the 1950s/60s (this reminds me of something Sinatra might have crooned back in the day).

All together, the soundtrack for BoJack Horseman turned out to be full of many pleasant surprises. Season 4 premiered on Netflix on September 8th, so if you haven’t checked out the series, I officially recommend it and I also recommend checking out the soundtrack. My deepest thanks to The Krakower Group for making this soundtrack available so I could review it. I hope you enjoyed this brief look into the music of BoJack Horseman.

 

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