‘KISS OF THE DAMNED‘ IS ONE OF THE TOP SOUNDTRACKS TO OWN FOR SEPTEMBER, 2013
Also worth picking up ADORE, BLONDY, PLANES, THE PLEASURE OF HIS COMPANY, REVENGE, THANKS FOR SHARING and WYATT EARP
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover
THE TOP PICKS
What is it?: You can say there’s something more than uncomfortable about two beautiful best friend cougars getting it on with each other’s sons, even if the pseudo-incest angle is somewhat muted by the fact that these strapping Aussie surfer lads are barely legal at the start of their affairs. Yet “Adore’s” mixture of inappropriateness and eroticism is actually beautifully transfixing to look at, let alone listen to with the soothing score by Christopher Gordon and additional composer Antony Partos to lend lyrical heat to what could be far more musically sensational and explicit given the subject matter.
Why you should buy it?: Gordon (“Master and Commander,” “Mao’s Last Dancer”) and Partos ((“Animal Kingdom,” “33 Postcards”) have shown their melodic good taste for movies down under, often taking subtle approaches to characters the world would consider immoral. It’s exactly their emotional even keels that let “Adore” glide about its azure ocean waters and neatly arranged bedrooms with mesmerizing beauty. With rhythmically alternative guitars to connote youth, and strings and piano to represent women mature enough to know better, Gordon and Partos bring together its stars’ toned bodies with both sensuality, and gentle resistance. For if their characters’ can’t help themselves, then the music can’t either, as one gently gliding cue after the other creates a blissfully poetic feeling of romantic paradise. But there’s also as much of a dark sense of unease and longing to Gordon and Partos’ gorgeous themes, whether lushly expressed through a classical orchestra, solo piano or ethereal samples. The fact that a full-on tempest never arrives to recriminate “Adore’s” transgressions shows that sometimes the best dramatic scoring never has to say too much to communicate high emotion.
Extra Special: Given the soothing poetry of “Adore,” it’s easy to hear how its son-swap attraction is impossible to resist. Thankfully, Gordon and Partos can’t make us object (at least melodically) with a smart, mesmerizing tone that isn’t remotely tuned in to the land of Skinimax, creating a score that’s all the more arousing by going for the head, as opposed to below the belt.
2) THE GRANDMASTER
What Is It?: If anything, Wong Kar-Wai’s movies are about the lack of movement, an overrated auteur reputation built on languid pacing and dreamily unreadable characters. All of this makes his choice to make a high-kicking Ip Man picture all the more surprising, and for once interesting. As expected, “The Grandmaster” comes across as the artsiest Hong Kong chopsocky movie ever made, a stunning visual poetry that often beats down the always-spectacular action choreography by “Matrix” master Yuen Woo-Ping. That leaves two musical martial artists named Shigeru Umebayashi and Nathaniel Mechaly to really do the heavy lifting when it comes to conveying physical motion, and inner emotion.
Why You Should Buy It?: While his music has sensuously glided along with Wei’s tone poems during “In the Mood for Love” and “2046,” Japan’s Umebayashi has also given more physical grace to such HK costume kickers as “House of Flying Daggers” and “Fearless,” while France’s Mechaly has shown a special set of viscerally rhythmic skills in two “Taken” movies. It’s an international meeting of muscular melody that heralds gorgeous results in “Grandmaster.” While drawing on Asian percussion and the sinuous winds of the Erhu (musical ethnicity that immediately conveys costumed action), the pain here is most effectively heard from the heart in a beautiful, unrequited “Love theme” expressed on the piano and Erhu, or told with a delicate orchestral touch. But even if they express grace in a “Manchurian Bolero,” that doesn’t mean the duo don’t deliver the requisite footwork that conveys the stuff of Bruce Lee-training legend, from the imposing orchestral-percussion of “The Gold Pavilion” and “Manchuria Express” to the beat-down drumming of the self-evidently titled “Action 150.” As it delivers the percussive music the genre demands, “The Grandmaster” also conveys the intellectual acrobatic that unites the different schools of combat these characters constantly test themselves on.
