Time for more reviews of soundtrack releases, with James Cameron’s Avatar –The Way of Water finally being released at cinemas and receiving an avalanche of positive comments from critics and film goers alike. Simon Franglen’s epic, pulsating, and rhythmic sounding score is also released digitally in a twenty-two track edition (which includes the song by the artist The Weekend) and also available is the expanded version which boasts thirty two cues, this is a triumph of a score, and I know its one that many have anticipated and I can tell you now that no one will not be disappointed, more on this later in the supplement.
As it is the season of peace love and goodwill (so I am informed at least) there are a few melancholy and syrupy sounding scores included this time around, but come on don’t we all love a bit of soft, squidgy, and syrupy compositions at this time of the year? Its also a time to look back on Christmas’s past and re-visit the likes of A Christmas Carol by Nick Bicat, But there is also the normal ample helping of the dramatic, the romantic and the horrific, (as in sinister). So let us begin…….Welcome, to soundtrack supplement seventy five, in which I hope to bring you tidings of hope and joy.
I thought I would begin with music from a short that was released in 2021, but the score only found its way onto digital platforms in mid-2022, La Nourrice is beautifully crafted score, by Cyrille Marchesseau who created the music for Paper Birds (2022) and Gloomy Eyes (2021). This score like both of the titles I have mentioned is a subtle but powerful work, the composer fashioning affecting and emotive sounding tone poems that haunt the listener, these beautiful and gloriously melodic cues are filled to overflowing with raw emotion and straight away capture one’s attention, there are dramatic and more upbeat interludes within the score such as La Chasse which is percussion led and positively manic compared to the mood of the rest of the work.
This is a brief score running for just over fifteen minutes, but what a rewarding, enriching, and heartrending fifteen minutes it is. I mentioned it briefly back in June of this year but thought I would give you a reminder as it is well worth listening to.
When her husband has a mental breakdown and goes missing, a woman and her young son set out to find him on the streets, sparking a movement that inspires an entire city. That’s the basic outline of the movie 5000 Blankets, which I know will have many of us shed more than a tear or two, and eventually bringing some warmth back into our hearts and lives. Music is by the uber talented composer Panu Aaltio, who once again produces a score that supports and underlines every emotion and each poignant and dramatic moment, that is present within the movie. It’s a score that I felt was written in a more traditional way as in its scored like a movie from the 1950’s or 1960’s.
It possesses lush sounding passages and fragile and wonderfully delicate and affecting themes that weave their way in and out of the storyline adding atmospherics and generating a greater sense of the melancholy throughout. The composer utilises to great effect the string section to purvey these emotions, but also employs driving and varied percussive moments to emphasise the more dramatic interludes that within the storyline. It’s a marvellously thematic work and has to it haunting and engrossing melodies. Some of which are performed via solo piano that adds even more fragility to an already highly emotive work that conveys sensitivity, vulnerability, loneliness and above all hope. Its available on digital platforms please check it out.
Bear McCreary is a composer who has risen steadily to become an accomplished and popular writer of music for film and TV, some love him others are indifferent, I have always thought he was certainly innovative and maybe also sometimes a little controversial, in the way he employed music, in the way it was performed and how certain pieces were orchestrated.
The Witcher Blood Origin, is due to begin streaming on Netflix at the end of December, the musical score has its moments I have to admit, but am I fully engaged by it or convinced that I like it, well No actually I am not, it is probably the least likeable Bear McCreary score for me at least, it lacks something, what that is I cant tell you, but there is just something missing and that’s all I will say, please check it out on the likes of Spotify, as I am only stating my personal opinion. Animation next and Puss in Boots-The Last Wish, which I will state straight away I love, there is so much vibrancy and energy within this score that it just oozes excitement and has to it a real swash buckling sound. The adventure and excitement are punctuated via Hispanic and Latin sounding passages and comical and cliched flourishes, that work and are all put together wonderfully by composer Heitor Pereira, who combines contemporary sounding pieces with dramatic and driving symphonic compositions, soaring trumpet solos, some intricate guitar work, and striking harmonica solos in the style of both the Hollywood and the Italian western. I found this a highly entertaining score and its one I think you should check out, available on digital platforms.
Law and Order Organized Crime season 2, contains some very powerful music which is the work of Ruth Barrett, who in the past few years has come to the forefront in TV and film scoring, an award-winning composer that has created so many atmospheric and effective works for the big and small screen.
