Tag Archives: soundtrack

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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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: American Made (2017)

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So to give you an idea of just how crazy the month of October has been for me, I originally wanted to write this review a solid MONTH ago, but then I got sick, and then I got sick some more, and, yea, it’s been insane. But I’m determined to deliver what I promised, so here is a look at the soundtrack for American Made, a film based on the real life of Barry Seal, a TWA pilot who became a pilot for the CIA and later got mixed up in the affairs of a drug cartel.

I have to be completely honest, as soon as I saw the track listing for this film, I immediately liked it less than some of the others I’ve seen, and that’s because most of the tracks consist of pre-existing material (this is sometimes referred to as a pop soundtrack). It would be wrong to say that pop soundtracks are inferior to those with freshly composed material, but I happen to prefer the latter.

That being said, I will highlight two selections because I did find their use interesting. The first is “A Fifth of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy and The Big Apple Band. This is a disco remix of Beethoven’s iconic Fifth Symphony and most of you have probably heard it at least once. It is considered one of the most popular pieces from the disco era.

The other piece I need to highlight is “Hooked on Classics Parts 1 & 2” by Louis Clark and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. If you haven’t listened to this, you need to because it is kind of funny. Each part of “Hooked on Classics” jams a lot of classical music into a five minute segment with almost zero transition (and it sounds pretty cool). I haven’t seen this film, but I could make a pretty reasonable guess that this music turns up in some kind of montage scene.

Two other songs that sound good are “Black Widow Blues” and “What Makes a Good Man?” (the latter is so appropriate given the story of the film), but other than these I can’t recommend too much about the score.

Now, I have some great soundtrack reviews coming, among them are (hold onto your hats): The Walking Dead and Stranger Things!! I’m hoping to get both out this week, they’re LONG overdue but I hope you enjoy them regardless.

My thanks once again to The Krakower Group for this soundtrack.

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Moana “Where You Are” (2016)

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Considering that I’m a lifelong Disney nerd, I’ve been pretty terrible at catching most of their recent films. I still haven’t seen Tangled (2010, The Princess and the Frog (2009) nor have I seen Frozen (2013) (shocking I know). But when I saw the previews for Moana, I was determined that at the very least I would see THIS one, and boy oh boy, I’m glad I did.

Moana is the first Polynesian Disney Princess and the youngest Disney Princess since Snow White. She is also the first Disney Princess to have no romantic sub-plot in her film whatsoever (which is fine with me).

Moana “Where You Are” (2016)

From the moment I first watched this film in theaters, I fell in love with the soundtrack, which features songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (you know, of Hamilton fame) among others. And the first big song in the film is “Where You Are” which establishes daily life on the island of Motunui. Moana is (at the time) the toddler daughter of Chief Tui and Sina, and in a surreal encounter with the living presence of the ocean, is chosen to someday return the stolen heart of Te Fiti. Unaware of this, her well-meaning parents determine to do their best to raise Moana in such a way that she’ll never want to leave the island. This is the subject of “Where You Are.”

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“Consider the coconut…” One of my favorite lines in the song

In this song, Tui and the others describe how the island provides everything they need for life: coconuts, fish from the lagoon, palm fronds to weave baskets and other materials, and “no one leaves.” The tone of the song is so happy that you almost don’t realize at first that the sentiment of no one EVER leaving is repeated multiple times. But Moana DOES want to leave, or at least, she wants to explore the ocean. But time and time again, her parents are there to head her off and push her back to the island’s interior, where, as she grows into a teenager, she is prepared to take her place as a young chief on the island.

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Moana doesn’t seem particularly thrilled with this, but then she has an encounter with Grandmother Tala (Tui’s mother), who loves the ocean as much as Moana does, and together the two dance like the waves.

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As time passes, Moana begins to finally accept that, while she does love the ocean, she can be happy on Motunui, she doesn’t have to leave, everything she needs is right here “where you are.” And you almost believe her, except for the side glances she still sends over to where Grandmother Tala is still dancing.

I still believe that Moana is one of the few Disney Princesses who is mostly content to remain in their situation for the good of the family (contrast her attitude by the end of “Where You Are” with, say, Mulan, Ariel or Belle). And maybe if things had stayed in the status quo, she really would have been happy. But of course, this is a Disney movie, things NEVER stay in the status quo for very long.

I feel like I haven’t done a Disney series in ages, so I’m happy to finally be starting up again with Moana. I hope you enjoyed reading about (and listening to) “Where You Are,” there is plenty more to come.

 

For more great Disney songs and films, check out the main page here: Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

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Soundtrack Review: Flatliners (2017)

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Just this weekend, Flatliners premiered in movie theaters and was promptly pronounced DOA. The film is a remake of the 1990 film of the same name and it follows five medical students who decide to find out if there is a life after death by “flatlining” (stopping their hearts) for one minute and then being brought back with a defibrillator. While they do indeed find evidence of an afterlife, they also bring unexpected consequences back with them.

Even though this new Flatliners is turning out to be a dud, I thought it would still be interesting to look at the soundtrack which was composed by the 2 time Emmy nominated composer Nathan Barr (for his work on The Americans and Hemlock Grove).

I started with the “Main Title” which, not surprisingly, reminded me very strongly of a fluctuating heartbeat with the heavy drumbeat mixed in with some minimal electronic music. Considering this film centers around people deliberately stopping their hearts, it makes perfect sense to reference heartbeats in the music.

Another track I checked out was “Stop My Heart.” Oddly (at least to me), this track came across as having a very Eastern type of sound, which I found I really liked. I’m not sure if this track covers the moments leading up to the heart beings stopped or what she saw while she was dead, but I thought it was a good piece of music.