Extra Special: Perhaps “The Grandmaster’s” deftest move is bringing a some unexpected tunes into the soundtrack that only elevate its elegance, not only offering “Casta Diva” from the opera “Norman,” but also “La Donna Romantica” and “Deborah’s Theme” by the true film scoring grandmaster Ennio Morricone. Hearing the composer’s telltale, beautifully aching gift for tragedy (not to mention his immediately recognizable music from “Once Upon A Time in America”) gives this movie a true emotional gut punch that almost comes out of nowhere, conveying the ultimately price paid for being number one with fist, foot and sword.
3) KISS OF THE DAMNED
What is it?: A new wave of artsy filmmakers are paying tribute to the pop art Euro-horror movies of the late 60s and early 70s with “Amer” and “Berberian Sound Studio,” whose Shagadelic scores at least succeeded in being enjoyably tributes to the likes of Ennio Morricone, Fabio Frizzi and Goblin. But there’s a big difference between creating an impressive, intellectual music exercise for homages that don’t cinematically get it for all of their arch hipness. But for Xan Cassavetes’ infinitely more successful “Kiss of the Damned,” Steve Hufsteter has come up with a score that has real retro heart. John Cassavetes talented daughter riffs on any number of Jean Rollin erotic undead movies here (whose titles teamed “Vampire” up with such words as “Rape,” “Nude” and “Requiem”) for a smoking ménage a bloodsucker that embraces the aesthetic while being its own movie. Ditto the uncondescending, truly groovy Gothic quality of Hufster’s music for today’s mod night traveler.
Why should you buy it?: Having done an equally great job recreating Spaghetti Western-isms for “Machete,” “Once Upon A Time in Mexico” and Cassavetes’ debut documentary about LA’s cult Z Channel, Hufsteter is best recognized for his rockabilly sci-fi surf score for “Repo Man.” Just as he played that punk’s attitude with a fiercely funny, energetic groove, Hufsteter is at home with a more subtle musical vein at the trendy NYC apartments and antiquated upstate mansion inhabited by those who give the “Kiss of the Damned,” and a whole lot more carnal pleasures before going for the jugular. Among the many charms of Cassavetes’ film is that while these vampires might otherwise do their best to drink fake blood or guzzle on deer, they’re pretty much happy to be keeping odd hours as opposed to being immersed in the ennui of being immortal – all without any monster-busting Van Helsing wannabes to create more traditional jeopardy. It’s a slick comfort in their eternal skins, if still a lonely one, that Hufsteter captures with a hip Baroque sensibility for violin, harpsichord, electric guitar and classical piano. Female voices and a cobwebbed organ also convey a time-lost, old school horror sensibility. And in the end, this is still very much a horror movie, whose unearthly creepiness comes across through a reverbed, analogue keyboard sound that could just as easily be dropped into any 70s Euro vampire picture. But Hufsteter’s smart choices aren’t only limited to the genre, as his cooing salute to “’Round Midnight” proves. Such is the mesh of leather and corset cool that the score doesn’t so much make us hear trendoid vampires so much as it does Lou Reed on a bloody bender.
Extra Special: With vampires far more at home in smoke-filled NYC nightclubs than European castles, Cassavetes and music supervisor Dina Juntila add further hipness to her “Kiss” soundtrack with atmospheric, alt. rock choices that capture a Bauhaus groove, from HTRK’s throbbing “Ha” to the Krautrock of Der Fluch’s “Hexen Leben Langer.” Jane Weaver’s vocalese creates a hypnotic Velvet Underground vibe for “Parade of the Blood Red Sorrows,” while a progressive guitar spirituality fills Acanthu’s “Sleeping Beauty.” The tune’s haunted beauty is indicative of the spell that “Kiss of the Damned”’s soundtrack casts, creating memorable musical flesh and blood from what could have been an adept, if empty exercise in horror hepness.