This is I am happy to say no exception, its driving, at times relentless, dark, brooding and although for most of the time is tense and action led still has to it vibrant and rich thematic qualities. I enjoyed it a lot, especially the more low-key moments which one can experience in cues such as In Too Deep. Available now on the likes of Apple, Amazon and Spotify.
1923 is an eight-part series on Paramount + which stars Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren, it’s a modern day western, which I hope will not turn into another Yellowstone, which for me has turned into a big soap opera in recent weeks.
The music for 1923 is the work of Yellowstone composer Brian Tyler, with the main theme released this week on digital platforms, it’s a heroic sounding theme, filled with Americana sounding references and sumptuous nuances and passages, this first excerpt from the score bodes well for the full soundtrack release which will probably be early next year. And going on the composers track record I am sure we will not be disappointed. Worth a listen.
Jake Sully lives with his newfound family formed on the extrasolar moon Pandora. Once a familiar threat returns to finish what was previously started, Jake must work with Neytiri and the army of the Na’vi race to protect their home.
At last, we return to the world of Pandora in Avatar -The Way of Water some thirteen years after the release of the original movie Avatar. James Cameron again helms the production with composer Simon Franglen taking on the duties of composer for the movie, of course the original score was the work of the great James Horner who sadly is no longer with us and is so sorely missed by all. Franglen worked alongside Horner on may projects including the original Avatar and within his score for this next instalment of the story we hear the composer’s homage to Horner via the use of the original themes as penned by Horner, these are arranged and orchestrated by Franglen who not only wonderfully re-generates Horner’s thematic notions within the score but at the same time adds his own themes and compositions which seamlessly integrate and compliment the work of Horner.
Franglen is not merely an arranger or orchestrator on this score, which would have been the way some might have gone, by repeating the music that Horner had penned for the original movie, he is a talented and sensitive Maestro, who has breathed new life into Horner’s music and at the same given us music that is new and totally consuming. It’s a magnificent homage to a marvellous composer who sadly passed in 2015, that successfully adds depth and brings a greater atmospheric to the movie, gifting the watching audience so many melodies.
On Friday 16th December the soundtrack was released digitally on all platforms, in its twenty two track edition, and then on December 20th the expanded version which is the actual film score was also made available it includes thirty two cues with a running time of an hour and forty minutes, this is a score that you must own, you need this in your collection, and it is also one that you will return to many times, its one of those scores that seems to keep giving as each time you sit and listen you discover something new and fresh.
The opening cue on the expanded edition is a majestic and inspiring track entitled Leaving Home with the composer bringing to the forefront strings and brass that are enhanced and supported by rumbling and thunderous percussion. Songcord Opening is a delightful track, N’avi vocals and expressive music combine to create the otherworldly atmospheres that we so readily associate with the fantastical world of Pandora, and this immediately evokes memories of the original score as well as setting the scene perfectly for what is to follow. Franglen employs a very thematic approach on the score and obviously this is something that James Horner must have instilled or inspired within him during their close working partnership.
The score for Avatar –The Way of Water, is a new score but in it there are familiar sounds and leitmotifs, it’s contemporary but at the same time vintage or classic sounding work, it is superbly lush and lavish, with striking use of the string section, which in underlined and fully supported by brass in the same way as past Hollywood masters utilised in films from the golden age. The score is overflowing with enticing and rich theme laden compositions the composer creating music that accompanies the characters within the storyline and becomes integral to the movie and its locations and scenarios.
The cue Into the Water for me is one of the scores many highlights, ethereal, and at the same time powerful, beautiful, and ingratiating, a sublime and touching piece that lingers long in one’s memory after it has finished playing. The thematic qualities of this cue can also be heard in The Way of Water. Mighty Eywa, The Spirit Tree, and Family, all of which are an inspiration and tremendously emotional listening experiences. The use of female voice within these and other tracks is stunning and hits every single emotional bone in one’s body.
The final cue is The Songcord, which is flawlessly performed in N’avi by Zoe Saldana. Is this a good score, NO! it is a great score, an uplifting and rewarding one, that sent tingles through me, touched my heart, jangled my emotions, gave me goosebumps, made my eyes leak, and reminded me of those glory days when James Horner was scoring so many movies. I am already looking forward to Avatar 3.
