Tag Archives: soundtrack

Moana “How Far I’ll Go” (2016)

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Moana “How Far I’ll Go” (2016)

Moana has nearly convinced herself that she can live happily for the rest of her life on Motonui but fate has a different plan for this chief’s daughter. One day, as Moana is going about helping the people, a group comes up to show her a basket of rotten coconuts. No problem, Moana instructs them to start gathering from a different grove and to remove the diseased trees. But then the fishermen come up and show their empty baskets: there are no fish in the lagoon, nor are there any to be found in any of the other usual fishing spots that Moana suggests they try instead. While her father gets into a heated discussion with the fishermen, Moana is struck by a brilliant idea: why don’t they go beyond the reef to fish? I believe that she is making a sincere suggestion that might help the island (and not just because she wants to go explore herself) but her father does not see it that way at all. He rejects her flatly and insists they will find another way because “no one sails beyond the reef.”

Disheartened (again), Moana remains on the beach and ponders her seemingly unending desire to explore the ocean. This is the setting of “How Far I’ll Go.” There’s a version of this song in almost every animated Disney song that I can think of:

And those are just to name a few! But despite this type of song showing up in so many films, it doesn’t change the fact that I love this song! It resonates with me because I too struggle with wanting to do things that people close to me do not always understand.

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I’ve been staring at the edge of the water
Long as I can remember
Never really knowing why
I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water
No matter how hard I try

Every turn I take, every trail I track
Every path I make, every road leads back
To the place I know where I cannot go
Where I long to be

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See the line where the sky meets the sea
It calls me
And no one knows
How far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea
Stays behind me
One day, I’ll know
If I go, there’s just no telling how far I’ll go

I know everybody on this island
Seems so happy on this island
Everything is by design
I know everybody on this island
Has a role on this island
So maybe I can roll with mine

Moana’s argument does make sense: everybody else is perfectly happy with their roles on the island, so why shouldn’t she be content with her role as a chief’s daughter (and future chief in her own right)? She doesn’t understand why she’s drawn back time and time again to the ocean, in fact she wonders if there’s something wrong with her!

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I can lead with pride
I can make us strong
I’ll be satisfied if I play along
But the voice inside
Sings a different song
What is wrong with me?

All of Moana’s doubts are swept away every time she stares back at the ocean. Deep down, nothing else matters if she can just get out there and explore. That’s why, despite just hearing her father say no one can go beyond the reef, Moana runs back to the beach, grabs a boat and begins paddling out into the lagoon (despite not knowing the first thing about sailing!!)

See the light as it shines on the sea
It’s blinding
But no one knows
How deep it goes
And it seems like it’s calling out to me
So come find me
And let me know
What’s beyond that line?
Will I cross that line?

See the line where the sky meets the sea
It calls me
And no one knows
How far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea
Stays behind me
One day, I’ll know
How far I’ll go

The song ends on a high note but almost immediately turns into disaster when Moana’s boat is capsized and she nearly drowns with her foot stuck in the coral reef. This scene subverted a fairly common Disney trope where the hero/heroine gets caught doing something they shouldn’t by the stern authority figure/parent. I fully expected Moana to get caught by her father and get another tongue-lashing, but instead the only one who catches her is her beloved grandmother Tala (who doesn’t mind at all that Moana loves the ocean).

 

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“How Far I’ll Go” was composed and written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame) and remains one of my favorite Disney songs almost two years after the film came out in theaters. What do you think of “How Far I’ll Go?” Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

This review was actually posted a day in advance on the blog’s Patreon page. Patrons of the blog will have early access to my newest film and soundtrack reviews. The first tier for becoming a patron is $2/month which grants early access. The second tier is $5/month and gives you the right to commission one written film or soundtrack review from me per month (provided it’s one I haven’t reviewed already) as well as early access. The $10 reward grants the earlier rewards as well as commissioning one YouTube review of a film of your choice.