4) PARADISE / CAN’T BUY ME LOVE
What is it?: As a soundtrack label particularly in love with unsung gems from 80s and 90s with every release from “Judgement Night” to “Fright Night,” Intrada’s busy release schedule often has a way of surprising fans of two decades when groovy keyboards met lush orchestras. Now a particularly nice two-fer arrives that demonstrates comedy-centric composers at their symphonically sweeping best – one soundtrack accompanying an outright drama, and the other helping to give melodic depth to a sweet pop morality fable.
Why you should buy it?: 1991’s “Paradise” used the then-marriage of stars Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson to give extra emotional heft to a bereft couple re-discovering their love through the “best summer ever” visit of a kid in need of friends (Elijah Wood). And it’s easy to imagine David Newman in need of in need a breather himself at a time mostly filled with the brilliantly cartoonish antics of “Meet the Applegates” and “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey” (also out on Intrada). Given a rustic landscape to fill with gentle drama, Newman draws from the richly melodic spirit of dad Alfred and cousin Randy with any number of gorgeous themes. An Americana feel abounds in the flutes and wind trilling about like birds and butterflies, capturing the youthful joy of children bonding – as well as the sadness of an infant’s absence. What makes the winsome “Paradise” so good is that for all of its majestic orchestral swelling, the score is never overtly sentimental as such. “Paradise” also brims with the kind of rhythmic energy that’s also filled the sound of Newman’s far more comedic scores. Except here, the heart that gave those movies’ laughs their humanity is just minus the overtly funny stuff. “Paradise” shows just how good Newman is with the kind of tender family dramas he’s equally good at, and should frolic in more.
Extra Special: Robert Folk was in the midst of various “Police Academy” movies and their similarly themed spin-offs when he landed the 1987, pre Patrick Dempsey “McDreamy” charmer “Can’t Buy Me Love,” which innocently fulfilled the nerd fantasy of buying the school hottie so that he could show himself off as not being a nottie – until of course real emotions develop between the two. While Folk enjoyably plays off the film’s song-filled high school setting with decade-specific calypso-rock pop, it’s soon easy to see this album’s teaming with “Paradise” as Folk develops this cute, bouncy theme into beautifully emotional orchestral writing. For if “Love” has stuck long enough in the public consciousness to inspire an urban remake, it’s because of the real heart the original movie had in its oddball relationship. Delicately balancing electric guitar and keyboards against its lilting strings, Folk’s score helps achieve a melodically poignant bond, as if the score was caught in a dream of touching an angel. The best thing about his approach is that its richly thematic music is heard from a fragile adult viewpoint as well, one that acknowledges a desperate need to be loved in its nerd hero’s bravado. Touching in a way that so many of today’s flip teen comedy scores aren’t, it’s Folk’s glowing orchestral touch for the genre that seems far more dated here than any synth groove. Thankfully, at least we can now buy that part of it, if not Amanda Peterson.