Well follow that if you can? Well, I will try, and so to the TV series of Willow, which has a score by composer James Newton Howard, who has incorporated the music of James Horner into his scores for the series. Newton Howard utilising the core themes from Horner’s epic soundtrack, and then building the remainder of the music around this, composing variants of it and basing other thematic material upon it. I will say I was impressed by the music for the series, but the series itself I feel is a wasted opportunity, again a case of Disney attempting to cash in on something that is already an established favourite as they did recently with Hocus Pocus.
The sad thing is they think its good and will probably continue to produce even more episodes that will ultimately fade into obscurity never to be seen again.
However, Newton Howard’s score will outlive the actual series it was written for, he has produced a wonderfully varied work for the project, and although we hear James Horner’s musical themes there is so much more to the content of the music than these, the scores for episodes 1 to 3 is now available on digital platforms, my advice just go to those digital platforms and listen to the music cut out the bad script and the rather cringe worthy performances in the series.
At West Point Academy in 1830, the calm of an October evening is shattered by the discovery of a young cadet’s body swinging from a rope near the parade grounds. An apparent suicide which is not unheard of in a harsh regime like that which is place at West Point, but the next morning, an even greater horror comes to light. Someone has stolen into the room where the body lay and removed the heart.
Enter then a world-weary detective who is hired to investigate the murder of the cadet. Hindered by the other cadets’ code of silence, he enlists one of their own to help unravel the case a young man the world would come to know as Edgar Allan Poe. This is the plot of The Pale Blue Eye, that will be on Netflix soon, the film stars Christian Bale, directed by Scott Cooper, and is based upon the novel by Louis Bayard, this is an interesting and shadowy drama with horror, crime and mystery all entering the fray.
Music is by Howard Shore, who’s scoring schedule of late seems to have become less and less, he has written a dark and apprehensive score but one that also has to it affecting melodies that are dark and affecting. The score is at times low key and subtle, but also has a richness and even a romantic sounding side to it, listen to The Mystery Unravels (track number ten), Shore utilizes strings to great effect, creating a slight but at the same time sweeping and lush sounding piece that is edged with malevolent properties., there are also gracious and powerful moments within the soundtrack, with dramatic moods becoming an integral part of the score in cues such as Attack on the Road. It’s one to check out. Available on digital platforms. I enjoyed this, recommended.
The Leech is a 2022 movie directed by Eric Pennycoff, which focuses upon the relationship between a devout priest who welcomes a struggling couple into his house at Christmas time. What begins as a simple act of kindness quickly becomes a test of his faith once the purity of his home is jeopardized.
Eric Romary, wrote the score and it’s a pleasant soundtrack that initially takes its lead from melancholy sounding piano solos, string led lilting themes, that have to them a sound that evokes that of French composer Phillippe Jakko. But very early on the mood and the style of the music alters and becomes ever more apprehensive at times building to dark brooding and threatening passages, with nuances of the macabre that sound rather gothic. Which is perfectly in tune with the storyline of this comedy/horror, the music having to it an almost deliberate and clumsy persona but also retaining a smidgen of the foreboding and mischievous.
It’s an entertaining if not a little irreverent work, with little nods via a repeating motif that sounds a little like the five note intro to the dance of Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky,s The Nutcracker, woven into the score, that pops up here and there. The tense, sinister and edgy atmosphere that the composer creates is superb, and the way in which he dilutes it with quirky little hints of comedy is genius. Another one to put on your Christmas list.
Something a little more darkly engrossing as in the subject of the film next, with She the Creator. The central character Lilith is an agoraphobic artist grieving the loss of her mother and sister, completely alone except for her relationship to her caretaker Kat. Obsessed with the alchemical process of transformation, she embarks on a new series of alchemically inspired works to face her trauma. As Lilith and Kat become increasingly invested in her latest series, Kat’s intentions become convoluted, and Lilith becomes unstable as the characters in her paintings begin visiting her in dreams and visions.
Determined to finish the work at any cost, Lilith and Kat’s relationship becomes deranged as Kat begins to take on Lilith’s persona. Lilith walks the fine line between creation and self-destruction as she descends into madness pursuing artistic perfection.
