Tag Archives: soundtrack

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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Coming up this week: Soundtrack review of American Made (2017)

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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).

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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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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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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Soundtrack Review: American Assassin (2017)

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I was fortunate enough to be able to experience the soundtrack for the upcoming film American Assassin, due to be released next week in theaters. Directed by Michael Cuesta, American Assassin follows the rise of Mitch Rapp, a CIA black ops recruit, after losing his parents in a car accident and his girlfriend to a terrorist attack shortly after they were engaged.

The soundtrack was composed by Steve Price and is simply amazing. This review will look at several pieces from the soundtrack, to give you an idea of what is to come. The opening track is titled “The Proposal” and begins with a quiet melody, partially played on piano. This is later mixed with a cello; it is simple but romantic at the same time. The twist comes halfway through the track: the music suddenly turns dark (emphasized by very low tones on the piano) and the tension is slowly turned up as the mood turns from light and happy to dark and unsure. Even though the film hasn’t come out yet, the music allows me to visualize what is likely happening: Mitch has just proposed to his girlfriend (or maybe he is getting ready for it), when, according to the music, something terrible happens.

The fifth track is titled “Plutonium” and is not so much a melody as it is a cluster of sound  waves that rise and fall in volume. The opening moments are dripping with menace (appropriate for plutonium, which can be deadly in the wrong hands), and for most of the track there is no motion in the sound, but this begins to change toward the end. I don’t mean to imply that lack of motion is a bad thing because it isn’t. Sometimes the soundtrack just needs to convey the threat of something, it doesn’t necessarily have to move the audience along, so to speak.

The tenth track is titled “I Trusted You” and it might just be my favorite in the soundtrack. The first minute is pure frenetic energy, but then it slides back into a contemplative mode, as if the scene began with a burst of action and then tapered off, perhaps into dialogue. I loved the mix of energy between the different instruments, and how seamlessly it transitioned from action to drama (fast-paced to slow-paced, it’s a slight oversimplification, but it gets my point across).

And that is my brief preview into the music for American Assassin. I absolutely loved everything I heard and I believe Steve Price has done a magnificent job. I apologize deeply for not getting these music reviews out sooner, the dissertation has taken over a large chunk of my life and I was forced to place these reviews on the back burner. But now I promise that if I blog on nothing else for the near future, I will get some reviews out to you every week. I hope you enjoyed this one, there’s plenty to come I promise. My thanks to The Krakower Group for making the soundtrack of American Assassin available. Have a good weekend everyone!

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