Rabbit & Rogue Original Ballet Score (Danny Elfman)

Sony Classical

Rabbit & Rogue Original Ballet Score by Danny Elfman (2016) with the Limited Deluxe Edition (2017)

Get it:  If you want to go on a fantastical musical journey lead by Danny Elfman

Don’t get it:  If you want a typical film-styled soundtrack with the usual formula

This is a little bit of an unusual review for us as we usually stick to film and television scores.  However, with this ballet score being composed by legendary film composer Danny Elfman, we had to give it a listen.  Sure enough, it was not the wrong decision.  The best thing to say about this score is that it is unapologetically Danny Eflman.  In fact, it is a perfect blend of his style with that of the legendary classical composers that would score ballet.  That’s really what it is.  He uses such a fascinating combination of instruments to achieve a unique sound that belongs to only this score.  Yet, at the same time, anyone listening could tell that this is the essence of Mr. Elfman.  No one listening would guess that this was his first attempt at a ballet score.

With only six tracks, even though they are as long as ten minutes, you still want more.  This appeals to those of us who are Elfman fans, as well as anyone who can thoroughly enjoy a ballet score.  Beyond that, there isn’t much to say — not from a lack of comments, just that the only way to truly understand it is to give it a listen yourself (posted below).   Instead of trying to come up with some words to describe it, this is something that you yourself can get a preview of, and that would be better than anything I could say in this case where words just aren’t quite enough.

Rabbit & Rogue (Limited Deluxe Edition) is available now and includes a DVD that has, among other awesome things, and exclusive interview with Mr. Elfman.  You can purchase it here, or buy the mp3 of the score itself here.

 

 

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Castlevania (Trevor Morris)

Lakeshore Records

Castlevania Soundtrack by Trevor Morris (2017)

Get it:  If you’re a fan of the series and enjoyed the music in-show, or if you like haunting electronic scores

Don’t get it:  If you prefer orchestral scores that are more melodic and less action/electronic

Castlevania has a history of great music.  In fact, Castlevania: Lord of Shadows 2 (Oscar Araujo) won the award for Best Video Game Music at the 2014 Film Soundtrack Center Awards.  Now, Netflix is releasing an original animated series based off the game franchise.  This score leans more on the electronic side of the musical spectrum than strictly the orchestral.  It’s also worthy of note that most of the tracks are shorter in length (1-2 minutes usually).  Of course, this isn’t a problem at all, just something to note as it is made for a Netflix series that currently has only four episodes streaming. 

The interesting thing about this score is how the electronic elements give it a modern feel, though the notes they convey sometimes indicate something from the past.  It’s slow and haunting, largely.  It feels tailored to pair especially well with the visuals of the series to complete the experience.  At times, Morris does something that’s pretty hard for composers to do in this genre of soundtrack — he connects with the listeners.  Many synth-type scores are based on things like action and cool-factor, but not necessarily truly connecting with the listeners or the characters.  Morris has done a great job of taking this medium and applying it to a score. 

The main title is a pretty great way to start off the viewer’s experience.  “Tavern Brawl” is a highlight due to it’s pleasant break from the deepness of the rest of the soundtrack.  However, it is in that deepness that the score puts the listener in the right frame-of-mind.  “Alley Fight” is another track that seems to take a moment to lift the listener.  Overall, this score seems to do a good job of setting up the mood for the show, and hopefully we can get more music for Morris to develop even further in the forthcoming episodes of the series.

The Castlevania soundtrack is available digitally now, or on CD August 4 and you can order here.

War for the Planet of the Apes (Michael Giacchino)

Sony Classical

War for the Planet of the Apes Soundtrack by Michael Giacchino (2017)

Get it:  If you enjoy a generally melancholic Giacchino score that sometimes emphasizes quietness with moments of sweeping drama that builds on his previous score in the series

Don’t get it:  If you want something epic, heroic, or something that “feels good” in its lightness

 

Michael Giacchino delivered a quite satisfactory score with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  It was great for setting the tone of the film and, as far as that goes, it would be hard to complain.  But for this, the next installment of the series, the composer took it far beyond what he already established into a fantastic new realm.  The Great Ape Processional”  was arguably one of the biggest highlights of his Dawn score.  If that is one of the appealing aspects from that soundtrack to you, no doubt you’ll be quite pleased with what’s offered here (check out “Paradise Found” especially).  Those beautiful piano moments are included in War (possibly even improved), as well as the nearly anxiety-inducing (in a good way) parts from the other cues.  Then, before you know what really hit you, you’re back into the more tender moments filled with strings.  

There are many ways to describe this soundtrack:  beautiful, threatening, tender, dramatic, melancholic, and so many more.  At times its a bit magical.  But perhaps the best word to encompass it is captivating.  It’s not captivating in its inherent magnificence, but rather in its reverent stillness.  That, with so many flowing dramatic pieces mixed in, makes for quite the captivating experience. 

This has the whole package.  Giacchino has established himself already as one of the best composers at capturing and conveying emotions, and this score is no exception.  There are plenty of soundtracks today that forget to take their listeners on a journey through music, but make no mistake that War for the Planet of the Apes is one heck of a journey.