5) WYATT EARP
What is it?: Sure, 1993’s “Tombstone” may have smoked 1994’s “Wyatt Earp” at the box office O.K. Corral, a place where near-simultaneous movies with same subject matter are forced to shoot it out – the spoils usually afforded to the first picture into Dodge City. In this case, “Tombstone” certainly had it over “Earp” in terms of length and enjoyability. And its terrific score by “Silverado’s” Bruce Broughton was certainly a gunslinger to be reckoned with, even more ironically that it was Lawrence Kasdan’s western that truly impacted his composing career. But now with La La Land revealing the epic scope of James Newton Howard’s “Wyatt Earp” score over three CD’s, that soundtrack match might just be a draw. For if Kasdan never quite found his historical movie’s footing, hearing the full, righteous glory of Howard’s work certainly delivers a western masterwork for the ages
Why you should buy it?: To be fair, “Tombstone” was a rip-roaring salute to the myth of the west, a solidly heroic take on good versus evil that merited an equally valorous movie-movie score from Broughton. However, Kasdan took a far more realistic, and psychologically troubling view of a marshal that some might say was more of a mass-murdering vigilante who just happened to carry a badge. Where Kurt Russell arrived in town with full badass credentials, “Wyatt Earp” starts off with Earp bright eye’d and bushy-tailed, then charts his descent into darkness. It’s a more nuanced character arch that lets Howard start off with bright, optimism, introducing a memorable, hoedown wealth of Americana themes that immediately conjure images of cattle, sagebrush and sunsets as opposed to blasting the Clantons. As one majestic melody swells after the other, the abundant strings, guitar and Irish rhythms make it apparent as to just how beautifully Howard has filled the Big Country boots of Jerome Moross, and a cowboy named John Williams for that matter. But soon enough, torment makes its way into “Wyatt Earp” with powerful somberness, with unbalanced dissonance and outright, thunderingly righteous rage, entering the picture with the force on an incoming army. It’s during Earp’s loss of his first wife, the O.K. showdown, the villainous stalking of his family, and his clan’s biblical payback that Howard brings together all of his symphonic forces that make us well aware this is the Oscar-nominated composer behind “The Fugitive” – taking that movie’s pounding suspense to a whole new militaristic level here (before taking his big orchestral guns to even more outrageous levels of heroism for Kevin Costner in “Waterworld”). It’s in “Earp’s” berserker rage that the western trappings fall completely away from the score, making it function as a portrait in timeless vengeance. Yet there’s no way this all is going to go out showing its antihero as anything less than an icon, the brassy menace ultimately giving way to the kind of romantically sweeping main theme that’s all about a time when men were men, however flawed they might have been.
Extra Special: La La Land’s special edition of “Wyatt Earp” is a knockout, not only offering the two-plus hours of Howard’s score, but equally impressive alternates, Brad Dechter’s string and accordion funeral source and a deluxe booklet with Tim Grieving’s thoughtful liner notes. Particularly cool is hearing Howard’s synthetized demos that would soon take on epically symphonic flesh and blood, as well as a the composer himself addressing his players at length as to how they’ve helped him reach a career pinnacle with “Wyatt Earp.” That the composer has kept delivering these kind of majestic, stirringly adventurous scores, even on “The Postman,” “King Kong” and “The Last Airbender” shows much about a passion for unabashedly big music that’s as unbendable as of the many iconic heroes he’s scored.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
. BLONDY (500 edition)
A prolific Italian composer whose hundred-plus film output ranged everywhere between the killer sea life of “Cave of the Sharks” and “Tentacles” to the sexploitation of “Midnight Blue” and “Ski Mistress,” Stelvio Cipriani’s beautifully melodic scores have always imparted a touch of class, particularly for pictures that combined thrills with heavy eroticism. 1976s “Blondy” (also know as “Vortex”) featured Ingmar Bergman star Bibi Andersson having a decidedly non-philosophical affair, though the movie’s real object of stripped-down attention was French actress Catherine Jourdan. Perhaps her most enticing lover here is Cipriani’s gorgeous score, whose languorous, stroking theme for piano, silken strings and cooing female vocalese could easily share a shower with Pino Donaggio’s “Dressed To Kill.” Beyond it’s steamy lushness, “Blondy” also shows off Cipriani’s ability to play in a classical vein, employ furious chase music, and romp with samba-style jazz-pop that shows off his studies with Dave Brubeck. You even get two polkas amidst “Blondy’s” breathy delights. Quartet Records has released “Blondy” with their usual softcore booklet abandon, and always interesting liner notes by foreign score specialist Gergley Hubai. Given that their past limited edition Cipriani titles like “Timanfaya” and “Garden of Eden” have sold out, “Blondy” should be quickly snatched up by admirers of a composer who knows how to put sex and violence together with sophisticated results.