And even as I wrote that last part I discovered I was wrong because “Courtney’s Flatline” just took my breath away. This track HAS to cover what she saw during her near-death experience, it is far too triumphant and wonder-filled to be about anything else. There are soaring trumpets, strings, clearly she is seeing something amazing (and I say that without having seen the film). And then, something interesting happens: the music begins to turn “weird.” Given that this is a semi-horror film where something cool turns out to have terrifying consequences, this is probably the part where Courtney sees something scary or her vision turns dark (or something of this nature). This is definitely one of my favorite tracks from the soundtrack (which makes it a shame that the film isn’t doing well, good music is often buried when a film does poorly).

And just to keep things even, I then had to listen to “Marlo’s Flatline” to see if it differed from “Courtney’s Flatline” and if so, how? Well, it’s similar AND different at the same time. The same “weird” music from “Courtney’s Flatline” reappears, somewhat quicker in tempo, but the main difference is that the “triumphant” music from “Courtney’s Flatline” is nowhere to be heard. Clearly Marlo’s experience is darker than Courtney’s (which makes sense, that’s how films like this typically go).

 

There is definitely some good music in this soundtrack, so if you get the chance, please listen to the soundtrack if you get the chance. Nathan Barr has put in some good tracks here and I really enjoyed listening to them (especially “Courtney’s Flatline.”)

I hope you enjoyed this look into the soundtrack for Flatliners. If you watch the film, let me know what you thought about it (and the music). My thanks to The Krakower Group for making this soundtrack available for review.

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Soundtrack Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017)

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I grew up loving A.A. Milne’s stories about Winnie the Pooh and his best friend Christopher Robin. In fact, I remember being delighted to learn that Christopher Robin had been a real person (he passed away in 1996). So when I heard that Goodbye Christopher Robin would be looking at the story of how the Winnie the Pooh stories were made, and the consequences for the Milne family, I was immediately interested.

The soundtrack for this film will be released on CD on October 13th and was composed by Carter Burwell (he’s also worked on Twilight, The Bourne Identity and Anomalisa, among others). And I have to say, the soundtrack for Goodbye Christopher Robin has been absolutely delightful to listen to. Let me highlight a few of my favorites for you:

First there was “Tree of Memory”, a beautiful track, with primarily string instruments. It was very soothing, very much what you would expect from a film about the origins of Winnie the Pooh. At the same time, I couldn’t help but notice a minor tone begin to creep in towards the end, which might be hinting at the tension that arises in the Milne family as the fame of the Winnie the Pooh stories brings a LOT of attention their way (the real Christopher Robin eventually grew tired of being associated with those books as he grew older).

“Toys and Stars” was another favorite. It starts with a soft guitar ostinato (repeating melody) that is joined by a flute and a clarinet. It feels like music for a lullaby, and by the end of the track all the instruments come together in this perfect harmony.

“Balloons” is a whimsical track that is very short (only fifty seconds in length) and entirely strings. The melody jumps and skips and then it will flow, and it was very fun to listen to.

 

The last track I will highlight is “Into the Forest” and this might be my favorite of the bunch. It would be wrong to call it “dark” but it isn’t “happy” either. It begins with an extremely light air of tension that slowly grows as the track goes on. I would love to know the context of this piece as it is very interesting to listen to. If I had to take a guess, since it’s titled “Into the Forest” I almost wonder if someone (maybe Christopher Robin) is lost in the woods? Anything is possible at this point.

This is just a sneak peek into the overall soundtrack, everything I listened to sounded amazing. I definitely recommend picking up this soundtrack when it is released. I hope you enjoyed reading about the music for Goodbye Christopher Robin. My thanks to The Krakower Group for making this soundtrack available for review.

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Soundtrack Review: Ben-Hur (1959)

Longtime readers of this blog know that I am a huge fan of composer Miklos Rozsa’s film scores. Rozsa (1907-1995) was a titan of film music and his epic score for Ben-Hur (1959) remains a benchmark that few have ever equalled (let alone surpassed).

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I am pleased to announce that Tadlow Music is releasing a completely new recording of this 157 minute score on October 3rd, one that will feature previously unrecorded music. The music has been recorded by the City of Prague Philarmonic and is conducted by Nic Raine.

If you haven’t seen the 1959 epic, it is NOTHING like the travesty that came out in 2016 (in fact, forget that movie even exists). The 1959 version of Ben-Hur is still considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, winning a record 11 Academy Awards (a feat that has only been equaled twice and NEVER surpassed) as it tells the story of a Judean prince (played brilliantly by Charlton Heston) whose life is thrown into turmoil at the same time that a strange carpenter begins preaching a new message to the people.

When you listen to this soundtrack, I highly recommend starting with the Overture. While it may seem strange now for a film to have an “overture” like an opera, back in the day it was fairly common for an epic film to start with a musical overture of some kind (there was also intermission music and exit music) that would play as the audience took their seats.

Another track that I absolutely recommend is the “Parade of the Charioteers” (this is usually preceded by a series of fanfares). This is the music that precedes the climactic chariot race (where Ben-Hur and Messala settle their differences once and for all) and is rightly considered one of the greatest sequences ever put on film. Curiously, the race itself has no music, something I’ve talked at length about.

Another track that I must recommend is the music that accompanies the “Lepers!” scene. As I’ve said previously, this scene features some amazing musical work, as Rozsa must convey with music alone that something terrible has happened to Ben-Hur’s mother and sister without the audience actually seeing what it is.

Truthfully, I could recommend this entire soundtrack, as it is a beautiful masterpiece, whose importance to film music cannot be overstated. In fact, parts of the score were used as temporary music for Star Wars (1977) (and it is said you can still hear its influence in certain places). If you want to hear some fantastic music, please pick up this new recording when it comes out in October. My thanks to The Krakower Group for making this information available.

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