Music for this absorbing and somewhat complex tale is the work of composer Emer Kinsella, who has written a score that just works so well, at times its sinewy and subdued, adding little touches here and there to punctuate and enhance the storyline, but it is such a creative and alluring score that I found myself totally immersed in the music, at times it evoked a style that I had witnessed in the works of Morricone, and at other times it was a completely original style and sound that I was hearing. The score constantly builds with the composer layering sounds to create degrees of tension. All I can say is please take a listen, I know you will also be put under its spell. Available on digital platforms.
This is Christmas is a Sky Original movie, which has been scored by Christian Henson. Set in London during the period leading up to Christmas, the story follows the two central characters Adam and Emma on their daily commute from the picture perfect village of Langton to London, meeting the same passengers every day. When their train has broken down in the countryside, Adam – contemplating his existence, suddenly finds himself on his feet and decides to break the taboo of talking to strangers on a train and invites the whole carriage to their own Christmas party.
It’s a feel good rom-con, which has a warm and comforting message, the score too is filled with warmth and positively glows with melancholy, Christmas cheer and emotion.
It is a delightfully charming soundtrack with the composer weaving segments of Hark the Herald Angels sing into the fabric of his score. At times the music is reminiscent of Craig Armstrong’s style and has to it a Debbie Wiseman or Rachel Portman persona to it. I think you will enjoy it and will like the movie.
Hogwarts Legacy is a video game that has an incredible soundtrack, just one cue is available now on digital platforms but hopefully more tracks will follow soon. The cue that is available is entitled Overture to the Unwritten, which is a sweeping, windswept, adventurous, and romantically epic piece. Containing hints of John William’s Harry Potter theme, but also has its own musical identity which establishes itself swiftly and effectively. Brass, percussion, strings, and flyaway woods all combine to bring to fruition a driving and powerful theme. The five-minute track is the work of three composers or at least three are credited, Chuck E. Myers, J.Scott Rakozy and Peter Murray, take a listen I think you will agree the full score needs to be made available ASAP.
Based on the New York Times best-selling novel, The Storied Life of A.J Fikry focuses upon bookstore owner A.J. Fikry’s (Kunal Nayyar) who’s life is not turning out as he expected he struggles both emotionally and financially, and after his wife’s tragic death, he feels lost and left behind in the rapidly evolving world of today.
As he tries to keep his store afloat, he begins to drink his sorrows away ultimately hitting rock bottom when his most prized possession, a series of Edgar Allen Poe poems, are stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, it gives Fikry a new lease on life, and love, that are greater than he ever imagined. Music is by Starr Parodi and Jeff Eden Fair, it’s a very good soundtrack indeed a work that encompasses so many emotions and is also sensitive and supportive. I think I can say I adore this release, its something that is positively haunting, and although it is a fairly simple sounding work, it manages to entertain and keep one focused throughout, which is rare these days with film music.
Tracks such as Losing Marian, are totally heart-breaking, the composers initially employing a solo violin to introduce the theme, but then switching to pizzicato which does I have to say take away some of the emotion, one thinking it is going to become lighter, but then it slips back into a beautiful melody performed by strings, that again sends a shiver down ones spine and all of the emotions begin to surface again. The mesmerizing piano solos are too captivating. It has the qualities of the likes of composer James Newton Howard when in subtle mood and a sound that is not unlike Zbigneiw Preisner, it is an engaging and enchanting soundtrack and a score that I recommend to you without reservation, available on digital platforms now.
Alexandra just received what could be a signal from another civilization. She initiates the critical verification process when her sister calls with some very bad family news. In a race against the clock in an astronomical observatory, she will be forced to choose how to spend the next moments: facing the family drama or trying to bring an answer to one of humanity’s most important questions. This is the outline for the story within the movie The Antares Paradox. This sci-fi/drama is scored by Spanish composer Arnau Battaler, who has written a moody and sultry sounding work, that is not only edgy and apprehensive, but at times becomes romantic sounding and melodic.
The composer utilises solo piano throughout and it is this instrument that score is built around and upon, with strings being added as the work progresses. The strings punctuate, underline, and support piano performances subtly and create an uneasy yet calming atmosphere. On listening I was reminded at times of the music of John Barry, which cannot be a bad thing. Available on December 23rd on digital platforms via Movie Score Media.