Bottom line:  if you listen to this on an autumn, rainy day, you’re guaranteed to have an amazing experience.  Frankly, even if you listen to it on a hot summer day, you still have the same guarantee.  This score captured the best elements of Dawn and took it three steps farther.  Because of this, it’s a welcoming experience to those who are already familiar with the previous scores and those who are not.  Therefore, in any case, there’s no excuse to not give it a listen.

The soundtrack for War for the Planet of the Apes can be ordered here.

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Michael Giacchino)

Sony Music

Spider-Man: Homecoming Soundtrack by Michael Giacchino (2017)

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Get it:  If you are already a fan of either Michael Giacchino or Spider-Man as a character

Don’t get it:  If you’re looking for a really brooding, deeply drama-based, or otherwise darker toned superhero score

The Spider-Man franchise has a well-established history of great orchestral soundtracks.  Having film scores composed by Danny Elfman, Christopher Young, James Horner, and Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino makes an excellent addition to the list.  This is true not just in theory, though, but the score itself is fitting to the character as well as the MCU.

As can be expected from Giacchino, there are plenty of fun moments in the music.  One of the harder things for composers to capture is a unique sense of fun to convey to the audience and establish that as a tone.  Undoubtedly, Giacchino is one of the best for this, and he doesn’t fall short for this score.  However, don’t think that the fun of the music is the only element.  In this way, it is somewhat reminiscent of his work on both Mission: Impossible as well as The Incredibles.  At the same time, you can also hear the composer’s growth and musical maturity since those works, as there are a couple moments that also sound inspired from his work on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  It is excellent for establishing action sequences that are appropriate to the character —  a teenage superhero as represented in Captain America: Civil War

One of the reasons that this is such a great idea is that, once the tone changes for the Vulture music, the shift is undeniably noticeable.  Once again, this does a great job of helping the audience shift their feelings and attitudes toward what is happening in-film — exactly as scores are supposed to do.

Spider-Man’s theme is done very, very well.  Not only is it empowering, as any superhero theme probably should be, but it honestly sounds like it is about to lead into and epic blend with the Avengers.  Of course this makes sense in context of the film’s universe, but musically, it is accomplished far better than most would have been able to do it.  Finally, the suite is a perfect embodiment of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man.  And that’s all there is to say about that.

Overall, this is definitely an excellent score for anyone who would consider themselves fans of Michael Giacchino (and not just because of the track titles).  Other works coming soon from Giacchino include War for the Planet of the Apes and The Book of Henry.  Also, I wanted to tell fans of previously established MCU themes that you may want to listen closely to a couple seconds in here somewhere.

This soundtrack will be available on July 7, and you can preorder it here and here.

Now You See Me 2 (Brian Tyler)

NowYouSeeMe2

Now You See Me 2 Soundtrack by Brian Tyler (2016)

Get it:  If you were a fan of the first soundtrack and like to see it’s development

Don’t get it:  If you wouldn’t enjoy a development from the original film’s score

When Brian Tyler released the score to the first Now You See Me film, many were astonished with it and took it to heart.  With that as a precedent, Tyler returns to score the sequel to the film.  How does the score live up to the expectations?

The first three tracks set up the tone for the remainder of the score, and here’s why.  The first track, “Now You See Me 2 Fanfare”, is an epic piece that almost sounds like what would happen if John Williams got his hands on the score.  This sets up the rest of the score for its complexities.  There is so much going on in the background that an average listener may not even consciously notice, but will nonetheless feel.  The second track is “Now You See Me 2 Main Titles”.  This contributes to setting the tone because it is the theme we already know and love, but still new.  It’s a condensed version, lasting 3 minutes, and sounds like the first theme grew up and matured.  This sets the tone in that it provides something familiar, but it’s still new to the listener.  The third track is called, “300 Seconds.”  Finally, this contributes to the tone because it starts to really settle into the style of the film’s score while still interjecting — quite subtly — the familiar motif.  However, while watching the film, you probably wouldn’t even notice the familiar part.

The score reflects a big band element, but one that is definitely set in the NYSM film world from the first film.  In addition, this in no way means that any orchestral elements are lost.  The balance between the new, stylistic approach, and the original orchestral qualities is definitely satisfying, again providing something new while still being positively recognizable.  There are also elements that were inspired by part of the story’s locations, including China.  The overall sound feels very cool, fresh, and clean.  It feels a little more crisp than the original, but it is still exceptionally smooth and majestically mysterious.  Plus, when the theme peeks out, it does so triumphantly. 

It’s also interesting to note that this features a character theme (for the character Walter, played by Daniel Radcliffe).  There is definitely a threatening quality to the cue, though hidden behind “pleasantries” in the sound which was seemingly done to match the character.  The score seems to be perfectly in line with the action oriented magic show style this film has.

Final verdict?  Hats off to Brian Tyler for delivering such a strong sequel to one of his most beloved scores thus far.  If you’re a fan of the original, this is no-question something you must check out.  If you aren’t as familiar with the predecessor, this is still one that any soundtrack fan would definitely want to check out.

From Varese Sarabande, this soundtrack is available digitally June 10th, or you can preorder the CD here from Amazon