See also:

Moana “Where You Are” (2016)

Disney Soundtracks A-Z

You can become a patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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Robin Hood “The Phony King of England” (1973)

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Robin Hood “The Phony King of England” (1973)

The 30 year period between Disney’s Golden Age (which ended in 1959 with Sleeping Beauty) and the Disney Renaissance (The Little Mermaid (1989)) is often, I feel, unfairly marginalized as a period of sub-par films that aren’t worth remembering compared to what came before and after. Now, I’m not saying every film in this period is a masterpiece, but there are some genuinely good animated films that deserve their just due. And one of these films is Disney’s Robin Hood (1973), an underrated film if ever I saw one.

The story is presented as the “true” version of the Robin Hood story as the residents of the animal kingdom remember it. To that end: Robin Hood (Brian Bedford) and Maid Marian (Monica Evans) are foxes; Little John (Phil Harris) is a bear; Friar Tuck (Andy Devine) is a badger; King Richard and the conniving Prince John (both voiced by Peter Ustinov) are lions; the Sheriff of Nottingham (Pat Buttram) is a wolf; and Alan-a-Dale (Roger Miller) is a singing rooster.

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The film has a great soundtrack with some memorable songs,one of my favorites being “The Phony King of England” (lyrics written by Johnny Mercer and performed by Phil Harris). The song takes place after our heroes have escaped from the archery tournament where Prince John attempted to capture and kill Robin Hood. Practically the entire population of Nottingham is gathered in Sherwood Forest to celebrate humiliating the prince and Little John leads the festivities with a whimsical song describing exactly how the people really feel about their would-be king.

Oh the world will sing of an English King
A thousand years from now
And not because he passed some laws
Or had that lofty brow
While bonny good King Richard leads
The great crusade he’s on
We’ll all have to slave away
For that good-for-nothin’ John

Incredible as he is inept
Whenever the history books are kept
They’ll call him the phony king of England!
A pox on the phony king of England!


To say “a pox on…” somebody means you’re basically cursing that person saying “I hope that person shrivels up with a pox and dies” And for someone to curse their ruler that way, well…you’re doing a pretty bad job if your subjects think THAT about you. While Little John leads the singing, some of the others put on a puppet show in the hollow of a tree, mocking Prince John and his advisor Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas).

He sits alone on a giant throne
Pretendin’ he’s the king
A little tyke who’s rather like
A puppet on a string
And he throws an angry tantrum
If he cannot have his way
And then he calls for Mum
While he’s suckin’ his thumb
You see, he doesn’t want to play

Too late to be known as John the First
He’s sure to be known as John the worst
A pox on that phony king of England!

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Throughout the film, there’s a running gag of Prince John bursting into childish whining whenever his mother his mentioned (“Ooohhhh, Mommy!!!”). This is a reference to the problems the real Prince John had with his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine. It was no secret that Eleanor favored Richard and John resented it for most of his life. Also, the line “too late to be known as John the first, he’s sure to be known as John the worst” refers to the fact that John is, to this day, regarded as one of the worst (if not the worst) kings that England ever had, so much so that there’s never been a John the Second.

While he taxes us to pieces
And he robs us of our bread
King Richard’s crown keeps slippin’ down
Around that pointed head
Ah! But while there is a merry man
In Robin’s wily pack
We’ll find a way to make him pay
And steal our money back
A minute before he knows we’re there
Ol’ Rob’ll snatch his underwear!

 

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The villagers all dance during this song with animation that is (quite noticeably) reused from The Aristocats (1970), The Jungle Book (1967) and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). It’s actually fun to watch and see just how many pieces of animation are borrowed pieces from earlier films (it feels like I find a new example every time I watch).

The breezy and uneasy king of England!
The snivellin’ grovellin’,
Measly weasly,
Blabberin’ jabberin’,
Gibberin’ jabberin’,
Blunderin’ plunderin’,
Wheelin’ dealin’
Prince John, that phony King of England!
Yeah!

I’ve loved this song since I was little. It’s a fun, quirky song that makes you want to smile (and hopefully sing along). I hope you enjoy listening to “The Phony King of England.” Let me know what you think of the song in the comments below and have a great day!