MSM have also released The Claus Family 3, which is scored by Anne-Kathrin Dern, the composer spoke about the film and its score. “The Claus Family 3, is the last instalment of the Claus Family trilogy. It’s very different from the previous two movies so I tried a slightly different approach musically. Besides the orchestral foundation – once again beautifully performed by the FAME’S Orchestra – I’m leaning more heavily onto choir, which we recorded in the Netherlands. There are a lot of woodwind solos, string solos, and even Mexican inspired cues that feature amazing guitar performances by Bruno Justi. Overall, it’s a much more adventurous score which was a lot of fun to write”. The score is available on digital platforms now.
The Swedish soundtrack specialist have also released the score from the movie version of, De Zonen van Van As-De Cross, After, five successful seasons on television, the popular comedy series “De Zonen van Van As” gets its first feature film. The Van As family ends up as the main sponsor at a prestigious cyclo-cross, causing hilarious situations and high running emotions. Get ready for a typical Flemish comedy with spectacular action, an exciting story and lots of mud. After having a stroke, the now very elderly founder Frans Van As was forced to slow down and hand over his ground and demolition works company “Van As NV” permanently to granddaughter Linde and her husband Dick. They make good money and now they even got to be the local main sponsor of a prestigious cyclo-cross race.
When a fire is being started on the site the day before the event and causes considerable damage and a major delay in the planning, Frans thinks that a jealous competitor is trying to sabotage his granddaughter and all his fuses are blown. The head of the family raises himself from his armchair to eliminate the bad guy like a real Clint Eastwood. On the eve of the cross, however, the cause of all the trouble turns out to be in a very surprising corner… When the cyclo-cross threatens to turn into a real battle, (almost) all Van As’s join forces to avert fate in time and save the honour of the company and the family. The movie has a score by talented composer Joris Hermy.
The composer spoke about his experiences working on the project. “It’s hard to describe how it feels to write a score for your first feature film. It’s a blend of emotions going from honoured to have landed the task, to a state of panic which always comes quite unexpectedly with every new project. But pretty soon fear became excitement once the creative writing process unfolded. Challenges became opportunities… The result is an album with hints of folk and country, infused with western elements and some small tributes to the great French and Italian movie Maestro’s.” This too is on digital platforms via MSM all three are certainly worth adding to any soundtrack collection.
Looking back at some releases I mentioned just a little while ago, which were announced by Quartet records in Spain are now released and are also being shipped. Frenzy is a great release, and contains Ron Goodwin’s score for the Hitchcock movie, and includes Henry Mancini’s rejected score, I remember seeing pictures of the sessions that Hitch attended whilst Mancini was working on the movie, and they were positively negative, with Hitch at times turning his back on the composer. Well as rejected scores go this is not that bad, but then everyone knows how difficult Hitchcock was (he fired Bernard Herrmann for God’s sake), I like both scores on this release, but I must Admit I do slightly lean towards Goodwin’s music on this occasion. Maybe Mancini’s is too smooth and more easy listening, I am not sure, but it is great to hear two composer’s ideas for the same movie which are very different. Presented well with some informative notes, and the sound quality is I have to say very good indeed.
Mary Queen of Scots also received a release on Quartet with a staggering fifty-three cues, this is as we all are aware an excellent score by John Barry, and to hear it in its expanded form is truly emotional and gratifying, it’s a score I have always loved, and I think one of Barry’s best from this period in his career. Superbly presented with some brilliant artwork and notes that are bursting with info from John Barry expert Jon Burlingame. I will say that the sound quality again is flawless, this is a must have release.
As is The Magnificent 7, Collection, this is a set of four CD’s that contains all of Elmer Bernstein’s scores for this western classic series. I know that maybe you already have different editions of the scores, but its so nice to have them all together in one set, The Magnificent 7. The Return of the 7, Guns for the Magnificent 7, and The Magnificent 7 Ride, all great scores, although I do feel that the first two were and are still the best. Presented magnificently (forgive the pun) great sound, so many extra tracks and colourful artwork and outstanding notes by Frank K. D. Wald in a 36-page booklet. You must own this; it is an essential purchase and a wonderful addition to any film music collection.
Looking ahead to 2023, and I have heard two releases that are waiting in the wings for the new year, both are to be released digitally by Movie Score Media, and both are in their own way captivating and entertaining. But that is a subject I will talk about after 2022 exits stage right.