. HEMLOCK GROVE
While he’s more than shown his blunt orchestral adeptness with the shrieking torture-horror scores for his two unsettling stays in the European “Hostel,” Nathan Barr is a composer who’s most unsettling creative talents lie at home in rustic America. The vampire bayou of “True Blood” has made him the horror-scoring equivalent of Flannery O’Connor, creating music whose dulcimers and stings enticingly reek of Southern gothic black magic. Even when Barr packs up and travels to the imaginary Pennsylvania town of “Hemlock Grove,” it’s still hard to take the country-sounding horror out of the boy. “Hostel” creator Eli Roth has given this Netflix series more of a twisted atmosphere than explicit gore (though there’s certainly plenty of that to go around), making “Hemlock Grove” often come across like a very hip steeltown take on “Dark Shadows.” Mansions, witchery and werewolves abound, familiar TV horror soap tropes that are met by Barr with piano, ukulele, voice and the composer’s beloved cello. It’s a romantic approach at once gothically earnest, but with a big wink in its deformed eye. Lurking percussion and eerily high string effects abound. Olde Europe chamber music creeps through the fog in a way you’d expect it to waft over a candelabra before panning to the crypt from which a late night chiller theater host will emerge. But Barr’s knowing smile is just as quick to rip one’s throat out with rampaging piano hits or evil electric guitar rhythms. With “Hemlock Grove,” Nathan Barr declares himself as one of adult TV’s most sinister pranksters, giving pulpy material a memorably hip bite.
. THE KING’S WHORE (500 edition)
One of France’s great melodists, Gabriel Yared’s impossibly lush, romantic scores like Oscar-nominated “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and Oscar winning “English Patient” have recalled such melodic masters as Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. So one can imagine the spot-on results when Yared truly climbs into those costumed shoes when the assignment asks for that style, which is the theme of this splendid three-for release from the French label Music Box Records. First up, it’s hard to imagine a more blunt title than “The King’s Whore,” a very good bodice ripper from 1990, with Timothy Dalton employing all of his dashing, royal swagger on Valeria Golino’s countess to tragic effect. Yared’s swooningly thematic score is resplendent in 17th century orchestral and harpsichord finesse, adapting Schubert for a lovely chanson, whirling about in Baroque dance and pounding with regal anger. Like the best scores in the genre, Yared uses the music of the aristocratic jet set to reveal a class-free sense of anger and bottled-up anguish. The tone is even more anguished for chess games of 1984s “Dangerous Moves,” as Yared takes a violin-topped, Schubert-ian tone for a Cold War game between a Soviet resident and a younger dissident refugee, music that also reflects the latter’s Jewish heritage as dark string writing turns the board into an intimate, nerve-wracked battlefield. Even when given the expanse of the war zone of the WW1 skies for the 1993 film “Angel’s Wing,” Yared takes a similarly personal approach for another collaboration with “Moves” director Richard Dembo. Embodying a haughty French flying ace and the squadron who hates his lack of esprit de corps, Yared uses expressive winds and a forlorn piano to poignantly downbeat Baroque ends, with tarnished refinement once again embodied through waltzes. For a composer who’s one of his art’s class (and classical) acts, this Yared triptych shows off a musician who was born ahead of his time, and well before it as well.