This review was actually posted a day in advance on the blog’s Patreon page. Patrons of the blog will have early access to my newest film and soundtrack reviews. The first tier for becoming a patron is $2/month which grants early access. The second tier is $5/month and gives you the right to commission one written film or soundtrack review from me per month (provided it’s one I haven’t reviewed already) as well as early access. The $10 reward grants the earlier rewards as well as commissioning one YouTube review of a film of your choice.

See also:

Robin Hood “Not in Nottingham” (1973)

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For more Disney songs, see also: Disney Films & Soundtracks A-Z

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Soundtrack Review: Molly’s Game (2017)

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Molly’s Game is a 2017 American crime drama film based on the memoir Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom. The movie stars Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera and Brian D’Arcy, among others. The film follows Bloom as she comes under investigation from the FBI for running underground poker games for Hollywood celebrities, athletes, wealthy businessmen…and the Russian mob. The film was initially screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8th, 2017 and was released to theaters on December 25th, 2017.

The score for Molly’s Game was written by English composer Daniel Pemberton. Pemberton is an Ivor Novello-winning and multiple Golden Globe and BAFTA Award-nominated composer who has been regularly cited as one of the most exciting and original new voices working in modern film scoring today. His bold writing and unusual and innovative arrangements on scores for movies have seen the soundtracks constantly singled out for critical acclaim. Pemberton’s mix of opera and electronics for Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs (starring Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet) not only garnered him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score but so impressed writer Aaron Sorkin that Pemberton was invited to score his much anticipated directorial debut, the recently completed Molly’s Game. Pemberton’s recent scores also include: The Man From UNCLE (2015); King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) and All the Money in the World (2017).

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From the moment I started listening to the score for Molly’s Game, it instantly sounded familiar to me, though it took some digging before I could pin down the reason why. As soon as I looked up Pemberton’s filmography my eyes jumped to The Man From UNCLE (a film I like every much) which I’d thought of repeatedly while listening to the score for Molly’s Game. It’s very obvious to my ears that these two scores come from the same composer, they have the same…frenetic (for lack of a better word) style with a modern feeling “edge” to the music.

Honestly I still have a hard time describing Daniel Pemberton’s film scores and that’s because they sound so different from what I normally listen to. I think it would be fair to say I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to film music; I like full-bodied symphonic scores a la John Williams, Miklos Rozsa and especially Erich Wolfgang Korngold. And Pemberton’s music, so far as I can tell, is very non-traditional, non-symphonic and just…different. But that’s not a bad thing, not at all! Even though I have a hard time describing this new, modernist style that Pemberton is pushing, I can say for certain that I love what I’m hearing.

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Most of the tracks in this score have a similar sound to what I heard in The Man From UNCLE, which is that fast-paced style that ranges between extremely light synthetic rock and electronic dancing music. Some of my favorite tracks in this style included “House of Cards,” “The Russians,” and “Red & Black.” However some, like “Molly’s Dream” and “Scars” are slower, more melodic. I like “Molly’s Dream” in particular because it explicitly features the piano, a marked contrast from the bulk of the score.

If you’ve enjoyed Pemberton’s work up to this point, then his score for Molly’s Game will please you immensely. If you’re unfamiliar with Pemberton’s work, I still think you’ll enjoy it. It’s refreshing to listen to film scores that aren’t loaded to the gills with symphonic instruments and pounding drums. I can’t wait to see what Pemberton brings to the field in the future (his next project is listed as Ocean’s 8, the all-female remake of Ocean’s 11). I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on the score for Molly’s Game. If you’d like to discuss it further, let me know in the comments below 🙂

 

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This review was actually posted a day in advance on the blog’s Patreon page. From here on out, patrons of the blog will have early access to my newest film and soundtrack reviews. The first tier for becoming a patron is $2/month which grants early access. The second tier is $5/month and gives you the right to commission one film or soundtrack review from me per month (provided it’s one I haven’t reviewed already) as well as early access. More rewards will come in the future!

You can become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

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See also: Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: Winchester (2018)

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Winchester is a 2018 American supernatural horror film directed by Michael and Peter Spierig. It follows the widowed Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) as she seeks to help what she believes are spirits killed by Winchester rifles by continually expanding the mansion she lives in (what is now known as the Winchester Mystery House). Due to Sarah’s obsession with spirits, a doctor named Eric Price (Jason Clarke) is summoned to the mansion to determine whether Sarah is mentally capable of running the Winchester Company. The doctor, who does not initially believe in ghosts, soon finds that there are indeed spirits residing in the Winchester mansion. Winchester was released to theaters on February 2nd, 2018.

The score for Winchester was composed by co-director Peter Spierig in his second outing as a film composer. Peter collaborates with his twin brother Michael and collectively they work as The Spierig Brothers. Their critically acclaimed sci-fi thriller Predestination, based on Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies”, was nominated for nine Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards, including Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Score for Peter. The film also won four AACTA Awards including Best Actress for Sarah Snook, who stars in Winchester. The Spierig Brothers won the Toronto After Dark Film Festival Special Award for Best Sci-Fi Film and Best Screenplay for Predestination, which also took a second place Audience Award for Best Feature Film.

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Listening to the soundtrack, some moments definitely stood out to me, but overall one thing became pointedly clear: the Winchester score succumbs to the age-old trope of using shock chords in a horror film. It’s a practice that dates back many decades and in my opinion it’s completely over done. It’s true that horror films should have that “scare factor” to them, especially in the music whenever possible, but there’s more than one way to elicit scares through the music.

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However as I said there were a few moments that stood out to me in a good way. One of these was “Marion,” referring to a relative of Sarah’s that also lives in the mansion with her son Henry. In contrast to the “Winchester House” track which is fairly typical horror movie score fare (loaded with shock chords, grinding metal sounds and various eerie noises), “Marion” is a relatively calm piano track that possibly signifies how “normal” the character is compared to Sarah Winchester with her belief in spirits and the paranormal. “Employment” also ran along similar veins to this piece.

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“Poisoned Mind” was another track filled with shock chords, far too much for my liking to be honest, as was “You’re A Fraud.”

In brief, Winchester doesn’t have the worst soundtrack in the world (for those curious, Van Helsing (2004) still holds that dubious distinction for me), but it is not one of my favorites.

Did you watch Winchester? If you did, what did you think of the film and the soundtrack? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Have a good day!

See also: Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: Maze Runner-The Death Cure (2018)

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Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a 2018 American dystopian science fiction film based on the third novel in the Maze Runner trilogy written by James Dashner. It was originally meant to be released in 2017 but had to be delayed when series star Dylan O’Brien suffered injuries while filming and required extensive time to recover. In The Death Cure, the surviving “Gladers” must infiltrate WCKD headquarters in order to rescue their friend Minho who is being tortured by WCKD in hopes of developing a cure for the Flare virus that has turned most of the population into “Cranks” (zombie-like beings that have an overwhelming urge to kill anyone who isn’t a Crank). The film and soundtrack released on January 26th, 2018.

The score for The Death Cure was composed by John Paesano, a composer with a lengthy list of film credits to his name. Paesano received an Annie Award for Best Music for his work on DreamWorks’ animated series Dragons: Riders of Berk, which is based on the Academy Award® winning film How To Train Your Dragon. He won a World Soundtrack Award for his score to the hugely successful young adult adaptation, The Maze Runner.

He has now completed the trilogy, which includes The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. His other credits include Universal Picture’s Almost Christmas and Sony Animation’s The Star. He’s currently scoring both Marvel’s hit series Daredevil and Defenders. Forthcoming in 2018 is Spider-Man PS4, which will be released featuring John’s huge orchestral score.