. THE MATRIX RELOADED
When “The Matrix” appeared in 1999, Don Davis’ score was one of those thunderbolt game changers that pretty much re-wrote the book on sci-fi scoring. Taking the already revolutionary approach of such modern classicist-to-film composers as John Corigliano (“Altered States”) and Elliot Goldenthal (“Alien 3”) into the computer reality of bullet time kung fu action, Davis’ use of high-tech electronics and a distorted, brass orchestral writing was a kick-ass head trip that created an oppressively thrilling sense of darkness and defiance against the future’s robot overlords. Davis’ fusion of melody and musical sound design was a classic in every sense of the word and slurred note. So it was only natural that the Wachowskis attempted to turn “The Matrix” into a trilogy. While their ambitions came up short, especially given a movie that was impossible to equal, Davis arguably did himself one better with the second one, especially with the techno beat of special techno guest stars like Juno Reactor and Rob Dougan, whose rave rhythms create a sense of true musical futurism. At times, “Reloaded” is sped up to the point where it crashing computers – no more so when Davis fights Juno Reactor in a wonderfully over-the-top “Burly Brawl,” complete with choral hosannahs for the multiple Agent Smiths. But the highlight of “Reloaded’s” incredible fusion of the organic and electronic is the relatively controlled “Mona Lisa Drive,” where Davis’ orchestra dances on top of Juno’s ever-varying beats for one of the longest, and most thrilling car chases ever captured on film. When it comes to the orchestra on its lonesome, Davis gives his music a far greater sense of swirling mythmaking at play here, the score gravely earnest and suspenseful in the face of mechanical Armageddon. For the most part, “Reloaded” is gloriously loud, clanging stuff, about as close to pure impressionism as you’re going to hear a sci-fi score get, along with a healthy dose of Wagnerian sacrifice that reaches the mythic plateau the film otherwise strives for. La La Land has done a terrific job reloading this new “Matrix” sequel album with every powerful note of Davis’ score, including a slightly less insane take on “The Burly Brawl” and a twenty-minute suite of music to boot. But what just might be the coolest beat is the vocal, and instrumental versions of “Niasierie,” Davis’ brilliant simulation of exactly the kind of smooth Parisian Bossa Nova you’d expect to hear in the private chatroom club of the Eurotrash Merovingian.
. THE MIRACLE WORKER
Helen Keller remains the most famous special needs student in history, her struggle to the light after being looked at as being blind, deaf and dumb guided to the light by the miraculous efforts of her teacher Annie Sullivan. With Keller’s valiant lessons in living fully first detailed in her book, then seen on stage in William Gibson’s play, it was only natural that Hollywood would afford a completely sensory version of struggle with Arthur Penn’s Oscar-winning 1962 adaptation. One of its biggest challenges was given to Laurence Rosenthal, who had to conjure the sound of music, as heard within the head of a girl for whom audio didn’t exist. The result was an extraordinary, practically experimental score that smashed together dissonance and melody, the feeling of a soul grasping her way through confusion to latch onto the pleasure of harmony that so many of us take for granted. Anchored by a lovely theme, Rosenthal’s work challenges the listener in much the same way as Sullivan does her pupil, angering us with often confounding atonality that nevertheless carries a beautiful, glisteningly child-like melody within it. There’s a tenuous, eerie psychology to the score as well as Rosenthal looks within an individual’s seeming void, much in the same way that Jerry Goldsmith did that year in his chillingly beautiful score for “Freud.” But where that soundtrack echoed the protagonist’s Viennese background, Rosenthal uses subtly Americana melodies to evoke the Kellers’ Alabama heartland. But perhaps the most striking element of all is how Rosenthal weaves the lullabye “Hush, Little Baby” into the score to both eerie and poetic effect, proving it as the cinema’s single creepiest lullabye. For a score on the groundbreaking order of Alex North’s “Streetcar Named Desire” and Leonard Rosenman’s “East of Eden,” Kritzerland has done an excellent job of re-mastering this previously out of print classic, making for a truly involving experience that uses all of the musical senses to show the movie music in a new light.
. PLANES / TURBO
Mark Mancina has a long history of scoring talking animals for The Mouse House, from his arrangements on Hans Zimmer’s “The Lion King” to his own adventurous score to “Tarzan” and “Brother Bear.” However, his new, exhilarating work for a little plane that could flies far more in the spirit of “Top Gun” and “Remember the Titans” than a reincarnated bruin. With noble trumpets, rock-military rhythm, a rousing chorus and a sweepingly courageous orchestra, one might easily expect the underdog team entering a Midwestern stadium for the big game they somehow made it to. It’s a propulsive, flesh and blood sound that Mancina favors over the more cartoonish possibilities, one that really elevate “Planes.” Using the breathlessly rocking rhythmic action of his scores for “Con Air” and “Money Train” to exhilarating effect, “Planes” plays like one race to the finish after the next, propelled by a can-do spirit that captures the stand-up-and-cheer sound of inspiration, as driven by a memorable theme. It’s hugely fun, and exceptionally well-performed adrenalin stuff, given the usual album add on of tween hip-hop rock-pop, with Mark Holman’s “Nothing Can Stop Me Now” adding a nicely grown up metal thrash to the Disney Radio rush. Antonio Sol and Carlos Alazraqui’s cute disco-to-ballad version of “Love Machine” provides the studio with another bit of Latin fun after Buzz Lightyear did the tango with the Gipsy Kings in “Toy Story 3.”