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Listening to Maze Runner: The Death Cure was a refreshing change of pace compared to the other science fiction works I’ve been listening to as of late (i.e. Annihilation and Altered Carbon). Unlike those works, The Death Cure’s score uses a more traditional orchestra, mostly strings, though there is a healthy dose of synthesizer used as well (in the 21st century, it’s next-to-impossible to find a film score that doesn’t use synthesized music at some point).

Two tracks that stood out to me were “The Virus” and “The Last City.” With “The Virus,” it was very interesting, given the track’s title, how it actually sounded. I was expecting to hear something sinister and dark, but it actually sounded very pleasant. With layered orchestral chords and synthetic drones, the music is actually rather serene at times, which makes me wonder what part of the film this music is attached to with a title like “The Virus.” I really do enjoy listening to this track, it’s simple and direct and hopefully gets its point across in the film.

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“The Last City” can only be referring to the city that holds WCKD headquarters (and is presumed to be the last functioning city of its kind on Earth). Appropriately enough, given the post-apocalyptic setting, the music for this track is sad, with a mournful horn melody accompanied by strings. I have to imagine that even for those living inside the city things must seem completely hopeless, given how close humanity is to extinction, no wonder the music is so sad. I like how Paesano has written this piece, especially how the strings swell up with a theme of their own and weave in and out with the horn. Like “The Virus,” this track is relatively simple but effective.

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And those are my thoughts on the soundtrack of Maze Runner: The Death Cure. Reviews of the film have been mixed, but I think Paesano’s soundtrack is good, and I hope you enjoy listening to it. My thanks to The Krakower Group for making this soundtrack available for review. The soundtrack is available via Sony Classical.

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Soundtrack Review: Annihilation (2018)

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Annihilation is a science fiction horror film written and directed by Alex Garland in his second outing as a film director. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer and follows a group of military scientists who enter “the Shimmer,” a mysterious quarantined zone that is full of mutating landscapes and creatures. Annihilation stars Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, , Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson and Tuva Novotny and was released on February 23rd, 2018.

The soundtrack of Annihilation was scored by composing duo Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow, who previously worked with Alex Garland on the Academy Award winning film Ex Machina (2015). Ben Salisbury is an Emmy-nominated composer with over 100 film and television composing credits to his name, including Beyonce Knowles’ self-directed documentary feature Beyonce: Life Is But A Dream and the last 3 series of David Attenborough’s acclaimed Life Of… strand for the BBC. Geoff Barrow, known for his extensive body of work as a music producer and founding member of the band Portishead, first began his film music career as the music supervisor and original score writer for graffiti artist Banksy’s Oscar-nominated documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop. He recently worked on the band Arcade Fire’s latest album Everything Now in addition to producing a cover of ABBA’s “SOS” with Portishead for Ben Wheatley’s film adaption of High-Rise.

The first thing I noticed about this soundtrack is that it is clearly related to the music of Ex Machina. It is not identical, per se, but it clearly comes from the same tonal family as the previous film. I don’t say this as a bad thing, in fact, it’s not uncommon for multiple soundtracks from the same composer (or group of composers) to retain similarities across each film. I also think the resemblance has something to do with Annihilation being considered the “spiritual” successor to Ex Machina.

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That being said, if you liked Ex Machina and its soundtrack, then you will love the soundtrack for Annihilation. Like the soundtrack for Altered Carbon, most of the tracks contain the same elements: long synthesized tones, metallic wind chimes, and vocal tones. Despite the similarities, some of the tracks did stand out to me.

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“Shimmer Reveal” is only 38 seconds long but it catches the ear because it starts very soft and steadily grows in volume. As the volume increases, the melody “thickens” with a deeper synthesized tone. It feels like we start looking at a small picture which quickly expands into a panoramic landscape (in fact this is probably when we get our first in-depth look at the “shimmer” which can only be that mysterious thing that Natalie Portman’s character is seen walking into in the previews).