While Mark Mancina’s score for the little plane that could worked on patriotic wings, the way smaller size of “Turbo”’s souped-up snail necessitates Henry Jackman to apply a slightly crazier, but equally enjoyable attitude to get this mollusk across the finish line. No slouch when it comes to scoring characters who dream of coming out ahead (a la “Wreck-It Ralph”), Jackman goes from charming, loping comedy stylings and longing pathos to screeching techno-action and a rousing orchestra that splendidly echoes his past car races for a Disney arcade game called Sugar Rush. Combining rocking action with Spaghetti western stylings and pokily suspenseful percussion, Jackman finally arrives at the Indy 500 with a fanfare that Superman himself would admire, then unleashes blazingly exciting music that flies by every rocking symphonic curve on the track. However, he doesn’t forget to play the heroic determination that propels the music. Between the plane and the snail, it’s a similar scoring attitude that gives both scores a tie for first.
. THE PLEASURE OF HIS COMPANY
Sure Alfred Newman is known for towering, drama-filled epics like “The Robe” and “How the West Was Won.” But I have to confess that I’m even more game for the legendary composer’s far frothier stuff. It seems that Newman was just as prolific, if unsung with sweet, jazzy comedy, an effervescent touch for orchestra and brass that Kritzerland is finally giving a chance to shine with such confections as “Take Care of My Little Girl” and “The Seven Year Itch.” Now “The Pleasure of His Company” is all ours for Newman’s 1961 score, whose wedding bells herald Fred Astaire’s arrival to upset Debbie Reynold’s nuptials to Tab Hunter. A master of instantly great themes, Newman’s got a wonderful, gently swooning number here that drives the movie’s gentle shenanigans as Astaire’s dapper ne’er do tries to get his family back together. Newman’s music is all shimmering, incredibly lush goodness, a hangdog horn speaking for the comedic machinations at hand as the strings provide the soft cushion for his jazz stylings, creating a soothingly emotional sound that’s at once traditionally Hollywood, but hip for a Mad Men era that was about to swing. But Kritzerland’s excellent mastering of “Pleasure” makes it sound like the score went down yesterday, offering the big extra treat of a supplemental section that shows off Newman’s big band and more intimate nightclub chops in his renditions of “That Old Black Magic,” “Personality” and “Easy Living.” Sure, those thundering herds of Romans and Texas steers might be impressive in Newman’s boundless repertoire, but you can’t exactly drink “champagne” to them, a “Pleasure” afforded here in smiling abundance.
It’s particularly cool when Hollywood takes a chance on foreign talent, whether it lies across the cold Canadian border with Quebec director Denis Villeneuve, or in Iceland itself in the hiring of composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. This artistic gamble that yields depressively mesmerizing results as two sets of parents cross the moral, and legal boundaries to find their kidnapped children. The results of “Prisoners” are sure to entail plenty of church confessional time for them, hence the “holy minimalism” approach taken by Jóhannsson. His “Prisoners” is certainly one of the more interesting scores to appear since Johnny Greenwood’s brilliantly bizarre “There Will Be Blood,” while doing far less – if that’s even possible. For while there’s a striking four-note theme here, “Prisoners” basically hangs out to languid, hypnotic effect, a la Arvo Part’s hauntingly continuous, slowly swelling melodies that so effectively played the plane crash sequence in “Fearless,” or even the cosmic beam sound that became “The Thin Red Line’s” madness of war. But most of all, “Prisoners’ is like a downbeat, whispered sermon as to the sins of guilt by association, complete with a church organ to get across the religious effect, while rumbling electronics and aching strings reach the lower pitch registers for maximum, gut-wrenching power that are far more about playing tortured emotion than viscercal suspense. Oftentimes, the drone of “Prisoners” reaches a continuous pitch that doesn’t so much recall music as it does the tone of the The Tall Man’s inter-dimensional dwarf canister transportation room in the “Phantasm” series. But that being said, there’s a big difference between music that doesn’t doing anything and a score that communicates riveting ideas with the most deceptively minimal of efforts, the latter category of which “Prisoners” fits into. It’s “art” music that just happens to be a film score, and pretty much completely outside of the box in a cool Icelandic way, even as someone’s being tortured with hot water inside of it.