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“Abandoned Army Base” is half-mystical and half-sinister in the way it combines a synthesized drone with “creaking” metallic tones that sound like metal being ripped apart and metallic chimes that put me in mind of a monastery. Given that this is a science fiction horror film, I can only presume the sinister component I hear is due to someone or something hiding at this abandoned base, just waiting to snatch an unsuspecting victim (of course I could be wrong, but that’s what it sounds like). And going back to Ex Machina, this track in particular reminds me of Ava’s theme.

I have to bring attention to “In All of Us” simply because this track breaks the overall pattern and includes a melody from a guitar, which is so unexpected that it jars the ear when it arrives. “We Are Headed That Way” which follows that track, is interesting to me because of its title. Given the trailer’s hints that “the Shimmer” is causing a mutation of some kind, I wonder if this title refers to the idea that everything on Earth will eventually be affected by this mutation. Truthfully I can’t wait to find out what “the Shimmer” is actually doing, the visuals in the previews looked amazing.

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And those are my thoughts on the soundtrack for Annihilation. The soundtrack is currently available via Lakeshore Records and I hope you enjoy listening to it. My thanks to The Krakower Group for making this soundtrack available for review.

If you’ve seen Annihilation, what did you think of the film and its soundtrack? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, but please no spoilers, I’m seeing the film on Wednesday night 🙂

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See also: Film Soundtracks A-W

My thoughts on: Annihilation (2018)

Soundtrack Review: Altered Carbon (2018)

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Based on the classic cyberpunk noir novel by Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon is an intriguing story of murder, love, sex, and betrayal, set more than 300 years in the future. In Netflix’s Altered Carbon, Society has been transformed by new technology: consciousness can be digitized; human bodies are interchangeable; death is no longer permanent.

Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) is the lone surviving soldier in a group of elite interstellar warriors who were defeated in an uprising against the new world order. His mind was imprisoned – on ice – for centuries until Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), an impossibly wealthy, long-lived man, offers Kovacs the chance to live again. In exchange, Kovacs has to solve a murder … that of Bancroft himself.

The soundtrack is composed by Jeff Russo, who has also composed music for Star Trek: Discovery and Fargo. For the latter, Russo earned a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special in 2017. Russo began his music career in 1990, after founding his rock band TONIC. The group quickly achieved great success and in 2003, received two Grammy nominations, one for “Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal” for “Take Me As I Am,” and one for “Best Rock Album.” The band was a great showcase for Russo’s guitar work and songwriting that allowed him to branch out and begin his solo career in producing and composing.

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I’d heard that the soundtrack for Altered Carbon was unusual for a story in the cyberpunk genre, and now that I’ve listened to the soundtrack album I can definitely attest that this is true. As a general rule, the music in any show or film set in the future (and particularly in a cyberpunk future like Altered Carbon) has an “edgy futuristic” feel to it. Notable examples of this practice include: Blade Runner and its sequel; Automata; The Machine and Forbidden Planet. These films have soundtracks with weird electronic noises, guitar riffs and descents into heavy rock beats during action sequences.

 

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But the soundtrack for Altered Carbon doesn’t do this. Instead, the music, beginning with the “Main Title” has a mysterious quality to it. There are long, held-out string drones that combine with soft vocals (that are half muttering, half singing) and a cello solo. The opening title has the slightest touch of a drum beat, but it only lasts for a short time and doesn’t dominate the track.

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Most of the album: “Consciousness,” “Bancroft Shows Kovacs,” “Her Daughter,” and “Attacked by Troopers” are all variations on the same musical arrangement: strings with a prominent solo cello, combined with female vocalizations and an on-again/off-again background of electronic music. This is not a bad thing: In fact it shows that the world of Altered Carbon has a consistent musical background (and consistency is never a bad thing in film and television music). It’s actually refreshing to listen to a science fiction soundtrack that doesn’t include heavy rock music. Jeff Russo has composed a beautiful soundtrack for an amazing show. If you haven’t watched it yet, the first season is currently available on Netflix. The soundtrack became digitally available from Lakeshore Records as of February 9th, 2018.

Let me know your thoughts on Altered Carbon and its soundtrack in the comments below! My thanks to The Krakower Group for making this soundtrack available for review.

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