Murder, greed and betrayal have always been part and parcel of ABC’s primetime television schedule, especially when dealing with wealthy characters – whether they are a jet-setting dynasty or a bunch of desperate housewives. But among those well-heeled heels, “Revenge” has stepped forward as the mother of the network’s female-skewing payback shows, or rather a daughter out to make her dad’s tormentors pay. Now about to claim more villains in season 3, a big part of “Revenge’s” nasty touch of class continues to be come from the singularly credited composer Izler, who’s made sure to get an orchestra to help embody the saga’s femme fatale. But while there are some sleek film noir stylings, the ever-conflicted nature of its heroine’s mission gives an abundant amount of approaches to “Revenge,” making its first score album a particularly enticing listen. Propulsive action rhythm a la Jason Bourne segues to the luxurious strings of the Grayson family, while eerily percolating samples give way a poignant, piano and violin sense of feminine regret. “Revenge’s” cues remain torn between dark justice and tender regret in this way, with Izler reaching the height of cleverness with a determined, ever-angering requiem rhythm for “Sins of the Mother” that seems ready to burst into an aria by Dame Giovanni. Through its intricate steps towards a lethal end game, “Revenge’s” score impresses with its high orchestral production value. For unlike a lady who knows her hidden identity is the best way to strike back, Izler realizes that if you got real players at your TV scoring disposal, then it’s best to make use of one’s luck with no subterfuge whatsoever. That full, involving symphonic sound is right out in the open for everyone to hear in “Revenge.”
. THANKS FOR SHARING
If there’s one addiction that it’s hard to think there’s ever too much of, then it’s likely sex addiction. So understandably, that clinically diagnosed affliction is often mocked by mainstream Hollywood, especially since it usually happens to befall incredibly good looking actors we don’t mind seeing have continuous sex. Given that cinematic problem (one that’s slightly remedied here with the casting of Josh Gad), one can only imagine the score that a comedy-centric composer like Christopher Lennertz might unleash on “Thanks for Sharing.” But as opposed to the rambunctious orchestrations of “Marmaduke” or the dirty retro funk of “Identity Thief,” Lennertz ends up with a surprisingly understated, near-chamber score that stands as one of his creative best. Avoiding the kind of moralistic, pretentious drudgery that accompanied the downbeat “Shame,” Lennertz’s lovely piano theme and acoustical-keyboard sample ensemble takes it one twelve-step program at a time. While it’s very much in the “alt.” tradition of small indie scores, Lennertz also avoids much of those tinkly-guitary clichés as well. While strings convey the anguish of a sickness that most people don’t get, and more antic percussion the sexual monkey on an addict’s back, the bigger vibe here is one of rhythmic hope, a climb to the sun of committed relationships that’s done with plucky spirit, or the single, echoed note of a piano. While steps backwards are hit with “Stomp”-like bang a can percussion, the overall feeling of “Sharing” is one of classical lyricism, hearing real emotional bonding as the true intimacy its characters so desperately yearn for. “Thanks” can be giving to Lennertz for this lovely, little score that isn’t about going for easy laughs, but understated, and warmly understanding lyricism instead.
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